Here I am again, Mr. University Man. And also a poet – but I already know it. Anyways, it still seems strange for me to keep writing stuff about university, but at the same time, I guess I’m going to have to get used to it. It’s a fact of life – I’m at university, and I’m going to be here for a good eight months. It just doesn’t yet seem like a permanent thing for me. I mean, in one sense, it does, because my conscious mind is telling me all the time whenever I look around, “You’re at university.” And I understand that. But that little nagging part of me still makes it feel like the whole thing is just a camp-style experience of some sort – you go away for a couple weeks in the summer, and then you get to come home and get back into your own bed again. At home.
I had a strange little conversation with myself today on the way to one of my classes. I just had a passing thought that said something like, “One more class, and then you can go home and relax.” And then another part of me thought, “Hey, no, that’s not right, you’re going back to your dorm to relax.” It was quite strange, really. It’s a peculiar feeling. After all, I really have two “homes” now. There’s my home here at university, with a place to sleep and work and such, plus all the friends I’ve made here, and then there’s my home – my real one. Back there are all the other friends that I’ve made over the years, and my family, and all the things I’ve known for my whole life. It’s an odd feeling, and not one that I think I’ll be able to shake. I could make a nice allegorical reference to how we as Christians are really only living here temporarily on earth, but I’ll leave that for another day. Or you can just flesh that out in your head now that I’ve mentioned it.
The real reason I came here to update my blog was not to explain strange feelings or talk about how I clutch my security blanket at night to keep me safe in this strange place. No, I realized that I haven’t really said much about the social aspect of this place that we like to call the University of Waterloo. I mean, I’ve hinted at it a little bit, but I haven’t really talked about it flat-out. And although the main part of university is ultimately to learn (I wouldn’t pay $6,000 a term just to go to a strange place to make friends), the fact remains that this place could get mighty boring very quickly if I kept to myself all the time. It’s just how things are, and to be completely honest, I’m quite thankful that there are people here going through the exact same experience as I am right now – thousands of them, to be more specific.
Now, I don’t really consider myself to be much of a social butterfly. I have an odd way of making friends. I’m not big on introductions, although I’ve definitely made plenty of those over these first few weeks. But whenever possible, I adhere to the “gradual introduction” method. This involves things such as just sitting down at a table with someone in the cafeteria, and striking up a conversation with someone about whatever seems to come up. Even better is when you meet someone through someone else – because there is a mutual friend there, it makes it easier to make a solid connection. Anyways, over the past two and a half weeks, I’ve employed all these methods. And I’ve made plenty of friends because of it.
I can’t say that I’m one of those people that tends to amass large quantities of friends. People like that tend to be very shallow and dull, because they’re so busy trying to spend time with all these “friends,” when really they just end up being acquaintances at best. No, I prefer the company of a few friends who know me and who I feel comfortable around. Back in Brantford, I basically had my friends from church, my friends from Central, and my friends from Burford. Having the three groups of people made it easy to hang out with them – it wasn’t a matter of floating around from friend to friend. It was just a matter of, well, hanging out. And while I don’t quite yet have that sort of arrangement in Waterloo, I’m already beginning to develop my sort of “inner circle.” Cool stuff.
Basically, let me expand on the whole situation I have here. During frosh week, there were two basic groups – residence and faculty. Each residence and each faculty had specific events planned to help people get to know each other. Now, because of the size of the Arts faculty, it was hard to really get to know many of them, but I did meet a few. Most of those I struck up a conversation with because they were also in St. Jerome’s. It was easier to meet them since we had two things in common instead of just one. I had seen them around during some of the residence stuff, so I could talk about that sort of thing. Over the past week and a half, I’ve continued to meet some of the people in my classes. In my French class, I started talking to a girl named Emily, basically just because of the fact that she was sitting in front of me on the first day. We had to introduce ourselves to people in French, so we took that time to stand around and discuss how stupid the whole thing was. And now, since then, we’ve sat near each other, because, well, it’s a familiar face at least. In Psych, I know plenty of people, because there are a whole bunch of people from St. Jerome’s in that class. In Management, the common point of interest for one girl and me was the annoying guy that had been in the class the first day. He had introduced himself to her and been obnoxious, and so we sat next to each other to hopefully protect ourselves from him sitting next to us (I know it’s a bit cruel, but you have no idea just how loud and obnoxious this guy was…just trust me). Later on in that class, we’ll be split up into teams, so that will also be a chance to get to know some people.
But that’s just classtime. The majority of my time is spent outside class, so the majority of the people I have gotten to know are not from class, but rather from my residence, St. Jerome’s. Of course, one of the first people I got to know was my roommate, Mike. He’s a pretty cool guy. He and his high school friend Paul from across the hall hang out a lot, but that just means that I’ve gotten to know Paul as well. On top of them, I’ve gotten to know many of the other guys on my floor. A lot of them hide themselves away in their room, since they’re avid gamers, but that’s just sad. I don’t know why someone would do that to themselves. I mean, I know I need plenty of time to myself as well, but when someone asks me if I want to go hang out somewhere, I go. I don’t want to be someone who spends all his time in his secluded dorm room, and then wonders why they don’t have any friends after being here for a whole eight months. But anyways, as much as possible, I’ve gotten to know the people on my floor, as well as those on other floors in the guys’ dorm.
