In high school, meeting friends or spending time on social media was seen as a way to waste time in between school and homework. But in university, socializing is one of the best and most educational parts of your experience. And it’s actually encouraged!
While the focus of university is to take classes and learn the information and skills required for your career, more often than not the most important skill is overlooked by students who are too involved in their books. Being comfortable meeting new people and communicating with them is an essential skill employers look for in prospective employees. Yet these skills are not just automatically awarded to you when you graduate university. It take time, effort and motivation in order to become a true social butterfly. Do these requirements sound familiar? Socializing is like a class, one in which the classroom takes place everywhere you go, and the material to study starts with the people around you.
When I arrived at the University of Toronto, I first noticed how connected everything felt. The campus is integrated seamlessly into downtown Toronto, which is known for its multi-cultural atmosphere. There are all kinds of people walking through the campus besides just students. The location alone forced me to learn how to talk with students and professionals, who all come from different backgrounds. Furthermore, by living in a residence hall, I had to adjust to constantly churning out small talk and keeping up with dozens of people who I interacted with everyday.
The people around me were the best teachers I could have had for building my socializing skills, and I am so grateful to have been able to connect with and learn from each and every one of them.
I quickly learned that by building my socializing skills, I had been creating a network of people around myself. This began to have enormous benefits, and my freshman university experience would not have been so impactful without this network. For example, by staying friendly with my professors, I found it was easier to ask for help, and that they began to recognize me and learn my name. Forming study groups also became easier when I knew what sort of energy each person would bring to the group. I also discovered many opportunities through talking to new people that I would not have been introduced to otherwise. These include interesting classes to take in future years which were recommended by upper year students, as well as fun social events like open mic nights and community dance classes.
On top of all of this, social media became the most powerful tool I had for maintaining and growing my network. The use of many different social media platforms allowed me to keep up with what my friends were doing, and to make my own updates easily.
But academics should not become pushed to the side in favor of parties. While Facebook can connect you to hundreds of people in an instant, it can also become the biggest, most portable distraction. However, I want to be clear that it is OK to spend time socializing by meeting new people and by staying connected to close friends. Your university experience will be completely customizable to who you are, and finding your proper balance between socializing and studying will create harmony in your busy life. The sooner you can begin to approach socializing with a positive and professional attitude, the better your network, and life, will become.
University is about learning, whether it be in academics, socializing or about yourself, and your experience will be what you decide to make of it!
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