Upon returning to my alma mater, Queens University, this past weekend, two things quickly occurred to me. First: Nothing has changed. And secondly: Everything has changed. Of course, this apparent discrepancy lies with me, the two-year stale alumna, who, in jeans and a blazer, felt over-dressed in the sea of rugby shirts and beloved sweats on display at the local Pita Pit.
Returning to the land of beer pong on unkempt lawns and $5 cab rides for Homecoming (or “Fauxcoming” as it is aptly named while administration boycotts unsanctioned student street parties) always stirs up a host of emotions in me. While it pleases a part of me to see that the corner Laundromat has remain put, and that I can still start a night with $40 and end with $20, it is hard to reconcile the fact that I am no longer an undergraduate student whose sole concerns are attending lectures and planning the next themed party. It seems irresponsible now, as a graduate with a fulltime job, not to be aware of current affairs beyond the boundaries of campus; reckless, to spend heaps of cash on poutine and bar rail while neglecting one’s mutual funds; unacceptable to skip class in lieu of a hangover, and sleazy to walk home in last night’s dress that is really a shirt. Don’t get me wrong— I did it all as an undergrad myself, with delight and pride. I relished my 4 year moratorium, but was unable to realize the inherent privilege in those indulgent years until returning home, sans employment, with no concrete plan at all for my future.
Having travelled a bit this past year, I am now able to appreciate just what a luxury university education is, as I was able to engage others from across the globe in conversation on a variety of topics, from the political rationale behind protests in Bangkok to the advantages and disadvantages of experimental versus narrative film in Bratislava. Somewhere between Moscow and Berlin, it finally dawned on me that all those 8:30am lectures were in fact relevant to the real world…and yet, whiling away long hours at the library does zilch when you find yourself stranded in the rain at an isolated train station in rural Germany.
Taking a quick pause somewhere between scrambling for a cab and sweating on the dance floor, I realized this weekend that while I do miss the close proximity to friends’ houses and laissez-faire lifestyle associated with university, true friendship and freedom go the distance, to convocation and beyond. And at some point, waking up at 2pm feels unproductive and wasteful. With important lessons, acquired in class and out, under my belt, I’m ready to take life in stride. So yes, nothing has changed, and yet everything has changed. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
–By Samantha Evans