You could be forgiven for thinking...

Winter 2014

Liam Lawrence

Schulich Leader at McMaster University

You could be forgiven for thinking the most important thing in university is studying as much as possible to do well on tests, assignments, and projects. This is probably the predominant attitude among many enthusiastic, more academically inclined students just entering their post-secondary careers. I am not about to dismiss the importance of a proper study schedule or great self-discipline. Nonetheless, there is one thing which is not stressed enough to people fresh out of high school and ready to begin higher study. Be prepared because this is about to get more than a little corny: the most important thing in university is forming and maintaining close friendships.

By forming close friendships, I do not mean occasionally exchanging empty greetings to that guy in your math lecture who you’ve seen around residence once or twice. That’s the sort of bare minimum social interaction required to prevent the onset of cabin fever. It’s difficult to present a well-parceled list of qualities a person should have in order for a friendship to be fruitful. A natural statement of a person’s candidacy as a friend is that they should have values and interests similar to your own. I think this is debateable as good criteria for friends. It is certainly easiest to talk to those who have commonalities; however, we certainly learn and grow the most when we interact with people who differ greatly from us. Do not judge whether a person would be a good friend based off whether you both play guitar or have the same religious views. You would be surprised by how much you can learn just by talking with another person about a topic on which you both differ.

By forming close friendships, what I mean is meeting people with whom you feel connected to while having a conversation about anything from the fun to the philosophical, from the banal to the emotional. Meeting people with whom you can enjoy a shared experience, the activity made all the more pleasurable just by being with them.  Friendships not only grow slowly over time but also go through periods of rapid strengthening when you provide support for a friend in need, a sort of forge-welding process for the relationship. All these things contribute to a sense of community even when it is just between a handful of people.

This is the sort of thing which has been on my mind this semester as I have begun living with five friends from residence last year. Our first four months under the same roof have been wonderful, and I hope our future times together continue in the same way. It is difficult to stress the importance of friends to your emotional and mental well-being, both in and out of school. It’s unfortunate that we don’t give enough precedence to this fact and instead place more weight on pure efficiency in study habits, as though we are machines without the need to talk, embrace, and love.