Part of The New Zoo

Photography by Devon Butler

There are four thousand students coming into university this month, being introduced to their new zoo, and we’re all behind our own bars.

Four thousand people moving into residence with boxes and plastic containers, stuffed full of comforts and treasures meant for their mysterious living arrangements ahead. Four thousand terrified and silently excited, looking at the massive walls of the buildings and the awkward barriers between each other to be broken as they’re herded around by eager volunteers in ridiculous clothing.

That’s not to say we are cooped up: the ability to spend our wee hours in an off-campus coffee shop or falafel house is the most relished event between the “optional” activities and the intensity of rival color teams. We’ve been told since our humble beginnings in high school that university is the pinnacle of independence and low expectations: ‘the only person who cares what you do here is yourself’. This initial impression, though there in spirit, is sorely tested through our first week.

The close-knitted spirit of the week is staggering, despite the attempt to bring the bright-eyed and inexperienced together being represented with varying kinds of colorful murderers (Ninjas will stop your heart seems to be less in the spirit of community than expected). This method of bonding highlights the irony of trying to bring us together by separating us into competitive groups. If inclusion was what everyone was aiming for, they may have missed the mark by telling us we’re better than our fellow student depending on the colors of our face paint.

But there are always going to be borders; in our proud and oddly-shaped province, there are more towns than drink choices in the downstairs vending machines. Bringing samples of the unique youth from each municipality with the intent to bond them was never going to be easy. From our homes, we brought our own personal cages to keep us warm at night and assure us that we’re our own best friend here, no matter how many times we cheer for our team. Everyone wants to make friends, but it’s easier to put up an awkward wall and tell ourselves that we’re the only special one.

The attempt to break these borders highlights an important axiom: be apart of the group, but shine on your own. A life with no boundaries is dangerous, but life with too many is needlessly lonely, especially in a place so unfamiliar that even the seagulls look at you funny. So as you walk through the campus, clutching your purse as tight as knuckles allow, listening to music only you can hear, try to spot other peoples personal walls as they walk past. Everyone will open up – to an extent – and have even a small portion of the grand experience we’ve been promised in an endless wave of brochures.

All borders get crossed, because they are there to cross, and we all get restless with being lonely. You may not feel inclined to share your new zoo: but be sure to peek through the bars occasionally.