How five students found friends and community in college

“I’ve never been homesick since then. It’s really a family away from home.”

There are all kinds of ways to meet people on campus: picnics, lectures, and of course, sitting next to them in class. Here, five college students from across Canada describe how they made friends and found community on campus.

(Photo by Alex Jacobs-Blum)

Humber College
Bachelor of Commerce, Fashion Management, Fourth Year.

I went to Seneca when I graduated from high school and then started at Humber a few years ago. I was a little older than the other students. I can also be quite shy. Because I get anxious sometimes, I tend to sit in the back of the class. But on the first day, someone was a little late and sat next to me at an open desk. We talked for a bit, and then every week after that, she sat next to me. I remember saying to my twin sister, “OMG, I think she wants to be my friend.” Now we talk every day and she works as a summer intern for Assinewe Jewelry, a company I started with my sister.

I am indigenous, and there was someone else in that class who I thought was also indigenous. We had mutual friends, but I had to work up the courage to talk to them. When class was over, I went and invited them to Tea and Bannock, an event organized by the Indigenous Education and Engagement Initiative at my school for Indigenous students to meet and chat. I wasn’t sure they knew what I meant. But his answer was: “Of course!” That was our connection point and we ended up being very good friends.

(Photo by Melissa Renwick)

Capilano University
Bachelor of tourism management, graduated in 2022

I had to travel two hours to get to campus, so I thought it was going to be quite difficult to make friends. But my program is really small: there are a maximum of 30 students at a time in a class. I got to know everyone and we are still very close. One day in freshman year, the president of the Capilano Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Student Association (TRECSA) came to speak to my class and I asked him how to find affordable textbooks. That was our first conversation, and then we had classes together. The connection put my foot in the door with TRECSA; I eventually became president of the group. We host monthly socials, picnics, paint nights, conferences, and networking events. We have basically become a family.

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He also ran the Capilano surf club. Once a semester, students would pay around $100 for a three-day surf trip in Tofino. I didn’t even promote the club, it was mostly word of mouth. Through this group I met a lot of people from other programs, from first to fourth year, and I loved meeting them.

(Photo by Allison Seto)

bow valley college
Interior decoration, diploma, second year.

On the first day of school, I greeted the people sitting near me in the front. There were about 10 of us who sat there, and we held our places throughout the course. Our instructor’s name was Eugenia, and since we were physically close to her, we established a good relationship with her. One day, I decided to set up a Facebook Messenger chat room for us and called it “Eugenia’s Angels”; This was the beginning of our friendship. In our group of 10, eight are international students, including myself. I am from the Philippines. Many of us longed for a sense of belonging because we were homesick. We ended up working together on group projects, celebrating each other’s birthdays, visiting each other’s houses, and going to parks and festivals together. I have never felt nostalgic since then. It’s really a family away from home, and that’s what we call ourselves.

(Photo by Aaron Wynia)

The Michener Institute of Education
Medical Laboratory Sciences, Advanced Diploma, Second Year

I have been going to school for many years; I’ve already done my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, so making friends is something I’m used to. But this was the first time I had gone to school during a pandemic. Last year the classes were hybrid and I was on campus every other week. I knew that social opportunities would be limited, so I tried to make use of what was available. I started attending online events hosted by our student council, like bubble tea workshops (where, yes, we learned how to make bubble tea!) and Family Feud nights. After the exams, there was a boat cruise around the Toronto harbor with food and dancing. The council had published the names of all the attendees beforehand, so I made a note of who I had spoken to before and made a plan to introduce myself to those I hadn’t met yet. In class, conversations tend to be about teachers, courses, content, and labs, but on the cruise we talk about our lives: our clothes, food, hobbies, summer plans. It was a welcome change.

(Photo by Aaron Vincent Elkaim)

Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology
Business administrative assistant, certified, first year.

I was born and raised in India. When I came to Canada, I was quite introverted and I didn’t think I would find people I could talk to very easily. But then I met two girls in my program, through online classes, who were also from India, named Harleen and Avneet. We started doing Zoom meetings every night, talking about our hometowns and high schools. We would go out on weekends, sleepovers, and watch movies together. Avneet lives four houses down from me in Winnipeg, about a 30-minute drive from campus. We go for night walks, play badminton and go to the gym together. One weekend, the three of us were having dinner at Tommy’s Pizzeria, my favorite restaurant. It was 11 at night and we started talking about our lives and futures. One of my friends started crying and talked about the death of her father a few years ago. I think that was the night we came to understand how close we were.

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