My Black Boots (and Orientation)
As of today (Tuesday, September 6th), the university realm will catch fire once again, lighting up our beloved campus with the bright, new, and occasionally confused faces of the new students of UVic.
If you look closely, you will see yours truly among such beaming individuals, except I will likely be more confused than most, and lacking a good reason to be so given I am now starting my fourth year.
Yes, dear universitarians – I am going to be a campus orientation leader, and have the privilege of showing the newcomers just what a beautiful, west-coast oasis we live in.
I mean, can you name ANOTHER university where the ocean is just one study break away, where all of campus is so perfectly circular, AND where students can have meaningful, intimate friendships with the deer and raccoons next to their classrooms?! I didn’t think so.
So I’ll be out there, more than likely babbling about how awesome our new cafeteria-turned-world-class-eatery is, and attempting to relieve any first year anxiety via stories of my own clueless, first-year self floundering around campus. That’s right kids, if I can make it (almost) all the way through and survive, you’ll be just fine.
But contradictory to that little digression, I’m not actually writing to you today to talk about orientation.. Or classes, or school at all for that matter. I’m here to share with you something far more important:
Yep. Just a pair of black, worn-out, hole-filled boots.
You see, I recently got back from a 10-month university exchange where, to my excitement, I was able to study in one of UVic’s 50 partner universities around the world through our international exchange program. Naturally, my addiction to clouds and Yorkshire pudding drove me to attend a school in Northern England.
Before I left, I stocked up on all things Canadian, right down to clothing. Three flannel shirts, two mason jars, and these black boots I bought at Roots were among my essential maple-land attire.
So why the hell I am I telling you about my fashion choices?
Easy. Because of where they’ve been.
You see, these quickly became my favourite boots, and they essentially became a wearable time-capsule of everything that happened to me while I was overseas.
Notice the wear and tear on them, just from sheer exposure of the places they’ve been. I loved them so much I wore them from the moment I hopped on the plane to the UK, and from excessive use they’ve accumulated some unique markings:
They’re slightly tinted red from running on the dust of the streets of Venice at midnight (getting lost is so much harder when your Italian dialogue is limited to “bonjourno” and “spaghetti”).
They are slightly scratched from a 4am walk I took along the railing of the River Thames on my birthday.
They’ve experienced the views from the top of the Scottish highland mountains, the centre of Berlin from a diplomatic house, and a penthouse party at the pinnacle of a London highrise.
And to this day, I still feel the occasional grinding of sand against sole from the days I let them soak up the warm waters of the Mediterranean.
They were with me during some of the loneliest hours of my life, and some of the most euphoric I’ve ever felt.
Of course, I’m writing these things not to brag, but to encourage.
Because today I’m back on campus, telling a handful of our new students everything UVic has to offer. Currently I feel exactly like these boots; worn, maybe a little roughed up in parts, but I’ve lived, and I’ve got stories to tell and the marks to show for it.
These are the most important things I want to say to new students about this glorious university we have – UVic is not just classes. It is not just professors and buying textbooks and deciding on what way to study best works for you.
Those are all important of course, but what I emphasize will be the in-betweens; UVic is getting lost literally in circles and making three helpful friends en route to class, it’s being there for that friend in the dorm across from you who’s having a hard time adjusting, it’s slam poetry societies and quidditch club and puppy de-stress days and travelling and learning. That, in my mind, is what makes the university experience unique – the learning really only starts in the classroom.
So if you see my face, come by and say hello. I’m always there to talk, and I promise I will answer anything and everything honestly.
I’ll be wearing my boots.
P.S. I would like to offer my indescribable gratitude to my best friend Nicholas Porter (bottom right), and my girlfriend Mariana Avelino (bottom left) for their undying support throughout my entire international experience. I met both of them within 10 days of arriving in the UK, and immediately dragged them into this whirlwind of a year with me. Collectively they’ve visited 7 countries with me over the past 11 months, and have insisted on being there for me despite my continuous eating of their desserts. Nick, if you’re reading this it means we’re overdue for a chat. Call me. Mariana, the marmite you gave me is fast disappearing – Please send more at your earliest convenience.
Ha! I made the blog post! Highlight of my day.