One of the central issues of the master plan for Queen’s is how to connect all of Queen’s campuses, but especially West and Main. We recently approached some students who spent the last year as residents of Jean Royce Hall and asked them to tell us about their experience living on West — what it was like to find themselves there at the beginning of the year, at the end of the year, the ways in which they felt connected and/or disconnected from the main campus, how they felt about the “distance” to main campus, what kinds of services are needed there, how they got around. Here is what Jillian Wakarchuk, a prospective Stage & Screen major (Artsci ’16), from Ottawa, had to tell us…
Like any residence, West Campus has its perks and downfalls. My relationship with West started off on a great note. After recovering from the initial shock of being assigned to West, the Jean Royce Hall Facebook group provided a lot of support and answered many questions from anxious students. Together we decided we would make the best of our situation and have an awesome first year.
Throughout September, my floor was very close. We went almost every day for large floor dinners and felt a strong sense of family. That feeling slowly faded out as school picked up speed and different groups of friends emerged. As the year went on, West began to feel very lonely. Because it is mainly single rooms, it’s easy to stay confined in your own space and not socialize. The distance from Main Campus certainly didn’t help in that aspect. Friends on Main are often unfamiliar with the bus or do not want to walk over to visit. Weather dependent, the walk isn’t so bad, but the twenty-minute commute can be a heavy time commitment.
The distance is the best and worst thing about West Campus. Some days, I just wanted to get away from the action of Main Campus and come home to my quiet space. Other days I felt like I was living on an island very far away, especially when there were events being held on Main. That being said, it felt more natural to me to walk or bus to school in the morning, giving my brain some time to wake up before class started. The walk or ride back home after class was also a good way to de-stress and process the day’s events. For West to feel less isolated, I think more West Campus-wide events are needed. There was the occasional movie or dodge ball tournament, but I didn’t find those were particularly effective at building community.
When my parents came to visit, we found there wasn’t really space to just chat. The rooms themselves are very small and the common room is a shared space, not ideal for conversation. It would be nice to see some kind of outside courtyard, or walking path to make spending time on West more enjoyable. This would also encourage students to leave their rooms and get outside. The field next door is of course a lovely place to throw a Frisbee around, or whatnot but a little something extra could definitely be useful. Suggestions for a café have also been made, and I personally think that would be a great addition to West Campus, which is rather lacking in atmosphere. The shipping-container aesthetic can feel very cold and unfriendly at times, but the warmth of a small café could be a place to escape that. Sure, there is always the Barista but it just doesn’t feel the same way something like Common Ground does, or offer the same healthy selection of food.
Overall, the friendships you make are what ultimately shape your residence experience, but there are certainly some changes and additions that can make West Campus feel more like home.
Did you have a similar — or different — experience on West Campus either as a resident or as a student there? Lets us know in the comments below!