A Note For Newcomers

Photography by Mary Ferguson

I always thought I chose Laurier for the wrong reasons. I didn’t choose to attend because I was enamored with the program, or because I knew people that decided on Laurier too. I didn’t even choose it because of its lively school spirit, student initiatives galore or reputable social scene. I chose Laurier because I was afraid of the one lesson moving away from home can provide you with: how to depend on yourself. Like many students first arriving to university, I spent the last 18 years of my life living at home with my family. I rarely cooked for myself, and heck, my parents even did my laundry. In many ways I lived in a home protected by my folks, living with a mother and father who loved their children tremendously and were (and continue to be) sensitive to my sister and I’s individual needs. In fact, it began to dawn on me that it might be a scary thing leaving behind the comfortable nest my parents had lovingly created. On the night that I decided which school I would attend, I had the Carleton pamphlet in my left hand and Laurier’s in my right. In my mind, the deciding factor was distance. I rationalized that an hour away from my home in Oakville at Laurier was “safer” than five hours away at Carleton. I could never have anticipated that the exact phenomenon I feared and was desperately trying to avoid would be the key to awakening facets of my identity not yet familiar to me. It would become the foundation for understanding myself in ways that, without embarking on my journey to Laurier, would not have emerged in the manner that they did. I hope you’re still with me.

At first, Laurier’s energetic sense of school spirit dumbfounded me. I didn’t want to be just another peppy university gal, but I didn’t want to be the party-pooper either. I envisioned my future identity as a rigid box instead of a fluid process. I realize now that “discovering” your identity is a creative, active practice, one not about social binary constructions, but about approaching identity construction like a flowing and rambunctious wave. The truth is I didn’t know what I wanted or what I was looking for. Looking back now, I think that was a good sign. I entered university unsure. Unsure of why I was there, unsure of who I wanted to be, which in retrospect I believe can be one of the best positions to be in when entering a new phase in your life. The only requirement is first and foremost making a conscious decision to experience it with kindness and flexibility in mind. With my bags packed and my family and I standing in the doorway of my new dorm room, I can say that an earnest desire to know was all I really had. Essentially my fears were rooted in the belief that I wasn’t going to be okay on my own, but each of the three years here has offered me newfound insight into who I am as a person, a student, a writer, and a woman. Eventually, not only was I okay on my own, I grew in the process of figuring out how to be.

Throughout my three years at Laurier, I have been blessed with meeting girlfriends that I know I will maintain a friendship with for the rest of my life. I had the pleasure of meeting them at the beginning of first year in residence. Note: Meeting life-long friends is not limited to living in residence. You’ll be surprised at the relationships you build within class and extra-curricular activities. In my case, I would soon find out that my roommate and I complimented each other perfectly: she accepted my sleeping habits, and I understood her cleaning ones. The other girlfriends I met there taught me how to befriend and love someone who is unlike you, which is something that I have learned to value tremendously for its ability to show you the wonders of perspective. Above all, my girlfriends and I laughed until the wee hours, bared our souls, and taught each other the meaning of closeness, acceptance and love. Without Laurier, I would not have developed these friendships, and more importantly, it would not have been the same experience anywhere else. My point is this: enjoy your time here and enjoy it with the people you meet, relish in the moments you share with the strangers who are quickly becoming your best friends, and savor the beauty in having someone to share it with.

In my academic and extra-curricular life, I didn’t really throw myself into things I was passionate about until my third year. I had gotten advice from senior students who raved about extra-curricular activities, and their message was clear: get involved with as many things as possible right from the beginning of your undergrad career at Laurier. This is an important mindset to start your first year with because it allows you to see the possibility in every club and organization on campus that catches your eye. However, it didn’t happen all that smoothly for me, and I’ve learned that it doesn’t for a lot of people. It took some plain old messing around and dipping my feet here and there before fully realizing what I wanted to devote my time to. And then, when I was ready, I canon-balled into the water. Academically I experienced a similar sense of uncertainty with my program, but I decided to stick it out to see if anything would change, and it did. I began to see both the practical and personal worth of my degree, and by choosing a host of interesting electives I came across a course that radically changed my thinking. I fell in love with what I was learning, so much so that I added it to my degree as a minor. Take the opportunity to explore courses that not only appeal to you but challenge you as well. Dare to be adventurous and open-minded. Even if you’re looking for a course to fill up your schedule and you stumble upon something that seems like a write-off, take a chance. At best it will nourish you, be a source of personal fulfillment, and revolutionize the way you view something, but – well, there is no but. Each course, interesting or not, has the potential to teach you something new about yourself. You might not come away from it thinking you learned much at all, but I encourage you to look beneath the surface. Even in a course you learned you detested, your reasons for it will probably aid you in your self-development on an intellectual, psychological or spiritual level. After all, your university education may be about finding a job in the future, but I think we are all really here to learn about ourselves, the power of communion, and through our many efforts an important lesson in humility.

At the end of my first year, I thought I had experienced the best time of my life, and maybe you will feel the same way when this school year comes to a close, but with each passing year I am reminded the road is long and beautiful. I am reminded of the countless lessons (both easy and difficult) in and out of the classroom left to learn and how there is no rush to master these lessons. If anything, I have learned that in time these experiences will come to you naturally through divine intervention or by learning to pay attention to your gut. Cater to your curiosity. Our trials and errors have an incredible ability to nurture us, empower us, and scare us stiff, but the beauty of it all is that any time you feel impacted by something, there is abundant opportunity for growth. Seize these opportunities! Although I may not have picked Laurier for the “right” reasons, my adventure at this university has provided me with invaluable insight into who I am as a changing person, and it has enriched me because of it. Of one thing I am sure, within the next four or five years of your life here, you will evolve and explore unknown territories. But do not fret: there’s no need to prepare. With an open heart, you’re already on the right track.