The university experience is one entirely determined by the individual circumstances of a student. Are you an international student? Are you a member of on-campus communities? Do you attend your classes often? Do you live on residence? Have you joined any sports teams or clubs? All of these factors, and many more, come to define your university experience. As a large aspect of the university experience is created through the friendships you’ve forged and the experiences you’ve gotten to share throughout the years, it is evident that factors defining your individual experience also come to define your ability to make friends.

As a student who’s lived on and off-campus—living on residence in first year and in an apartment in Toronto this year—I’ve compiled a comparison of the differences I’ve noticed in my own circumstantial ability to make friends in university.

On-Campus Living

Photo | Genevieve Wakutz

First year can be quite an overwhelming experience in general. With so many changes, new freedoms, and possibilities to explore, I’ve found that living on residence eased one of my greatest worries; making friends.

Automatically, when living on residence, I began identifying as a member of a community. Although that originally translated into passing the same faces in the halls everyday, or sitting with familiar people in the cafeteria, it came to be an easy way to make connections with people. Even if you were someone who wasn’t very involved in the Vic community, you pretty much always had to stop through Burwash for food at some point during the day, and by extension, sit with the people who felt the most familiar.

In general, making friends while living on campus did not feel like a very exhaustive effort. If you smiled at the people you saw a lot around residence, eventually those small interactions would turn into conversations and easy-to-maintain friendships! Gosh do I miss those days…

Off-Campus Living

Photo | Hana Hikcevic

Typically, second year is, for obvious reasons, a vastly different experience than that of first year. You feel a little more comfortable in your not-so-new environment and have realized that studying a few days ahead of time can immensely improve your grades (I’m only assuming, of course). Entering into this year, I didn’t feel that making new friends would hold as much importance as I’ve come to realize it does.

In my own classes, I’ve noticed a huge shift towards the desire for actual conversation. I’ve never made so many friends simply by engaging in conversation with the people I sat beside in my tutorial. Within a couple of weeks, I found myself grabbing coffee and drinks with the people I met in my classes—something that I didn’t view as very common in first year.

As well, this year I pledged to be more involved in the school community. Where first year I didn’t get involved in extra-curricular activities for fear of falling behind in school (…didn’t make much of a difference…), this year I’m a writer and editorial assistant for The Strand and am a member of SMC’s production of Electra! These may seem like two small changes; however, they’ve opened up so many doors to creating new friendships!

Although making friends in second year took a bit more effort than it did in first year, both years making friends proved to be very different but very powerful experiences. Through my own experiences, the greatest advice I could give regarding making friends would be to get involved in at least one extra-curricular activity that matters to you; however, if that seems too overwhelming, try your best to smile and engage with every familiar face you see—the joy those connections will bring you is addictive!