How five students found friends and community in college
"I’ve never been homesick since. It’s really a family away from home."
There are all kinds of ways to meet people at college: picnics, conferences and, of course, sitting beside them in class. Here, five college students from across Canada describe how they made friends and found community on campus.
Humber College, Bachelor of commerce, fashion management, fourth year
I went to Seneca when I first graduated from high school, and then started at Humber a few years back. I was a little older than the other students. I can also be pretty shy. Because I get anxious sometimes, I tend to sit in the back of the class. But on the first day, someone came in a little late and sat beside me at an open desk. We talked a little bit, and then every week after that she sat near me. I remember telling my twin sister: “Oh my God, I think she wants to be my friend.” We now talk every day and she works as a summer student intern for Assinewe Jewelry, a company I started with my sister.
I’m 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 speak to them. When class was over, I went over and invited them to Tea and Bannock, an event that’s hosted by the Indigenous education and engagement initiative at my school for Indigenous students to meet and chat. I wasn’t sure if they would know what I meant. But their answer was, “Of course!” That was our connecting point and we ended up being really close friends.
Bethany Lum, 20
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 pretty hard to make friends. But my program is really small—there are a maximum of 30 students at a time in one class. I got to know everyone and we’re still super close. One day in first year, the president of Capilano’s Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Student Association (TRECSA) came to talk 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 got my foot in the door with TRECSA; eventually I became president of the group. We host monthly socials, picnics, paint nights, conferences and networking events. We’ve basically become a family.
I also ran Capilano’s surf club. Once a semester, students would pay about $100 for a three-day surf trip in Tofino. I didn’t even promote the club—it was mainly word of mouth. Through this group, I met a lot of people from other programs, from first to fourth year, and I loved getting to know them.
Jay Olea, 38
Bow Valley College, Interior decorating, diploma, second year
On the first day of class, I said hi to the people sitting near me at the front. There were about 10 of us who sat up there, and we kept our spots throughout the course. Our instructor’s name was Eugenia, and because we were physically close to her, we established a good relationship with her. One day, I decided to put together a Facebook Messenger chat room for us and called it “Eugenia’s Angels”; this was the start of our friendship. In our group of 10, eight are international students, including me. I’m from the Philippines. Many of us craved a sense of belonging because we were homesick. We ended up working together for group projects, celebrating each other’s birthdays, visiting each other’s houses and going to parks and festivals together. I’ve never been homesick since. It’s really a family away from home, and that’s what we call each other.
John Babu, 31
The Michener Institute of Education, Medical laboratory sciences, advanced diploma, second year
I’ve been going to school for many years; I’ve already done my undergrad and master’s, so making friends is something I’m used to doing. But this was the first time I’d been to school during a pandemic. This past year, classes were hybrid, and I’d be on campus on alternating weeks. I knew that social opportunities would be limited so I tried to make use of whichever ones were available. I started going to online events organized by our student council, like bubble tea workshops (where, yes, we learned to make bubble tea!) and Family Feud nights. After exams, there was a boat cruise on the Toronto harbourfront with food and dancing. The council had posted the names of everyone attending beforehand, so I took note of who I’d spoken to before and made a plan to introduce myself to those I’d yet to meet. In class, conversations tend to be about teachers, courses, content and labs, but on the cruise, we talked about our lives—our clothes, food, hobbies, summer plans. It was a welcome change.
Rupinder Sodhi, 20
Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, Business administrative assistant, certificate, first year
I was born and raised in India. When I came to Canada, I was fairly 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 each night, talking about our hometowns and high schools. We went out on weekends, had sleepovers and watched movies together. Avneet lives four houses down from me in Winnipeg, about a 30-minute drive from campus. We go on evening walks, play badminton and visit the gym together. One weekend, the three of us were having dinner at Tommy’s Pizzeria, my favourite restaurant. It was 11 at night and we started talking about our lives and futures. One of my friends started crying and opened up about her father’s passing a few years ago. I think that was the night we came to understand just how close we were.