As a fourth-year Arts student living off-campus, a typical day for me consists of going to classes, then the library, and possibly meeting up with a friend for coffee before getting a ride home.
All these activities are sprawled out in buildings across campus, with no central location. Sometimes a day will go by and no friends are available for coffee, and I may not have a conversation with anyone. It is difficult for Arts students to find community on campus; the onus is upon each student to find community.
This lack of connection hit me in my first week at Memorial, when trying to find my classroom and then sitting in a class full of strangers. It felt intimidating and lonely. Thankfully, my best friend and I had signed up for the same history class. Every day of that first week of school, we immediately left campus after class and walked to her house for lunch. Although we would both eventually become involved in student life, initially trying to find a sense of community was challenging.
In contrast, professional faculties on campus, such as the Faculty of Business Administration, have their own building and an established community. For a commerce student, an academic semester means going to class each day with the same group of students, which provides a sense of place and allows students to get to know each other.
In addition, their student councils plan off-campus activities which are sociable and fun. If a Faculty of Arts student council existed, this would provide for social events allowing Arts students to make friends with each other.
Close the gap?
Unless Arts students are on the Dean’s List or feel motivated to search the Faculty of Arts administration page, it is unlikely they know the name of the dean of Arts or even the head of their department. Perhaps this gap between administration and students could change if administration members visited first-year classes and introduced themselves.
Administrators or professors could also communicate how to use the resources available to students, such as how to book an appointment with the senior academic advisor or career counsellor. Beyond academic guidance, first-year students should be told about on-campus job and volunteer opportunities. Many students feel a lack of community because they do not have this guidance.
Although there are undoubtedly feelings of disconnection and loneliness for many Arts students, there are options. For me, I discovered a sense of community by contributing to the Muse newspaper, volunteering for Model United Nations and becoming a conversation partner for the English as a Second Language program.
These volunteer opportunities on campus allowed me to not only discover my strengths, but also to make friends. While there could certainly be more support and guidance provided to Arts students, if students pursue their interests they can find community on their own.