Written by: Justin Bereczki, Gen1 Program Peer Facilitator
I’ve heard from a lot of places that university is the place where you make the friends that will last a lifetime; whether it be people from your program, residence, sports team, club, or just a conversation in the hall, potentially anyone could very well end up being your best friend for life. Although I do think this idea is awesome (and, in my experience, hopefully true,) I believe that in essence it actually falls short. It puts too much emphasis on the great friends, but not the good ones, and too much priority on the lifelong, but not the temporary.
I guess what I’m saying is that every connection we make in university is important: good or bad, long or short, exciting or mundane. By attending Nipissing University (or any university, really) we gain access to a gigantic student library of more than 5,000 people with stories, opinions, and ideas. As such, we should do our best to make every interaction meaningful, because they all very well have the opportunity to be.
The problem is that we’re too good at small talk. Class was “good, thanks.” What’s up with me? “Not much.” What am I up to later? Just “hanging out”. It’s so odd that we ritually ask each other these questions when we don’t even think about or listen to their responses. It seems like the average person finds out more about the people they know by creeping their Facebook page rather than actually interacting with them on a personal level—Isn’t that weird? It’s like glancing at the cover of a book and then reading it on Sparknotes, or fast-forwarding through a movie after seeing only the trailer. We miss the substance, the intricacies, the side notes. We miss what makes that person unique.
I think we should do our best to learn something from every person we meet, because we very well can. In the three years I’ve spent here, I (a Hungarian city boy from Whitby, Ontario) have learned about hunting, big business, politics, farming, professional video gaming, ice-fishing, juggling, religion, beatboxing, oil painting, horses, and Japanese cartoons all by just talking to people I’ve happened to meet in class or on residence. Sure, not all of this information is incredibly useful to me (I could take an entire course on oil painting and still not be able to make shades of anything other than brown,) but at the very least my world is slightly bigger now. Plus, when someone is passionate about something, the way they explain it is always more interesting than reading about it on Wikipedia or searching it on Youtube. The person’s eyes light up, they speak a little faster, they explain things more carefully. And, in return, you get to ask questions, seek clarification, and ultimately get as close to a hands-on knowledge as you can without actually being hands-on. It’s awesome!
Further, this knowledge can help shape us as individuals, too. The more we learn about the world we live in and the things in it, the more we have a grasp on and can also challenge our own perspectives. At the time I left high school, I didn’t care about politics on any level: I thought they were boring, pointless, and ultimately had no connection to or impact on me as a person. Now, however, I fundamentally care about our political system and my role in it. I am even vice president of the Social Welfare and Social Development student club! All of this stemmed from a few conversations in first year with profs and peers about more than just how their day was going. Obviously not every conversation I have has a significant impact on my life, but I guess what I’m arguing is that some do, and therefore we should always be open to them.
We have the chance to be wiser, smarter, and better people every single day, we just need to take it. After all, university isn’t just about what you learn in class, or the degree you leave with. It’s about the stories you create, the friendships you make, and the life lessons you learn. We need to ask more questions, get to know people better, and cherish the relationships we have for a semester just as much as the ones we’ll have for the rest of our lives. Just because your favourite books are in the library, doesn’t mean the rest of the stories on the shelves are any less interesting or meaningful to your experience as a reader. If anything, all they’ll do is give you a little bit more perspective!