My 10th Froshiversary

It’s the start if term, which means the University of Toronto campus has swapped its hordes of Camp U of T youngsters for only-slightly-older youngsters wearing colourful college t-shirts and looking confused. I want to pat those students on the shoulder and say, “it’s not you, it’s us.”

I can’t help but feel nostalgic, though I didn’t actually enjoy the beginning of my own university career. It’s been ten years since it started! Ten years since I moved into that first ant-infested apartment on Rue Lambert-Closse, since my teary-eyed dad took me shopping at the Atwater Market then drove back to Ontario, since I first wandered onto the McGill campus wondering what I would do there.

(I was seventeen, and still very afraid of being myself. I was interested in history and literature in a vague sort of way, but ‘being thinner’ remained my number one priority. Everyone said I would study English, so I was resolved not to study English [in the end, I studied English].)

High school

Grade 12. Ready for anything with my soon-to-be roommate.

Since I didn’t live in a dorm, I first encountered the university on day one of Frosh week, actually a three-day Arts and Sciences frosh (theme: boot camp), followed immediately by a three day student-society frosh (theme: the Matrix). I knew I was supposed to enjoy this week (sponsored by Molson! Unlimited free beer starting at 8 AM! Sean Desmond concert!), but mostly found it stressful because I didn’t know the difference between the two events I was a part of and all the other events going on that week.

I don’t meant that facetiously: I mean I literally did not understand that I was part of the Faculty of Arts. I didn’t get that I was taking part in one set of events for students who might have classes together, and that I was also part of the student society, which ran a larger, separate event to bring students together across disciplines.

In retrospect, this sounds really…stupid. How could I not have known? How could I have had so much confusion over being put into these two relevant, reasonable categories of student-dom?  I had two parents who went to university, and a lifetime of expectation that I would go, and I still did not understand how I fit into the system in the most basic of ways.

This week U of T’s newest cohort is roaming Robarts Library, trying to figure out how to get their T-Card, how to make a new friend, and what they’re going to do with the rest of their life. Ten years after my own bumpy start, I wear an AskMe sticker and the friendliest smile I’ve got.  I give directional questions and nod empathetically when students express frustration at the wait time, at the weird elevator system, at the massive system they feel right on the edge of.

ASKme

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