University can get stressful at times, and it can be difficult to stay in touch with friends, particularly with those who don’t live in the city. But few things bring me more joy in life than hanging out and catching up with good company. As the holidays drew nearer this week, I wanted to reflect on my friendships and some of the ways I stay in touch with those closest to me during the school year.
With my high school friends who have gone off to different universities, I like to reach out with a quick message on Facebook when I think of them. These messages may include a link to a video or an article that they might like, or an anecdote of something that happened to me that day, or even a simple “I miss you”. Then the next time they are back in the city, we make sure to try to hang out in person as much as possible.
Even with some friends who live in Toronto and go to U of T, I only get a chance to see them once every few months for a brunch date. While that may mean we won’t get to speak much in between our scheduled food outings, this system tends to works for us. Plus it’s an easy way to keep in touch while avoiding the busiest times of the year.
With friends I talk to more regularly, study dates and commuting are great times to be together, quickly check in, but also be productive at the same time. Arranging a study date with a friend makes me more accountable to getting work done. It’s also much more fun to have company, even if we’re just working on separate things side-by-side, and to share the highlights of our week for a few minutes at the start and end. In arranging to commute together, we also have a full thirty minutes to an hour of catch up time.
Another way I find super effective for staying in touch is joining groups together, on or off campus — clubs, classes, volunteering. When I volunteer at Caffiends, I get to see my shift mates every Wednesday; I remember being surprised in first year at how quickly a bond can form with just one hour of interaction a week.
Exercise dates are also a fun way to stay in touch with friends in the city. Like studying, it’s something we all have to do anyway, and going with a friend makes me more committed to the activity. There are traditional runs and indoor workouts at Hart House, the Athletic Centre, or the Goldring Centre — fitness drop-ins make fantastic dates — but exercise can also come in more creative forms. In the past, I have done archery and dance classes with friends. I also know several people who have taken advantage of the climbing wall at U of T Scarborough. A few weeks ago, a group of us went bouldering as part of a free event hosted by the Victoria College Commuter Dons, who plan on organizing more similar events this year.
On a related note, going to campus events is how I most often get my social fix. These can be quick one-off events — cupcake decorating, a movie night, a social — or regular ones that reoccur. For example, every year, I go to the Cat’s Eye pumpkin carving event on Halloween with the same people. Likewise, since we went to the September lunch together, I have been attending all of Hart House’s $5 lunches with my friend, Julie. Events on campus take place every day, and you can choose to attend however many or few you want. Although I have regretted some times when I’ve stayed for hours and neglected my work, as long as I stay disciplined about leaving after a set time, I come out of these breaks feeling refreshed and relaxed.
Excuses to hang out come up every day. When Starbucks had their buy-one-get-one-free holiday drinks special a few weeks ago, I went with a friend two days in a row. We commuted together, chatted as we waited in line, picked up the lattes, then went to the library and studied. And even if seeing each together is too much to fit in, which can happen, there’s nothing wrong with sending off a short text to just check in and be assured that someone is there for you.