FIRST YEAR CUT SHORT

FIRST YEAR CUT SHORT

The early end to the second term sucked for everyone. Shared emotions included surprise, heartbreak, and straight-up sadness. I cannot even begin to imagine what went through the minds of the fourth-year students or those in grade 12; my heart aches the most for them and their lost commencement ceremonies and graduations. Some students will never experience their prom or grad dance, or the nerves felt while walking across the stage to be handed their diploma. So many fourth years I’m sure had to leave their school with things left unchecked. Their last party, last day spent at the pier, final times spent with friends, last hugs, and heartfelt moments. This, I know, I cannot even begin to relate to as someone who is not in their shoes. However, I can offer some insight into a first year’s perspective. In no way does our heartbreak amount to those who lost their senior year or last year of university/college, and this article is in no way comparing the two. I’d just like to take my experience and talk upon it, and the loss we first years felt.

Visiting home throughout the year was always a sort of surreal experience. For me, living four hours away from Queens, every trip was quite the trek. I was not home as often as some of my friends who attended closer schools were, and because of this, I felt like I was living two different lives. I had access to two completely different worlds – one in the unfamiliar city of Kingston that I found myself calling home pretty quickly, and one in my actual hometown with the people I grew up with and the places I’ve been hundreds of times. Visiting home on a weekend or holiday was always so great, being able to see my family and friends, and sleep in my own bed for a couple of nights. Sure it was sad to leave, knowing it would be weeks until I would be back, but there was always excitement in traveling back to Queens, back to my other life where my new friends were waiting. And classes and stuff too, of course.

One big difference between these two lives, other than the food considering nothing beats home-cooked meals, not even Lenny or Lazy, was the newfound freedom.  All of a sudden, after living by myself and having no one to answer to, I was back under my parents’ roof, who wanted to know where I was going when I walked out the door. It felt funny to ask to leave the house, hang out with friends, or go get food. And then to have to estimate a time to give them for when I would be back? I was so used to never following a curfew. If I was out until 2 am, I was out until 2 am. There was never anyone waiting up for me or wondering where I was.  This was always an adjustment, going from absolute freedom to being watched over by parents.  

Now, this time, thanks to COVID, moving home had absolute freedom, not only turning into curfews but into an actual government lockdown. All year, home meant seeing friends and visiting family. It meant going for drives, eating at restaurants, hanging out outside, and being with people 24/7. Now, the complete opposite. I would wake up and think about who I wanted to see and what I wanted to do, and it felt so wrong when I realized I couldn’t do any of it, couldn’t visit or see anyone.

For many of us, first year was the best time of our lives so far. We got a taste of Uni life, and for most of us in res at Queens, a taste of real life. Independent life. And had so much fun doing it. Losing out on those last months in residence was upsetting. We had so many plans for the warmer weather approaching… It was going to be our first spring in Kingston, some of our first times swimming in the pier and playing spike-ball on the beach. Maybe some “bars” will have to be left uncompleted; personally, I’m kicking myself for accidentally sleeping through Isengard in Waldron Tower. Some fake IDs will be taking early retirement, and oh, how some of us were so looking forward to getting denied at Stages in the warmer weather. The most challenging part was saying goodbye to our new friends so much sooner than we thought we would have to. They aren’t lying when they say the relationships you make in residence are like no other. Complete strangers quickly become the people you live with, eat with, work with, go to class with, party with, sleep next to, and spend all your time with. They become family. Even in the short amount of time you have with them. It’s crazy how fast bonds can form. It was already scary to think about leaving the ones who live far from your hometown only for the summer. The one or two more months we had left were not enough, and then to be told we didn’t even have that… it wasn’t a dry-eye occasion that’s for sure.

Finishing first year online was not the worst thing when it came to the workload. For some of us, the number of readings and lecture videos were decreased, along with the assignments. The Westies might have been used to attending class in their pajamas, but thanks to Zoom, we all got a taste of it. Exam season was definitely not the kind we were planning for or expecting. Some exams became open-book, and some were even cancelled. There was no competing for spots in Stauff or stress eating with friends at the Arc. So many TAMs that we saved up for precisely those moments, went to complete waste.

I had initially planned to end this article with the high hopes we all had for next year; surely second year would make up for all of this, we’d all be back on campus together again and ready for a fresh start. Now, however, knowing that this virus is nowhere near the end of its course, the foreseeable future is uncertain. Very uncertain. Many of us may not be returning to Kingston in the fall, and for those of us who do, it will not be the same. Continuing online classes is the direction we are heading in, and it looks like Gaels might be leading a virtual Frosh Week. As upsetting and disappointing as this all is, as a community, we must remain strong and connected, and remember that one day this will all be over. Even if that day isn’t soon, it will arrive, and it will be the best. Day. Ever. 

Stay safe! I’ll see you all on campus (whenever that may be).

HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: ALYSSA GIOVANNANGELI

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