Hello everyone! This week I wanted to discuss obstacles students often face when it comes to finding community at UofT and how these can be overcome. I’ve touched on the importance of community/campus involvement before, but I wanted to bring in some other voices too and focus more on the actual obstacles to finding community. I interviewed multiple students, across various programs. Sam Lizardo (a fellow Life@UofT blogger!), Shane Beal, Anvesh Jain, and Simran Dhir shared their insights with me. Here are some answers I wanted to share:
What does community mean to you?
“When I think about community, I think of friendship, inclusivity, and belonging.”
“To me, community is a supportive network of people that I feel a part of because we share some sort of common ground, such as interests, goals, or values, etc.”
What are some obstacles that you/other students face at finding community at UofT?
“People at UofT have a tendency of sticking in these small groups of people that they are similar to. So it’s like a bunch of small communities instead of a large sense of unity.”
“The size of the school makes it extremely difficult to find subsections of the community that you can identify with.” (a lot of people said this one!)
“Toronto is huge and when you have a campus in the downtown part of a city where things are always happening, a lot of students might not keep their focus on campus things if they can immerse themselves in the city instead.”
How can people overcome these obstacles?
“Put yourself out there, don’t be afraid of rejection. Make small talk with people in your classes, and become a part of a regular weekly activity that keeps you on campus.”
“Think of it as making a “chain” across the school. You make a friend, become friends with your friend’s friend…etc. Then you realize how a lot of people are connected and involved in similar things.”
“Even though community is about comfort, it’s important to still get out of this self-imposed “comfort zone” that we put ourselves into if it’s restricting us.”
“In my experience at U of T, I’ve found it hard to find community when I isolate myself and assume that others are doing the same. But I had to change this mindset, from compete to collaborate so that I could find community and contribute more genuinely. I think there’s more than enough room for everyone to grow and succeed when we support each other.”
This is a lot of really good advice and I concur with all of it. One thing that I would like to add is that some students who aren’t in first year anymore feel like it’s too late to find their sense of community here. It’s never too late, I promise.
Also, always remember that you are not alone in your experience. Everyone is seeking a sense of belonging and that in itself is a communal feeling after all. 🙂