“While it took me 4 years to try my hand at creative clubs at Queen’s, my only regret is not getting involved sooner”

From a young age, my love for science was apparent.  Early family photo albums showme in diapers with a plastic stethoscope wrapped around my neck tending to one of my many stuffed animals.  My curiosity to explain the world around me led me to thrive in my academics and have surrounding adults brand me as the “science kid”.  It is an interesting phenomenon that adults seem to love  placing children into fixed categories based on their earliest sign of interest. For our parents’ generation, a child can be sporty, artistic, or academic;  but rarely a combination of these different traits.  

Among teachers, I somehow earned the “academic” title even though my grade 3 science skills hardly predicted my resentment towards university-level chemistry.  Not only did I feel a need to be involved with science in as many ways as I could, I also strayed further from pursuing creative endeavors that also interested me.  My sense of identity was intrinsically tied to my “aptitude” for STEM subjects.  Though I loved art, when teachers would ask “who are the artists in the class” my hand would stay firmly down.  I was slowly conditioned to downplay my love for art.  This pattern continued throughout highschool where my inquisitive nature solidified my reputation as a model science student.  

Like many high achieving high school graduates entering first year, I immediately looked for ways to get involved in clubs pertinent to my future career path.  I exclusively sought out health conferences and STEM-based initiatives that aligned with my past interests.  Though I didn’t admit it at the time, I was thinking about  how it would look on my résumé as much as my actual passion for the club.  

There is a certain connotation associated with being in sciences, particularly for those with hopes of pursuing medicine.  I watched from the sidelines as my ambitious peers headed STEM clubs, gained laboratory experience and networked with professionals in their field.  At times it felt that if I was not participating in research by age 20 that I had lost out on my chance of getting into medical school entirely.  On the other hand, I often felt that I didn’t fit in with the artistic and creative minds at Queen’s.  I wasn’t sure if I had anything to offer, especially among so many accomplished writers and artists pursuing creative endeavours in school.  I was not well-versed in literature. I stopped Royal Conservatory piano exams at grade 5,  had no interest in photography, and I have never been confident in my fine arts abilities.  Still, I stalked the social media pages of clubs like MUSE and other fashion-centred clubs on campus, yet somehow,  always let the application date pass. 

I felt stuck.  I loved the concepts taught in my biology and psychology courses, but I didn’t feel like a true science student.  I didn’t want to dedicate my life to lab work, and I didn’t have the energy to live in the library for 12 hours a day.  I craved an outlet where I could escape the monotony of my degree.  Among my friends who talked about DNA extractions and complex biotechnology concepts in their spare time, I felt like a fraud.  For someone who’s entire academic life had been based around being a “science student”, I no longer felt like I embodied that title.  

Now as a fourth year student, I know that there is no mold that science students have to fit into.  Each of us have such depth in our interests and skills. Queen’s is the perfect environment to foster these abandoned interests and  even explore new ones.  I did not realize it at the time, but I have met engineers who are proficient in fashion design, biology majors who are the most talented musicians, and physicists who love to write poetry.  Your degree decides  what courses you take, but it does not dictate your competencies, passions and identity.  

There is nothing wrong with joining STEM centred clubs as a way to expand your skills or discover new passions.  It is necessary to explore career prevalent resources to ensure you are enjoying your chosen  career path.  At the same time, creative pursuits are not limited to those in arts programs.  As a first year coming into Queen’s, I truly did not believe that I was “allowed” to participate in creative clubs.  Now being part of a few, I realize that the only prerequisite for these clubs is a willingness to have an open mind and try new things.   

I still feel a sense of guilt whenever I prioritize a photoshoot over extracurricular science projects; but I am continuing to learn  the importance of staying creative.  I have learned more about who I am and what I like through creative clubs.  This doesn’t negate my status as a science student, nor does my science background negate my ability to do art.  Looking back on my time at Queen’s, I don’t mind that my résumé is not filled with research publications and prestigious lab work.  I will more fondly remember writing articles about fashion history, playing music with my friends, and learning how to embrace my inner artist along the way.  I have been lucky to find my balance between my love for science, while still indulging my creative side. Queen’s made me realize that I don’t have to choose between these two passions.  If you are a first year student, or have been hesitant to branch out and explore new clubs, I urge you to try it out because my only regret is not connecting with this side of myself sooner. 


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