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My “floor babies,” how they’ve grown!

My “floor babies,” how they’ve grown!

[photo of residence high table] Erica Holgate, back row, third from left, with her “floor babies” at a residence high table.

The phone buzzes at three o’clock in the morning; nothing out of the ordinary. It’s a text from one of my residents. “Can we play Guitar Hero with you?”

From the moment I acted out the role in Existere, a performance put on by second year students for frosh during residence orientation, I knew I wanted to become a residence Don. In fourth year, my wish came true. When a floor Don departed, I was asked to step into her job. Naturally, my first question was “Where?” When I heard “West Campus,” I wasn’t sure how I felt.

West Campus? Way out there?

I nervously packed up my stuff and moved to Jean Royce Hall during the holiday break. I wanted to be there when the students’ returned in the New Year.

The residents of my floor came back buzzing with excitement. To them, I was just the curious new person at the end of the hall. I lurked behind my partially open door, anxious about how I was going to approach an already-established “floor family.” I had a host of questions in mind. What happened to the last Don? Will the students like me? I wanted to be approachable – hence my open door, but it seemed as if the residents were avoiding my room. I’d decorated the hallway in their absence and was pumped to meet every one of them. I thought that it was going to be easy, and we were going to be immediate best friends for life. I was already thinking of them as my “floor babies.”

My first week on the job was a shock. I was awakened at all hours of the night with noise that ranged from loud talking and construction signs being dragged into the hall, to the experience of having the floor residents collectively move the room contents of one of their number into the bathroom – for the third or fourth time that year, as I later learned.

As the weeks passed, I started to understand my floor and its residents. I realized that their antics were reminiscent of my own in first year. My residence friends and I were always running through halls, pulling pranks, and pushing boundaries. With that perspective, I came to see my Don role as a combination of teacher and cool older sibling. My job was to look after and guide my charges, but still encourage them to have fun and learn from their mistakes. While my patience was sometimes tested, I developed an ability to cope, and my ties with my floor babies grew stronger.

What I found most interesting was the strength of the bonds that developed among them. Moving away from home for the first time isn’t easy; in any residence, your floormates become your family. For West Campus residents, it can become a really strong family. In my first year, I joined clubs, connected with classmates, and got involved in extracurricular activities. As I did so, I felt myself drifting away from my floormates. This wasn’t the case with the kids on my West Campus floor. I am sure a few have lost touch, but I constantly see group photos of the rest of them on Facebook. Their photos show summer trips together and tricolour photos from football games. ­After moving out of residence, many continued to be housemates.

From afar, I’ve watched all of them grow into adults. I saw ­students who, some thought, were “trouble” in first year, take on roles of responsibility. They’ve gotten involved in Queen’s First Aid or the AMS. They’ve successfully completed their degrees in a number of challenging programs. Some are planning for grad school. One, who’s thinking of working in public relations – my current field – approached me for career advice. I’m so proud of each and every one of them.

That semester on West Campus marked one of my favourite times at Queen’s. Cha gheill and good luck to all my floor babies as their adventures continue as Queen’s alumni!

[Queen's Alumni Review 2013-3 cover]