In the late summer of 2014, after months of anticipation, I was finally preparing to enter my first year at Queen’s. However, when I learned the name of my residence placement, my stomach dropped – I was on West Campus.
Every ‘Westie’ can recall the exact moment when they learned they’d be living in Jean Royce Hall for their first year at Queen’s. For me, it was a moment of disappointment, fear and panic for.
My one saving grace was being granted the request to live with my friend Laura. After talking to her about our placement, we were far from enthusiastic.
We quickly thought about our inevitable isolation from main campus, our inability to make friends outside of our residence and the arduous treks through the snow to class in the winter.
Upon arriving, it was worse than we thought. We were in Phase Two – a building we found out was nicknamed “West of West” because it’s separate from the main residence hall.
With a groan, Laura and I dragged our belongings up to our new home in Shortliffe 217 and got settled. Our first 20-minute walk to main campus did little to lift our spirits.
But here’s the funny thing – little by little, we came to fall in love with West Campus.
Don’t get me wrong, bundling up for the trek to an 8:30 class in a blizzard was hell. Watching helplessly as the bus drove away from the stop and trying to decide if it was even worth attempting the walk was a problem we faced far too often.
Having to take half your belongings with you to main campus every day was always chaotic. But for every painful frustration of West Campus, there was another wonderful bright side to make up for it.
For one thing, any true Westie knows that the barista nachos are incomparable. There is nothing like a cheesy pile of the barista’s finest to comfort you after a horrible exam or a bout of homesickness.
Plus, taking the bus wasn’t so bad. In fact, mastering the bus schedule was like unlocking a whole new world. As it turns out, you can get pretty much anywhere in Kingston on the bus for free with your student card – and I can promise this transit knowledge will come in handy throughout your undergrad.
And while some of my friends made zero lasting friendships from their residence floors, I gained some of my best friends at Queen’s from those cozy Lower Shortliffe-Tracy dorms. As I enter my final year of undergrad, I can honestly say the friends I made back then are, to this day, some of the most rewarding friendships I’ve ever had.
That’s not to say I didn’t make friends outside of West Campus. In fact, Laura and I now live with five other girls, none of whom were on our floor in first year. On West, you’re not confined to your West Campus family, but they’re always there when you need them.
At the very least, spending your days there leaves you with an unrivaled sense of accomplishment. For the rest of your days, you’ll own that Westie title like a badge of honour.
When you tell people that you lived on West, and they give you that classic look of pity, you’ll find yourself responding with a shrug that says, “It really wasn’t so bad.”
That’s the beauty of West Campus – you’re stuck there, but you’re all there together. And that sense of being stuck there together makes for some pretty amazing friendships.
I wouldn’t trade my first year on West Campus for anything. To all you incoming Westies – your first year is what you make it. Don’t let anyone scare you with West Campus horror stories, because if you embrace it, West really is the best. I promise.
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