Asking for a Friend: School, work, & friendships, oh my!

New experiences weigh down three question-askers


I’m Audrey Helpburn, The Journal’s resident advice-giver. I answer questions about love, friendship, school, and more to help Queen’s students put their best foot forward on and around campus.

Although I’m not a professional, I aim to give the best advice I can to students who need a bit of guidance. This time around, I’m advising three students struggling with new experiences: one who’s apprehensive of the hookup culture at Queen’s; one who isn’t sure they fit in on campus; and one whose new job is causing friendship problems.


What is up with the toxic masculinity at Queen’s? And how can I navigate the dangerous and scary hookup culture it provokes here for newcomers?


Too Much Testosterone


Dear Too Much Testosterone,

I know, right? Though toxic masculinity as a whole is too big of an issue to address singlehandedly, you can encourage the men in your life to open up, to be vulnerable with you and with each other, and to show emotion. Small steps like these will hopefully help to heal toxic masculinity in the lives of those around you, and contribute to changing the culture more broadly over time.

In terms of the dangerous and scary hookup culture you’re referring to, there are a few personal steps you can take to steer clear of it. First, be clear about what you want. If a casual hookup with no strings attached is not what you’re looking for, there are some better options. Try relationship-focused apps like Hinge rather than Tinder, and meet up with potential partners in a public restaurant or bar rather than meeting at his house, which puts you in a more vulnerable position. Surround yourself with friends at parties, and do what you can to avoid walking home alone in the dark to enhance your sense of personal safety—use Walkhome.

If hookup culture is scary to you, find comfort in the fact that you do have control over how you partake in it. Be clear about what you want, and if something doesn’t feel comfortable to you, avoid it. Anyone worth your time won’t pressure you to do something you don’t want to do or put you in a position that feels compromising.

All the best,

Audrey Helpburn


I’m a first-year student here at Queen’s and university is not as awesome as I thought it would be or like everyone told me. I’ve only made a couple of close friends and I’m not close with anybody on my floor. I’m constantly lonely and homesick. I spend most of my days alone, and I’m always lying to my mom about how well I’m doing. 

When I went home for Christmas, I felt so much better and more like myself being close to my family and childhood friends. I’m seriously considering going back to my home province and transferring universities, even though my program isn’t offered there and I love all the opportunities Queen’s gives students.

What’s your advice? 


New Girl In Town


Dear New Girl in Town,

Girl, you’re preaching to the choir! If I had a nickel for every time I heard a similar first-year struggle story, I would be too rich to spend time writing this column. Believe me, no matter what it looks like, many of your peers are feeling the exact same way you do. When I first came to Queen’s, I didn’t think I’d ever last four years here. As a current fifth-year student, I can honestly say I never want to leave.

First year is a hugetransition, and as you adjust, I’m positive your time at Queen’s will only improve. Of course, it is possible that Queen’s just isn’t for you and perhaps switching schools will make you happier and more comfortable. But if I’ve learned anything about perception and retrospect, it’s that many people who seemed to enjoy first year were actually having major struggles at the time. And just like you’ve become good a liar about how well you’re doing, so has everyone else.

My advice is to get through the year while making positive changes. Seek out clubs or opportunities that excite you and feed your soul. Here, you may meet people that you connect with better.

It sounds like you’re not from Ontario, so see if you can find people from your own province that may make Kingston feel more like home from you. Open up to people on your floor and people you’ve met about how you’re feeling. I guarantee you’ll find people feeling the same way who were too scared to say it, and opening up with each other may make you a new, unexpected friend.

All the best,

Audrey Helpburn


I’ve been having trouble at my new workplace with my demanding and inconsiderate boss. Luckily, I feel I can handle him—the more pressing issue is my longtime friend and coworker. 

I recently confided in him about my problems with our shared boss, and he flat-out didn’t seem to care. This is pretty uncharacteristic of him, and he seems fine in every other regard. I don’t know why he would take our boss’ side on these issues considering the two of them don’t have much of a relationship, and my problems don’t directly affect him.

What should I do?


Working Too Hard


Dear Working Too Hard, 

In this case, I don’t think you have to do anything. If your coworker doesn’t see things the same way you do, that’s his business.

Your problem with your boss is just that—a problem between you and your boss. While you may seek advice from an outside party (in this case, try a different friend), it’s up to you and your boss to work these issues out between the two of you.

If it hurts you that your friend isn’t on your side, talk to him about it gently, but keep in mind that your friend might have stuff going on in his own life, and could potentially not have the mental capacity to engage with this particular issue right now.

Try to not take his apathy personally. Like you said, he doesn’t have much of a relationship with your boss, and your problems don’t directly affect him, so perhaps he’s just dealing with his own priorities right now.

All the best,

Audrey Helpburn

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