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Living in McGill

Posted by on Monday, May 15, 2017 in Community, Many Voices, One VU.

Musbah Shaheen
McGill House Head Resident

College is a lonely time. We are away from our friends, or homes, our families, and suddenly responsible for our own fates, education, and laundry. It can be overwhelming and fast-paced. The trick is to turn it from overwhelming to empowering, and from fast-paced to exciting. I like to say that at Vanderbilt I learned how to go from “being stuck in the corner” at every social interaction, to “being stuck in the corner but decorating it so well that everyone wants to be there.” I learned how to not “dance like no one is watching” but to “dance knowing that everyone is watching but I don’t care because I look darn good when I dance.”

“McGill is a living and learning community dedicated to free thought, creative expression, and inclusive community”
“McGill is a living and learning community dedicated to free thought, creative expression, and inclusive community”

Before college, I always felt like I was unable to form relationships or speak what I feel. I grew up in an environment where being gay was unacceptable, and I had to “be a man” and “quit whining.” I was convinced that it was un-masculine to have feelings or to be sensitive. I mean, wasn’t it “un-masculine” enough that I’m gay? Did I have to make it worse by having feelings?!  And then I found McGill.

McGill is a living and learning community dedicated to free thought, creative expression, and inclusive community (which loosely translates into “most of us have often felt out-of-place and need a community where we can be ourselves”). I became a McGill RA and was slowly able to integrate the role into my identity, helping me break out of my shell and form meaningful bonds. I suddenly had a community of people that I cared about, and that was okay. I remember the first night I spent talking to a student who was feeling depressed, and considering hurting themselves. They slept on my couch because they didn’t want to sleep alone and I stayed up all night watching over them to make sure they’re okay.

Throughout my 3 years first as RA then as Head Resident, I often had these difficult and personal conversations with people. What scares me the most is what may have happened if no one was there to listen. The thought of losing a student has kept me up multiple nights. Every single person in my building is part of my family. If they don’t have a person they could talk to, I can be their person. I often stop and think about how many people out there feel just as trapped and helpless as I felt, and that makes me really passionate about this role as a powerful tool to build community.

There may be times when you, dear first year student, may feel lonely, unnoticed, and unheard. I tell you honestly there are many people in this community like me who love you unconditionally and see the beauty that you bring to our world. Hang in there and remember that college is time for growth, discomfort, vulnerability, and for changing your mind, so don’t be afraid to do just that.

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