Becoming a NEWT

Well, where do I begin? Some of the random and diverse activities I have taken part in during the first semester or fall term include:

Toronto Blue Jays vs New York Yankees at the Rogers Centre Toronto – A prize for anyone who can guess what I am on about  . . .  have you guessed yet?!  . . .   I give you watching a 4.5 hour baseball game sitting in a packed stadium in central Toronto with the temperature at 28 degrees (prizes are in the post, keep checking they will arrive eventually). Not forgetting the smell of hotdogs wafting in the breeze with the CN Tower literally towering over the stadium and aeroplanes doing acrobatics above us.  Madness. Bewilderment. A wild desire for a cheap and nasty hotdog.  And a general sense of “I don’t understand the rules or what they are doing at all”. But all in all a great initation into Canadian baseball worshipping.

I became a NEWT.

Yes, I became a New Exchange Woo-hoo Transfer student when I signed up to take part in NEWTS’ week. Basically, a freshers’ week for international exchange students all for a quite steep price of $120 but for 4 full days of organised activties and a bright orange t.shirt,  it was well worth the money. But seriously,  if you are one of the lucky people to be going on exchange to Queen’s soon make sure you sign up. From this week I made the majority of my closest friends and we often have NEWT reunions throughout the term.

NEWTs week is a planned series of activities run by proper full-time Queen’s students for the sole purpose of integrating exchange students into the craziness that is the life of a Queen’s student. On the first morning, around 150 new NEWT recruits were ushered into an impressive hall on campus. Cue absurd music, flashing lights and about 50 students entering in fancy dress before performing a group dance and sing-song. At this point, the urge to either hide or run and the general sense of ‘oh no, what have I let myself in for’ were strong. That first impression of noise, energy, attempted singing, choreographed dance routines and dressing-up proved to be the epitome of NEWT’s week and I have to say I loved it!

The week was like being at a friend’s birthday party when you are about 6 years old. We got put into families of about 14, including International students from all over the world and 3 Geckos (parents) who would be our guides and support. These people have become a great bunch of friends and are a useful first stop when I require any information on navigating life at Queen’s.

During NEWT’s week a few of the activities organised included:

1. a magical mystery tour – we took a yellow school bus! yes, just like on the American movies! A convoy of 6 yellow school buses travelled along the highway on a secret and surprise mission to Ottawa city. The journey involved lots of obligatory singing, quizzes and shouting. Boy, were we loud and raucous, I’m sure that you could hear us in Vancouver.  While in Ottawa we got to visit the Parliament buildings – which was beautiful and very gothic-like, and the Byward market, before sampling a traditional diner for a typical Canadian eating experience (by now you may have realised I am obsessed with food- I apolgise for my regular digressions – normal service will be resumed in a min). The Diner was again just like in “Grease” the movie with the booths, music and cheap food, all a very neon, bright and plasticy experience! Following our free time round the city we all met up again to party the night away at a local club – needless to say the bus journey back was  much quieter than on the way!

2. photo scavenger tour of campus – a mad dash around campus to pose in as many ridiculous positions and places around the uni. It was a good way to orientate ourselves. The weird and wonderful stops ranged from the very posh Douglas library (think Victorian England drawing-room to the sexual health store with its variety of products for sale. Let’s just say Canadians are not as reserved as the British.

3. Squealing and shrieking the night away in an Irish pub (have I left Edinburgh?!) – you guessed it the obligatory Karoke night, eek. Murdering the classics never sounded so bad.

4. Tam ceremony – becoming part of the Queen’s family. A special ceremony in Convocation Hall (very posh) with a chance to learn about Queen’s rich history and traditions (they have so many mad traditions). Each Newt received a tam (a black beret with a tartan trim and an orange pom pom – the height of fashion). Each faculty has their own colour and the style slightly changes, orange represented our International Exchange student status. We had to all swear/chant an oath to Queen’s university before we were able to wear the Tam


The stage became filled with cheerleaders and a brass band pumping out the school anthem, followed by a rendition of the well-known Queen dance and song “Oil thigh”.

5. Olympics – basically we had to wear mechanic overalls and take part in lots of organised games/sports on Summerhill on the University Campus in our NEWT families. The sun was shining and the temperature was hitting 25+ degrees. It was glorious – felt like the middle of summer. I was very nervous about taking part, again not something I would usually sign myself up for but once again it proved to be a heck of a lot of fun and provided some amazing memories. The team games involved random things such as smearing a balloon with shaving foam, then shaving it off with a razor before running to your next team mate whilst competing against another team,  skipping, team games with water-filled balloons, passing sponges with feet and many ypes of differing running races.

Summerhill Shennanigans

6. Massive paint fight – To conclude the Olympics a huge tarpaulin was spread across the field and each NEWT had to place a foot on the tarpaulin. So, 150 NEWTs and 60 Geckos were all staring each other out waiting with nervous anticipation for a whistle to blow. You know the moment of calm before a storm, well that lasted for a minute before the storm of noise and paint splattering began. In the middle of the tarpaulin were many buckets filled with different colours of paint. As the whistle blew, the crowd surged towards the buckets – paint, hands, bodies flew through the air and around the field. Handfuls of paint were thrown everywhere. It was the most absurd and mad 15 mins of my life so far. Paint was all over my hair, face, neck, feet, you couldn’t see skin.

NEWT Coveralls

7. Our Lady Peace concert – at the K-rock centre, a small stadium in Kingston we got to see the famous Canadian band, Our Lady Peace. The Canadian Geckos were very excited to see their idols and the whole of Kingston was buzzing with anticipation for the gig – the exchange students didn’t have a clue!

Our Lady Peace Concert

8. Fancy meal and night out – the week ended with a fabulous meal and night out in Kingston and a great chance to celebrate surviving the first week with everyone. Strange to think that these people I now classed as dear friends I didn’t even know less than 5 days before!

Categories: CanadaTags: , ,

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