How to make friends (because you probably forgot)

No, I don’t mean Twitter mutuals

The pandemic has caused a notable shrinkage in most people’s social circles. And if you’re like me, with honestly not that many friends to start out with, post-lockdown Friday nights often consist of you and your one roommate sitting across from each other playing the “do we make the effort to go out or do we just drink wine and just talk to each other” game. I love my roommate, but something’s gotta give.

In theory, with school back in session, there’s no excuse to stay in this lonesome routine. Throughout the past year and a half, we’ve told ourselves that the reason our friend groups were diminishing was because of social distancing rules, discomfort attending large parties, people graduating and moving on while still online, etc. Surely it’s just COVID. I’m not the problem, right?

Well, that’s a question for your therapist to answer. In the meantime, how do you make up for those friends who have been lost to the sands of time these past COVID years?

To make friends this back-to-school season, you have to really want it. This means not waiting for people to come to you, because you’ll be waiting forever. So, actually go up to the interesting person in your class and strike up conversation. Is there someone with cool laptop stickers? How about the person with Spotify open on their computer, showing pretty good taste? Maybe it’s just the person with the least contrived response to your class’ Foucault reading? Talk to them!

You already have some shared interests with those you’re in class with, whether it’s pondering the intersections of queerness and spirituality in the religious studies department, or the shared interest of getting a job after graduation while in a JMSB lecture. Surely there’s something bringing you together, so go grab a coffee at The Hive and find out.

Thinking outside the classroom, you can try joining activities that can help you to foster friendships. I made the mistake of not joining any collaborative clubs until January of 2020, so pending another global crisis, don’t be like me. There are plenty of clubs, classes, and activities on campus and off that could help you build that sad little social net you so desperately desire.

Off campus, there are many art classes around town that you can drop in on for fairly cheap, and what’s better than staring at a naked model to really bring you together with your peers? Exercise classes are also great for building relationships through shared trauma.

On campus, there are plenty of clubs for different interests and identities. For example, there are groups for students of different nationalities and ethnicities, such as the Concordia Syrian Students’ Association, Hillel Concordia, Haitian Students at Concordia, and many more. If you’re into art, try Collective 4891 or Concordia’ART. For the adventurers, there’s the Concordia Outdoors Club. If you’re a massive egotist who wants to subject others to your silly little ideas, try student journalism!

Attending these clubs and events is a great start, and you’re sure to find at least a few people you click with. But, the crux of all of this is to make sure you’re fostering these acquaintances into real friendships. There’s nothing worse than a casual friendship that you know could be made into something deeper, but neither of you are willing to put in the time or effort. We all need to collectively swallow our pride and make the first step, because if social isolation taught us anything, it’s that an Instagram mutual does not necessarily a true friend make.


Feature graphic by James Fay


Having a good friend could reduce mental health problems

“People become anxious because they have trouble tolerating uncertainty. One of the features that seem to minimize this is having a secure friend,” said psychology professor at Concordia University William Bukowski.

In response to an alarming increase of mental health issues in younger generations, the Psychiatrists Association of Quebec launched The Connected Alpha Movement, an initiative that encourages the Quebec government to implement a comprehensive mental health education course in the Quebec school curriculum.

The mental health education will begin in primary school and run to the end of high school. The program will focus on teaching students how to manage their emotions and form healthy relationships with those in their close social circles, as well as their communities. Information about the different types, causes and risks associated with mental illnesses will also be provided.

The Connected Alpha Movement will encourage open dialogue, where teachers and the community can participate in the discussion as to what aspects of the program are working. They will be able to provide advice about what social or educational changes can be implemented to help prevent mental health issues from having long-term detrimental effects on students.

Developmental Psychologist and Psychology Professor at Concordia University William Bukowski studies the effects of children’s friendships. Bukoswki’s study has shown that the most important feature of a friendship – the one that is conducive to mental health – is security.

“What we’ve tried to show is that anxiety derives largely from uncertainty, people become anxious because they have trouble tolerating uncertainty,” said Bukowski. “One of the features that seem to minimize this is having a secure friend.”

“So the purposes of the program that you brought to my attention are very much similar to the results of our study: that having strong stable connections are going to function as the antidote to anxiety,” said Bukowski.