The main hang-out place for me has been the cafeteria. Three times a day, people go in there to eat, and their mealtimes are restricted to about an hour and a half for each meal. So people tend to get to know each other in there. The only tricky part is the choosing of the table. This must be done with the utmost care. I’ve been honing this skill for two weeks now. The trick is to find a table where people have just started eating, instead of where they’re almost done. I’ve definitely had it happen to me where I sit down, and then a few minutes later everyone gets up and leaves, because they have classes to get to, etc. I’m now sitting at an empty table, and that’s not fun. As well, in choosing the table, I try to pick one with at least one person at it. After all, when you sit at an empty table, people are less likely to come and sit down with you. I’m not saying that they won’t, but it’s an unconscious psychological thing that says, “Well maybe they want to be alone. Or maybe there’s a reason they’re alone, like because they don’t wear deodorant or something.” So people tend to pick another table, even if they have to squeeze in to fit. It’s always an art to pick the right table, but I’ve met many people that way, so it’s worth it.
Other than the other place that I’ve begun to find friends, which is at Waterloo Pentecostal Assembly, the only other group I haven’t mentioned is the one that I’ve spent the most time with. I think I originally met a couple of them in the caf, and then when the topic of euchre came up, I went to play a game with them. After that, I forget the exact circumstances, but I went to hang out with “the group” in one of the girls’ rooms. Basically, “the group” before I got in was three sets of roommates. There’s Melissa and Hailey in one room, and then the girls next door to them are Maricor and Brittney, and then two guys from the third floor, whose names are Matt and Adam. I had originally met Melissa and Adam, who was later joined by Hailey for this game of euchre. Anyways, I went to hang out with them, and we were all just sitting on the bed talking to each other. I’ll explain the circumstances in a second, but it ended with me sort of being “admitted” into the group. Woohoo!
It’s strange how quickly can get to know each other and feel comfortable around each other. In this room, the seven of us started talking. Interestingly enough, the topic turned to sex – which is strange, since it’s kind of a taboo subject, even though it’s on everyone’s mind. I definitely don’t even remember how the conversation turned to that topic; it went just how conversations go – a long chain of topics strung together, and related only by a single characteristic in case. Anyways, I must explain that one of the girls, Maricor, is from the Philippines. She’s spent one year here in Canada, but as far as the Canadian culture and society here is concerned, she has a lot to learn about it. She had asked some strange questions about different things – things which every teenager here knows, but that nobody likes to explain. Anyways, that’s how the conversation proceeded. I mean, it wasn’t dirty or anything, but it was still a conversation about sex, as well as the whole sort of “normal dating procedure” here in Canada. Man, this feels weird just explaining it.
I’m very analytical. I pick everything apart and examine it, and what fascinates me most is the human mind and how it works. And somehow, though I’m not even sure how, as we sat there talking about just whatever, things changed. I went from being the acquaintance that lived down in the basement to being part of “the group.” And I know that sounds cheesy when I say it like that. I can see my mom with a beaming smile on her face saying, “My little Jeffrey is fitting in! He’s found some friends. I’m so happy for him!” But no, it’s not like that at all. It happened as naturally as how it’s turning out so unnatural to try to explain how it happened. Basically, as people opened up to share their own experiences about, you know, the people they’ve dated and such, there was a seamless transition to include me into that conversation. And as strange as it seems, I’m almost more amused at trying to figure out how the whole process unfolded as I am happy that I seem to have made some new friends.
But enough about that. I have the feeling that I’ll never be able to explain it without it seeming awkward. So I’ll just end that whole discussion and continue on. “The group,” including myself, have hung out several times since then. I was back in Hailey and Melissa’s room again today, in fact, just hanging out. I can’t say it was anything amazing, but it was much better than reading my Management textbook, that’s for sure. But on top of all these groups of people that I’ve mentioned, I’ve also gotten to know plenty more than that. I’ve talked to most of the dons a few times, plus the frosh leaders and other upper-years. There have been various random people I’ve talked to in classes and such. But at the same time that I’m testing out the waters and talking to all these different people, these people in “the group” seem to accept me the most. I seem to fit in with them. They’re fun. They are, for the most part, clean. They’re not obsessed with looks or judging others, and they’re not exclusive. And that’s the sort of people I like to find. I know that at least a few of them have religious views similar to mine; a couple of them are Catholic, and Melissa is Reformed. She went with me to WPA this past Sunday, in fact. And I must mention that in some strange sort of way, these people remind me of home. It’s hard to explain, but somehow these people are the ones that most remind me of my friends back home. And maybe that’s why I like hanging out with them. I don’t know. I guess I haven’t analyzed myself enough or something. Or maybe it’s just a combination all of all those aspects. All I know is the people around me here are here to stay for quite a while – and the only choice I have is to get to know them all as best as I can. Like the old saying goes, “the best way to make a friend is to be one.” And that’s what I’ve tried to do. The results so far have been positive. Two thumbs up for university life!