by Taylor Jevning
Other than schoolwork, university students often face added pressures of the increased importance of every other part of their lives. Finances, being apart from your family, and taking care of your mental health are a couple of things that shift dramatically when you enter university alongside the added sense of responsibility accompanied by the lack of sleep. While focusing on every changing aspect of your life, you might find it difficult to think of anything else, but many students entering university also find that there is an increased importance placed on relationships. Building and maintaining relationships in university is a part of having a well-rounded life and, when things get difficult, it’s generally a good thing to have a solid support system to make sure you don’t get overwhelmed. Regardless of the type of relationship, be it family, friends, professional, or romantic, people themselves can be the biggest resource through school to make one of the most stressful times of our lives much more manageable.
One of the strange dynamics of being an adult in university is the fact that a lot of people notice that their definition of family and friends becomes more blended. The people I enjoy talking to have become my family more so than the people I’m forced to cohabitate with, and I’m sure many people notice the same thing in their own lives. It can be difficult to dedicate energy to these relationships while you are stressed about pretty much everything, but having family and friends around benefits you in many ways. When you are stressed and need to talk, having someone close to you to talk about your problems with can make you feel a lot better. When you’re bored on a Friday night, having company to go on a walk with or watch a movie and eat snacks with can be a well-deserved break after a long week of assignments.
One thing that tends to get ignored, unfortunately, is that your friend has needs as well. While hanging out and having fun can be beneficial to both of you, it’s likely that your friend is dealing with a situation that may be as equally stressful as yours. One of the ways I like to maintain my friendships is by trying to text each of my friends once a week to ask how they are doing and to let them talk about what is going on in their lives. The best way to keep good friends is to be a good friend. We tend to forget that friendships work both ways.
Some people don’t find romantic relationships a positive part of their lives, but with some effort, dating can be one of the greatest parts of university. Without overcomplicating it, the relationship you are in should be with a person you enjoy being around and who makes you happy. A healthy, functioning relationship is an added bonus to a student’s life, while a broken, non-functioning relationship can cause more unwanted stress. One of the ways to avoid having a bad relationship is by actively working on being a good partner. When you are dating someone, do everything that you would expect them to do for you and try to be thoughtful of them. By doing everything in your power to be a good partner, you can ensure to the best of your abilities that you won’t be the cause of issues within the relationship. Sometimes, the added stress of a relationship comes from the fact that you are dating someone you shouldn’t be with. One of the things that I did to make sure I was with someone who treated me well was to write a list of “non-negotiables,” which included qualities that I wanted in a partner. These traits included “someone who cares about me” and “someone who speaks positively about me.” These things are not a lot to ask for, but they made sure I was dating someone who at least treated me with respect and kindness. When my partners did not match every point on my list in good times or bad (even in tough times, it is still important to respect the person you are dating), I had to come to terms with the fact that I shouldn’t be dating that person and end it. The only reason to be in a relationship with someone is because being in that relationship makes you and that other person happy, and if that’s not happening, it can add extra stress to an already-stressful time in your life. University dating has made it clear to me that love is an action, not a feeling, and if two people choose to show love for each other every day, it can make life seem a lot less overwhelming.
Lastly, form good relationships with your professors. It is important, especially at a small university, for you to prove to the people who give you your grades that you are putting in an effort to complete your schoolwork and do well. Professors can be your biggest resource. Whether it be for practice exams, better feedback on tests, essays and assignments, or just for on-campus support, having a great relationship with your teachers will never be a bad thing. I suggest visiting each of your professors during their office hours at least once during the semester so that they know your name and can at least see that you are making an effort. A solid relationship with a professor has made the difference between a B+ and an A- for me in the past (that’s the difference between a 3.3 and a 3.7 GPA).
Whatever position we find ourselves in university, who we surround ourselves with can make or break us. Putting a bit of extra effort into each of our relationships can be largely beneficial in the pursuit to become a successful university student.