Abigail Stephin, a first year biology student at Concordia University said this resource would have been beneficial growing up.

“I feel like if I had somebody that I could have relied on or a resource, it would have helped me in primary school,” she said.

“Alpha” in the Connected Alpha Movement refers to the new generation, born between 2010-25. The program is geared towards those facing the challenges of adapting to an environment pervaded with fast-paced social, economic and technological changes.

At the current rate that stress is affecting youth, there is a concern that there will not be enough resources in the future to support the growing demand for mental health services.

According to The Connected Alpha Movement’s website, suicide attempts leading to hospitalization for youth ages 10 to 19 have more than doubled between 2007 and 2017. Anxiety levels and ADHD diagnoses have nearly doubled in children from grades one to five between 2010-16, according to a study done by the Institut de la Statistique du Québec.

The Connected Alpha Movement showed that students who have participated in mental health education programs resulted in a 13.5 per cent lower rate of mental disorders,  an 11 per cent improvement in their academic performance, and graduation rates among participants is six per cent higher.

Several organizations support the initiative, such as Psychiatrists Association of Quebec, the Pediatricians Association of Quebec and the Specialists in Preventive Medicine Association of Quebec.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

Slice of Life: Letter from Morocco

A student on exchange writes to their loved ones in Montreal

Feb. 25: Dear Katy,

I arrived in Morocco one month ago today. Time seems to go by so quickly sometimes. The weeks I’ve spent here have been so far from the reality I was expecting. I can still see the anxiety in my friends’ and family’s eyes and feel the tension in their embraces as we said goodbye just a few weeks ago. Africa. That single word—the entire continent carries so many misconceptions and prejudices. I was starting to feel so trapped in my own occidental perspective—and in other people’s ideas—that I embarked on this journey for many reasons. But in the end, I really just wanted to see for myself. And dear, the past few weeks have already shown me such an eclectic, extraordinary place.

I flew to Rabat and automatically wandered into the labyrinthine marketplace of the Medina. I’ve found myself in situations where I am literally the only woman present. It’s a man’s world, but one that is fast-changing. I was expecting to feel consistently repressed, but in reality, I feel empowered by witnessing such a sense of solidarity between women. I am not welcomed with judgmental looks, but with warm smiles. I don’t think I’ve ever entirely comprehended the power of my freedom as a western woman or questioned it until now. Here, I walk the streets and I feel privileged. Call me naive, but Rabat has been so good to me.

The Moroccans’ kindness is so special. I’m finding such a strong sense of community—from the way people share their meals, consistently offer their help, laugh together, and greet you with “Salaam Aleikum,” or “peace be upon you.” I know this is just a first impression, but it’s such a contrast from back home, on such a deep level, that I sometimes fear I’ll never want to come back. And while everyone does stare at me, sometimes calling mela gazelle,” “fromage,” or even “la blanche,” I’ve been responding with an open mind and my boundless sense of humour.

You know, most people think of Marrakech or Casablanca as the capital of Morocco, but it’s actually Rabat that holds the title since the country’s independence in 1912, and it has become so internationally accessible. We are barely one hour away from Casablanca, where I’ve heard life is chaotic and loud—even overwhelming—and yet, it’s so calm here. As I sit on the roof of the house I now call “home,” beautiful Rabat is alive and well before my eyes. I can’t resist glimpsing over my neighbours’ rooftops, where mixed colours of hanging clothes and blooming flowers add to the diversity of the scenery.

In front of me, the Bou Regreg river—which separates the neighbouring city Salé from Rabat—is circling the old, fortified neighbourhood of Kasbah des Oudayas like a thick knife cutting into butter. I have to squint as I write to you, as the reflection of the sun on the water is bouncing onto my white pages. I am in awe as I sit before the imposing, bright blue Atlantic’s work, and deeply wish I could teleport you here to show you. Montreal seems so far from me now. I’ll send you another letter soon. I can’t wait to tell you about my luck finding the gorgeous house I now live in with cats (yes, I am still very allergic, but I like to believe constant sneezing is now part of my charm), as well as the wild feasts and the musical nights I’ve been sharing with locals.

Beslama my dear friend!


Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

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