What I Wish I Knew Going Into First Year

by Danielle Barish, Deputy Brand Manager

First year was truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Growing up for the past 10 years at summer camp, I thought I would be fully equipped to handle anything University threw at me. I was used to living with a bunch of kids in small spaces, doing any means necessary for a good time. Oh what a good time it was. I loved having so many friends around, there was always someone down for a chill. I lived for nights out and the complete freedom I had to choose what I wanted to do, when I wanted. Although I could still draw some huge comparisons between camp and school, nothing could adequately prepare me for the real thing. With all the amazing things  first year has to offer, it can also definitely be overwhelming. However, if you listen to those with some practice (me?) it will be a lot easier to navigate. Here are 10 things I wish I would have known going into first year.

  1. Transitions are hard.

As I said before, every summer for the past 10 years I have gone away to summer camp and never had a problem being away for months at a time; but University is different, and that’s a fact. No matter how much you think you are prepared for the change, there will always be something you can’t predict. I don’t know a single person who thought all of university was a breeze. The truth is, the transition from high school, where I was at home with a set routine to a new school, where I was living on my own with a completely open schedule was hard to get used to. However, knowing everybody is in the same boat as you should give you comfort. Reach out and talk to your friends about their experiences because I can guarantee they are feeling the same way, I found this type of support was the most helpful. The best thing you can do is accept that the first few weeks are going to be confusing and scary, so stop telling yourself that you shouldn’t/don’t feel the way you really are.

  1. $ave and Budget

Rap legend Lil Dicky said it best, “What we do? We gone save that money.” Its super tempting to want to splurge on every rugby sweater, CoGro bruschetta bagel and Starbucks latte in sight. I am here to tell you, from personal experience, budgeting is hard and that super cute faculty sweater might not be worth it. Try to keep track of your spending habits in the first couple weeks of school, and soon you’ll be thanking yourself when you check your bank account. If you’re feeling fiscally secure, give yourself a pat on the back and keep doing whatever it is you’re doing.  If you feel slightly nauseous at the sight of your account balance, I would suggest making a priority list of what you need versus what you want. Trust me, there actually is a difference between the two.

  1. It’s (legitimately) okay not to know what you’re doing with your life

Despite all attempts to make people believe otherwise, nobody actually knows what they’re doing! Crazy concept right? This is especially true for university students and another hard fact you’re going to have to accept. But the silver lining is that nobody is expecting you to know this right now. This is not the Game of Life, you don’t just spin a wheel to figure out your career (obviously I always wanted to be the Superstar or Doctor). In Real Life, this process takes time, and lots of it. Right now, all you can do at this point is take courses you like, and even more importantly figure out the things you don’t like. Slowly but surely you’ll get there, just not with the same promptness as spinning a wheel.

  1. Get Involved!

Your  parents said it, your teachers said it, your coaches said it and now I’m saying it. What you put into your Queen’s Experience is what you will get out of it (lifetime warranty guaranteed). Other than academics, Queens has so much to offer you with so many endless opportunities to get involved. Whether it’s through one of the 270+ AMS clubs, faculty organizations, or team sports, there is something for you. With that said, it’s also okay to take it easy while you adjust to your new life at Queens. It’s much better to find one or two things that you enjoy and dedicate yourself to rather than trying to do it all and not putting your best effort forward.

  1. Make the trek to Princess Street

There are going to be times this year when you absolutely can’t get out of bed and opt to binge watch a season (or two) of your favorite TV show and all the power to you! But don’t make a habit out of this. Kingston is actually a really cool place, and try and make it a goal this year to get out and explore it. There are so many activities you can do just to take a break from campus like skating, escape rooms, or shopping. It’s also a great idea to discover some cool coffee shops and use them as study spaces. Stauffer during exams can cause more stress than relief, so having an alternative place to study away from exam madness is a must. Have your Don plan a floor outing or just take some friends downtown and get away from residence. You’ll thank me later.


  1. Routine. Routine.

Ah, the double edged sword of having the freedom to choose what you want to do, when you want to do it. All that extra free time can be a blessing and a curse. It can be really easy to slack off and fall really behind in life without a routine; but the freetime can also be great for unexpected quiz studying time. Trying to build a (realistic) routine within the first few weeks of school is a really good idea. There is lots to do other than sleep, eat and study. Try going to the gym at the ARC or joining a club or two. This will help balance out your life and feel a lot more settled in your new life here at Queens.

  1. 60% of the time, it works every time.

In all honestly I could tell you 1,000,000 times to do every single reading and make detailed notes during every lecture, but let’s be honest, that just isn’t realistic. This is in no way telling you to slack-off and sleep though your 8am classes, but rather learn how to prioritize. This can be a really hard skill to acquire, but it will be one of the best skills you could ever gain. Sometimes one class will have to take a backseat to another class and that’s okay. Determine which courses require the most attention and work on those first. If you try and do all your reading for Devs, for example, you might never actually get around to your History essay which might actually be worth more.

  1. Not everyone is going to be your friend, and it’s better that way.

By nature, I’m a pretty social person, I love making friends and having a lot of them. So naturally I thought University would be the ultimate jackpot for this. It’s sad but true, not everyone is going to be your friend and you are definitely not going to actually want to be friends with everyone. It’s as simple as that. You can’t expect to be placed on a floor with a random assortment of kids and expect to like everyone. Branch out and make friends in different area like classes, clubs, and sports, because you may find it easier to connect with people you share common interests with. Friends should be looked at with quality over quantity. It’s much better to have a solid crew than a zillion people you barely know.

  1. The Perks of being a Wallflower

One of the hardest aspects of school was finding real down-time. It can feel like an endless stream of people, classes, and noise and it’s easy to get caught up. What’s really important is to be able to take time to yourself, unwind and relax. Know when it’s time to take the night off work or skip a party or two (trust me, there will be lots throughout the year). Taking time to yourself is super important to staying physically and mentally in the game. Do whatever it is that you normally do to relax. And if there’s ever a time it all gets a little too much, there are so many resources you can access to relive some pressure. Through the AMS, there are helpful people to contact at the Peer Support Centre or Student Advisors if you ever need any help. And trust me, at one point you will; it’s inevitable. That’s why all these amazing services are here!

  1. Keep calm and CHA GAEL (gheill?)!

This year you are going to have so many positive (and sometimes negative) memories. These four years are going to go by fast, and if you don’t stop and look around once and awhile, you might miss it. So take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, and really make the most out of the time you’re here. Queen’s is a wonderful place, wear your tricolour with pride (Wuck Festern am I right?) and remember that there is no right answer to first year, so do whatever makes you happy!


Effective May 1 2022 our new address is (Lasalle) 146 Stuart Street, Kingston, ON K7L 2V8

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