I always assumed that your high school friends would be the people you’d spend all of your time with in post-secondary, and since I went to an online high school I didn’t expect to fit in when I got to university. I thought it would be super cliquey and hard to meet new people. I was wrong. While people still make time for their high school friends after they graduate, they also grow independently.
Once you leave high school, your friends will go on to do different things. Some might move away for school, some will get jobs, others might take a gap year to travel. While your old friends go on to whatever their next steps might be, if you're heading to post-secondary chances are you'll be meeting loads of new people, learning new things, and having a lot of new experiences. Sometimes all that newness can get a bit overwhelming, and it’s important to know that you have somewhere you can go if you need a little support and positivity.
Discovering the Positive Space Initiative at my school
When I got to university I started learning more about feminism, racism, and other forms of social disparity. I found that the friends I made in university cared about the same things I did, and as a result I began to discover all sorts of really cool initiatives on campus geared towards social justice and inclusion. One example at Mount Royal University is the Positive Space initiative. You might have heard of similar efforts to encourage “safe spaces” on campus.
A safe space is an area on campus where students can go to escape discrimination. Safe spaces are important because post-secondary students are often exposed to sensitive or challenging topics and sometimes we need some breathing room to ensure we can make it through the semester happily.
Safe spaces can empower you
Chances are there is somebody reading this right now who has experienced discrimination in their lives. Perhaps they haven’t come out about their sexual orientation or gender identity, or they’ve had to deal with racism or bullying. I’d like to take a minute to talk to you directly.
University isn’t always easy. I’m constantly exposed to ideas that I don’t agree with, which can be challenging, but campuses across Alberta are finding new ways to make everybody feel comfortable and empowered in their post-secondary experience. Safe spaces are an important part of ensuring that students feel both safe and empowered.
You might not feel like you have the strongest community at your high school, but chances are university will change that. If you want to join a campus that embraces differences across the spectrum, take some time to research your preferred institution’s safe spaces campaign. A quick Google search of your preferred post-secondary institution plus the words “safe space” will point you in the right direction.
Remember, there are different types of safe spaces at different schools. Mount Royal calls their official safe space a “Positive Space,” but other areas on campus offer opportunities to escape the tension you might be feeling. Student associations are often a host to clubs, which usually include minority groups. And some post-secondary institutions have more than one safe space on campus.
Moving to the big city
If you’re considering moving from a rural community to a bigger city for post-secondary, you’ll also gain access to a wealth of community organizations. In addition to having access to safe spaces on campus, you can also turn to these off-campus organizations.
These could be organizations dedicated to promoting positive mental health, or organizations specifically for minority groups. Pride parades across the province are growing every year, and many post-secondary institutions have partnerships with these events. The options to explore your identity and feel supported and secure while doing so is one of the best parts of post-secondary.
October 2 - 8 is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and it’s an important time to think about preventing mental illness when entering post-secondary. Safe spaces are a great way to ensure one’s mental happiness while studying at a new school, and maybe even in a new city.
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