If there’s anything I’ve learned from university, it’s that the endeavour is not carried out in isolation. When I first started at UTM, an alumnus offered this advice: “Make sure you find the right kind of friends for you. It can seriously affect how you see university.” Three years into my degree, I must admit there’s some validity to this claim. Though university is what you choose to make of it, the kinds of friends you have around you can seriously influence the way you see your experiences, and even life.
I wanted to know what other people value in the people they call friends. Of course, everyone is different and everyone’s experience is strictly individual, but when I interviewed some students, I realized that there were some similarities between their answers.
We need many different kinds of friends in our lives to make us better people. Even those who have wronged us play a part in our development because we learn from them. Speaking to several students on campus, I found out some of the most sought-after types of friends.
Friends who balance you
All university students have to learn to balance their academic and social lives, and almost every student I interviewed agreed that balance is what they seek.
Seya Semararatne, a recent graduate who majored in psychology and philosophy, says that having people who “love what you love studying can help you feel like less of a ‘nerd.’ These people tend to have the same mindset.”
“These people definitely motivate you to be a better student,” says Ewa Kleszcz, a third-year English and French CTEP student.
Students also suggested that having people with some perspective is healthy in university. These people know school is important, but they also remind us not to let ourselves be stressed.
“It’s easy to get stuck in the ‘UTM bubble’, so having someone who knows that there’s more than just school is important,” says Phoebe Lau, a fourth-year art and art history student.
So it appears people value friends who take school seriously, but who also know how to have fun.
Friends who cheer you up
We’ve all had bad days. Whether it’s a bad mark on a test or something more personal, we’ve all had that day where nothing seemed to go our way.
Having friends who make you laugh and keep you motivated is so important, especially during stressful weeks. Patrick Ryder, a third-year CCIT student, really stresses this. “My friends and I laugh a lot,” he says. “Having people that you can be yourself around is amazing. It makes the best of friends.”
This doesn’t mean you need friends who are positive all the time—they just have to know how to cheer you up.
Friends who help you grow
An important byproduct of university is that you learn about yourself. I would argue that for many students, an important ingredient in that development is having a friend who really pushes you toward growth.
“As students, we set our own limits,” says Wilson Chen, a fourth-year commerce student. “Having someone who understands us but then pushes us to go beyond those limitations gets us further.”
These are friends who genuinely care about you and want you to be your best, whatever that may be.
In university, it definitely helps to have someone who has been there before us, preferably “someone in your exact program”, in Chen’s opinion. They can warn you about mistakes they or other students have made in your courses. They can also guide you toward the right courses based on your interests.
“A mentor helps with life, not just our studies,” says Samantha Teeple, a third-year criminology and political science student, who stressed the importance of having a mentor rather than just a tutor.
Friends who open your mind
Spend 10 minutes on campus and you quickly realize that UTM is very diverse. Many students see this as an incredible advantage. Chen argues that having someone from a different background lets you see life differently.
“Having friends from different cultures makes more respectful of other opinions and perspectives,” says Matthew Household, a third-year digital enterprise management student.
At UTM we’re lucky. We have students from all over the world, and getting to know them makes us less ignorant and more accepting. This goes not only for our campus’s ethnic and cultural diversity, but also our diversity in lifestyle choices.