The Last First Day

Photography by Mary Ferguson

There is something crisp about the air on the first day of school. A wave of new beginnings seems to float effortlessly in the air. I watch as the people around me convene with their friends and reconnect with their lives as if they were puzzle pieces. The edges are so flawless and all these students seem to readjust so quickly to the life of academia. I should know; I am a student myself. And today—the first day of school—will also be my last first day of school as an undergraduate student. Fourth year is kind of sad and sublime in that way. But one word seems to stand out to me: Student.

Student… What does that word mean? Although mental and physical destruction comes from its dictionary definition, I can easily recall certain experiences that have defined the term for me in several other ways. So can you. Each and every one of us has the power to formulate and comprehend our own experiences as students and decipher what those experiences might mean.

I have found that being a student means you are hungry most of the day, you are tired, you want more time to spend on leisurely activities, and you want to be a millionaire so you won’t have to worry about various expenses (or—you guessed it—debt). Sometimes it means the occasional morning lecture in your pyjama bottoms. Sometimes it means being homesick—both at school and away from school. Best of all, being a student means you are offering yourself up to the real world and becoming a better person from what you will learn in such a small space and during such a short span of time.

Now that my last year is already here, I cannot truly admit I want it to end. After nearly four years of associating myself with being a student at this institution, I often wonder what my identity will become once I leave this place. There are fears about employment, debt, and everything else life manages to throw at me. But at this moment I am simply a student, and I am like other students around the world who share these thoughts and feelings.

Being a student is more than just avoiding your typical academic headaches. It brings the knowledge that you will adopt your school’s colours—in this case purple and gold—into your own veins for the duration of your stay. You become part of an unbreakable community with your graduating class and the other students around you. Sometimes it may feel like we are different animals simply thrown into one cage left to fight over limited resources. If we can look past our struggles, our experiences as students remind us that we truly are all different, yet identical in our ability to envision what we want to take with us once we leave school. We’re all just a bunch of hawks, really.

I invite any student who reads this to think about what being a student has meant for you. Then, I would like you to imagine who you might be when you are no longer a student. Who are you? Where are you going? What do you want out of life? It’s confusing to envision, isn’t it? Now, I ask you to forget about your worries regarding the technicalities of your future income, your dream home or spouse, or even the bigger stresses you will come to know. Worry about being a student now, not when the time to be a student has already passed. Worry about creating memories with the people around you; people who share a similar vision. Don’t dwell on anxiety. Find what you enjoy about being a student and hone those emotions.

For some, being a student means enjoying the pleasures of independence. For people like me, being a student means I can enjoy the chicken strips and curly fries from the dining hall before an evening class, or whenever I want for that matter. I guess it also means I should stop standing under the Aird underpass like an idiot and get to class. I can’t ride that wave of new beginnings if my surfboard has already been tossed across the post-apocalyptic realm of Bricker Avenue.

I’m really going to miss it here, aren’t I?