Finding Community as a New Grad Student

Submitted by AlexandraMayhew on January 4, 2013 - 2:13pm

By the end of 4th year at the University of Guelph, I couldn't walk across campus without saying hello to at least a couple of people I knew, I had various student groups that I was involved in, and in general, felt very much like a member of the university community. A month after finishing at Guelph, I got accepted into the grad school program of my dreams and assumed that I would easily be able to find the same sense of belonging at my new university as I did my old. 

As it turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong. I had trouble finding people to connect with in my program since most of them were a decade or two older than I was, with children and careers to boot. They simply weren't interested in hanging out and grabbing a bite to eat after class. I found that there is a lack of emphasis on providing graduate students with opportunities to get involved since apparently we should be too busy doing academic work to take on much else. 

Slowly I came to the realization that if I wanted to feel like a member of the community, I would need to try different tactics and take advantage of different opportunities. As much as I wish there were opportunities to connect with people in my program in a non-academic setting, taking advantage of the plethora of academic activities allowed me to meet many new students, a handful of which are closer to my age and interested in socializing outside of class. I started looking into community sports teams which seem like a promising avenue of meeting people.

As I explored these avenues of getting to know people, I also came to realize that I didn't neccesarly need to form deep and significant friendships with these new potential friends. I consider myself very fortunate to have a very solid network of friends that I know will be there for me, no matter what. Instead, at this point in my life, I discovered that I just need people to casually socialize with, to go to trivia with at school, to talk to about day to day happenings. I don't know what city, province, or even country I might be in a year or two from now, and most of the people I'm meeting don't either. However, just because there may be a natural timeline on the friendship, doesn't mean that it isn't an important friendship to have at this moment. And who knows, maybe some of these new friends will end up being lifelong friends. 


Depth of connection

Hi Alexandra,

Thanks for your reflections and insights. I imagine coming from a university campus where you felt deeply connected and like you belonged would have made your transition difficult as you did not find the same support at your new school.

I think you have raised an important point- community can be simple. It can mean having a conversation about your class, or going for a smoothie as a study break. Communal relationships also happens in seasons- relationships can come and go.

My question is- do a few of these simple relationships provide the depth we need to feel like we belong? Perhaps they do. If not, though, how can you, me, we... achieve a sense of belonging where we are?

A new way to look at community

I love the blog Alex, I think your conclusion was interesting, that you were just looking for people to have casual friendships with who you could hang out with on a regualr basis and talk about day to day things.

It made me realize that we have all sorts of different communities that we seek in our life and they each serve a different purpose.  Some are issue focused, specialized around a common area that we are passionate about (sports, hobby ect.) others are just people we enjoy hanging out with and others still are communities that we are tied to by blood.  Some communities are one time communities that form on a bus or a plane, while others can last a lifetime.  All these different communities are necessary and important for us to be healthy and happy.

I think we need to put more energy into making sure I create space for this diversity of communities in my life.

Do you feel comfortable with the communities that you have built around yourself?  Are there any types of communities that you feel you want to develop more?  How do you hope to do this?