My connection to the Squamish community
Ivory tower syndrome is where “intellectuals engage in pursuits that are disconnected from the practical concerns of everyday life” (Wikipedia). This term is often used to describe the stigma associated with Quest, not only by the local people of Squamish, but by the students themselves. “We want to be more involved with the community”, I often hear. But being up on the hill makes it difficult, especially for someone without a car, to get into down into the main town to participate in the community.
Understandably, this was one of my main concerns with coming to Quest. I classify myself as a city girl – I grew up Richmond BC, which is becoming increasingly urbanized. I was nervous to be stranded in one location, without access to a movie theater or a shopping mall. I also knew right away that I wanted to be an active member of the Squamish community, but I didn’t know how to go about it.
In my Democracy and Justice class, we had an option of doing service learning, where we would volunteer at an organization in Squamish in lieu of an assignment. For this project I attended a community meeting that focused on a variety of issues from the environment, to proper voting procedure. This project was short-term, but showed me that there were opportunities to get involved, you just have to search for them.
Fortunately, I found something that would allow me to connect with the locals: teaching piano lessons. It is not something new to me – I have been giving lessons since I was 13. It started with teaching my neighbor, and through word of mouth as well as flyers in schools and community centers, I built a base of students, which further expanded year by year. When I left home to come to school, I had to leave all of my students. Teaching piano is not only a good skill to have – the money is also a nice bonus.
I had initially decided not to teach piano right away, because I wanted to adjust to the Quest schedule, and figure out my availability. After two blocks, once I had settled into the block system, I put up flyers in the community center and the elementary school. Right away, I got great response (The only main avenue for music lessons is through the Squamish Academy of Music). Unfortunately I had to deny many interested students because I don’t have a vehicle, so I ended up with four students, all whom live within walking distance from the school. This year, I have 6 students, again all whom live nearby the school.
Teaching piano allows me to maintain my skills and knowledge about the instrument, as well as gives me a break during possibly stressful times. There is always something to do at Quest; teaching piano forces me to get away from the Quest bubble and spend some time in the real world.
For any students at Quest, or students planning on coming to Quest, I strongly suggest that you find something that you are passionate about in the community. Quest has some programs and groups that volunteer in Squamish. There are also sports leagues, community groups, and outdoor recreational activities in the area that enable you to connect with locals with similar passions.
Shuttles go into down twice a week for students to go grocery shopping, send packages, etc… And you can always take the bus, or bike into town (riding downhill is nice, coming back up is a challenge).
I hope that in the next few years, as Quest continues to establish itself, that a larger portion of students are integrated into the local community, eradicating the notion of Quest simply being the university on top of an Ivory Tower.