If you’ve never been a day student

(Photo: Transformer18 via Flickr Creative Commons)

I hear other people reminisce about their time at King’s – okay, mostly first year – and it sounds like the stuff in brochures. Specifically, the idea of a close-knit community, where conversation flows effortlessly from tutorial to dining hall. Students perching in window sills, resting their copy of Dante’s Inferno on their laps as they gaze out at the quad. Processing down to Prince Hall with floormates, robes swishing.

I bought the dream and socked those images away, using them as a balm for my fears of leaving high school, and joyfully reciting them at family gatherings. I could save money by living at home, study something I loved and be part of a hashtag: community. What’s not to love?

And then September rolled around.

Frosh week was a mixed bag. Shoutout to the attempts at integrating the day students – the frosh van was a great help, the Day Students’ Society repped us from the get go and every interaction I had with res students and staff was nothing but positive. There was, though, the night when cold weather put the kibosh on a quad campout, and my day student friends and I walked home with our sleeping bags wrapped around our shoulders, while everyone else retreated into residence for more bonding time. Even with days full of activities, there were entire periods of togetherness I just didn’t feel I had access to. And once that week was over, it felt like every week was another step farther away as residence students formed closer groups.

A few things about me: I live on peninsular Halifax. My commute to King’s is 25 minutes on foot, and it takes me about the same amount of time to bus (if only because I show up to the stop much too early, just in case.) I’m extremely bad at meeting new people. I started at King’s with quite a few friends from high school, and only became closer to them as a result.

I know day students with a much, much longer commute than mine who wove themselves in seamlessly with the residence community. It can be done! But it remains that day students have to work at something that not only comes naturally, but is unavoidable for a lot of residence students.

My first year experience wasn’t some bleak Little Matchstick Girl scenario, with me standing in the pouring rain, one hand pressed to the window as my classmates socialized by candlelight inside. I made a group of great friends in other day students, and I’m grateful for the connections I made through tutorial and my involvement in the Dance Collective. I may not have experienced Sodexo, but I got to have lunch with my grandparents most days of the week. While residence students congregated in common rooms for all night paper writing sessions, my cat kept me company through some endless nights. Oh yeah, and I saved almost ten thousand dollars.

So why bring it up now, especially when I’m getting ready to start my final year at King’s, and after so many of my classmates have moved off campus and become day students themselves?

For one, at this year’s election speeches, I noticed the common plan for engaging day students was to keep us informed. But when you have to travel half an hour or more just to get to campus, all the notice in the world may not be enough to get you out the door. Theme nights at the Wardroom are great, but with fewer buses the later it gets, the trek isn’t always worth the hassle to get home.

I can appreciate the struggle to time events. As a student body, our commute to campus can range from seconds to hours. Some of us work, some don’t. Evening classes, day classes, extracurriculars: all throw a wrench in even the most inclusive plans. Just know that for those of us with farther to go, not attending doesn’t mean we don’t know what’s happening, or don’t want to stop by.

Second, I feel the divide I felt in first year to this day. I can’t walk into the Wardy by myself and have a connection with half the room. We never chatted over the salad bar, did Secret Santa with our floor, or studied at 4 a.m. in the Manning Room together. I feel like having missed the formative experience of residence puts me at a disadvantage.

We talk a lot about community at King’s, and rightfully so. That’s what drew me to a small school like ours, and all the pockets I’ve encountered have been tightly woven and supportive. But when we’re talking about community, let’s remember the communities. I’m not suggesting we give up on day students, or encourage the divide. I only suggest that we remember life outside the fishbowl, and the different ways to find common ground on the quad.