Much as I love the summer (I’m a warm weather person, despite my fondness for my home town of Winnipeg and its 40 below winters), there is something special about its waning in August. The temperature slips a few notches after mid-month, the days start ending noticeably sooner (great for astronomy buffs), and most of all, the campus begins a slow buzz that within a couple of weeks will become a loud roar. The students are starting to come back (of course many, especially graduate students, have been here throughout), and I am starting to see upper years drift into town. The big shift of course will occur on Labour Day weekend, when over f0ur thousand frosh will arrive (along with some 2nd years who spent last year at the castle, and transfer students from other schools). As I’ve said before in this blog, January 1 may be the start of the calendar year, May 1 the fiscal year and income tax reporting deadline–but for us in the academic realm, like schoolteachers, the REAL start to the year is September.
My wife and I are looking forward to our annual walkabout the residences on our two Kingston campuses when we chat to incoming first-years and their families. It’s truly an exciting time. For me, it reminds me of my own transition to Queen’s in the late summer of 1976, when I arrived here (having never set foot in Kingston in my life–one didn’t ‘check out’ schools then; one just applied, and there was no internet) as a 17 year old (coming from Manitoba and having a late birthday I was at least a year or two younger than most people on my floor). Frosh week is the week of the year that most allows me, like Proust with his madeleine wafer (check out that literary reference, frosh!) to revisit in my mind the magic of arriving in Kingston, and on Queen’s campus. It’s an odd combination of exhilaration, some anxiety, mixed emotions about leaving home, and that feeling that after months on the tarmac of life, your personal plane is finally airborne. I can remember my first day on campus and the first people I met in my residence and in my gael group, as if it were yesterday.
I hope that all our new students will have such experiences here during orientation (and that it will be fun, informative, and most important, SAFE). And I wish that you, like me, will be able to look back in 2, 3, 4 and 5 decades, at this next few weeks as a magical time of transition in your adult or soon-to-be-adult lives.
Best wishes on the packing and the moving, and see you in a couple of weeks!