There are few academic phenomena that are as notorious as the following, which plagues U of T undergraduates from a remarkably diverse range of subject POSTs. It has unconsciously governed your ability to make decisions, and has been both supportive of your goals and occasionally a source of misery. This phenomenon may commonly be referred to as the Paradox of Post-Secondary Priorities, and is outlined in full detail in Figure 1 below (click to expand).
With my last post, I tried to equip you with the tools to help you succeed in the classroom. This week, I’m writing for those who find that they have little choice but to prioritize good grades and enough sleep when it comes to life at U of T. If you’re a freshman hoping to make new friends, a socially awkward recluse trying to break out of your shell, or even if you’re just looking for ways to expand your social circle, you may benefit from one or more of these suggestions:
1) Join a Club or Team
Naturally, a great place to meet people is one where you share a common interest. Getting involved in an activity that you’re not even remotely passionate about just to meet members of the opposite sex might work out in rare cases. But I imagine that trying to balance your Vegetarian and Vegan Society meetings with your self-imposed dietary intake of bacon will prove quite challenging in the long run.
After joining a club, try to attend more than just the important meetings. You’ll get to know the other members a lot better if you venture out of your comfort zone every once in a while and attend the group outings, practices, retreats, parties, end-of-year dinners, or whatever other social opportunities you might find.
2) Eat Pancakes
I think we can all agree that there is something endearing about enjoying a couple of pancakes hot off the griddle and drizzled in sweet, silky maple syrup, especially on a slow weekday morning and among fellow pancake-lovers. And that’s the story behind Victoria College’s weekly Pancake Brunch at the Birge Carnegie building in the Cat’s Eye (the Birge Carnegie Reading Room). The atmosphere is friendly, the energy is inviting, and there are plenty of opportunities to make small-talk with the other students waiting in line, or with the volunteers. They’ve also got music, couches, books, pool tables, and foosball, so if you can just say ‘hello’ and strike up a conversation with someone, there will be plenty more to do and talk about.
The event is intended for Victoria College commuter students and is being held from 11 am to 1 pm on Tuesdays this year. From past experiences, it’s a cool place to meet other people, and there’s no better way to bond than over food. Did I mention that it’s free?
3) Drink Beer
Now, I’m not proposing here that you go bar-hopping between classes. What I do suggest is that you keep yourself informed about the regular pub nights and events that occur throughout the semester. It’s a great way to get to know the other students in your program, who share your academic interests, outside of the classroom.
Depending on the kind of person you are, and the type of relationship you’re looking for, getting to know people at the bar can definitely have its advantages and disadvantages. I think the wise philosopher, Homer J. Simpson, said it best when he profoundly called alcohol “the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems”.
4) Form a Study Group
Now if watching Community has taught me anything, it’s that shared adversity is the key to fostering eccentric and intimate relationships with your peers. I know that the last thing most of us want to see in our cluttered inbox is another confusing mass-email. But you know what? Of the 2 billion people in your class at Con Hall, I’m sure that a handful of them are willing to hear you out. In addition, there are likely more students like you looking to make connections and to take advantage of the support that a study group provides, so inviting them to work with you at the library might not be such a bad idea.
Another approach you might want to consider is attending your professor’s office hours, particularly the ones right before a major test. During these times, everyone suddenly has questions that they desperately need answered, which gives you a great opportunity to start a conversation. Try to help each other out, calm each other down, or even better, swap contact information so you can meet up in class and/or get your awesome study group going.
Greek life is often misconceived as being rated R for adult content, sexually suggestive themes, and explicit alcohol or drug use, when it is usually the media that’s guilty for amplifying these occurrences that are equally as present in other aspects of society. That being said, Greek life is certainly not for everyone, and as such has never really been at the top of my list of options for cultivating relationships.
Fraternities and sororities, such as the ones at U of T, are organizations that are external to the university, and as a result are responsible for funding their own operations. In addition to academic incentives, they value philanthropy in the community. Sigma Chi’s annual Derby Days event and Gamma Phi Beta’s outreach initiatives are only a couple of examples of the involvement of these organizations in the community.
Other than supporting charitable causes, social events organized by your fraternity or sorority will also help you make connections with members within your own community and those in other communities around campus. Obviously, there is far more to Greek life than plain research can tell you, and it might be something worth looking into.
6) Play the Piano
Although highly unconventional, I have witnessed students reel in other people by the ear using their carefully rehearsed abilities to play the piano. I know there are pianos at St. Mike’s, UC, and Victoria College, so get to work.
If you don’t happen to be a very musical person, don’t be discouraged. I guarantee that if you visit any of the locations that I’ve mentioned and start randomly hammering away at the piano’s keys, someone will definitely come over to you with something to say.
7) Take Note of the Email and/or Phone Number of the Person You Want to Meet from the Sign-up Sheet Circulating Around the Classroom So You Can Contact Them in the Future
Just kidding. Don’t do this. You know who you are.
7) Use Social Media
Keep connected with all the different clubs, groups, and organizations at U of T through e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter. Every now and then, you may find out about an interesting upcoming event on campus, where you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet new people. Ulife (@UTulife), University of Toronto Students’ Union, (@UTSU98), UeaT (@UeaToronto), and obviously blogUT (@blogUT) are just a few places to start.
In any situation (and as cliché as this is going to sound), remember to be yourself. Attempting to change your personality to please another person will likely result in conveying false expectations of who you are, which will only end up being unfulfilling to everyone involved. I’d especially advise against it if you’re unwilling to put a potentially meaningful relationship at risk.
The opportunity for social interaction is all around you. What do you do to meet new people at U of T?