Bricks don’t make the place, people do

8-31-16 Opinions_Bricks_Harrison_Bricks

harrison phipps/the carolinian

Sarah Swindell
  Staff Writer

The “lone wolf” is a trope seen in fiction, and well among wild wolves. However, this concept among 21st century society is dwindling as a fulfilling life choice. Universities are no different. Trying to strike out on your own in an environment like this increases the risk for failure dramatically.

The simple truth is that college’s patchwork of difficulties, tests, and opportunities allow us to rise to the challenge and prepare us for the lives unfolding before us. College is an opportunity for personal rebirth that can only be met if we have the oh-so-essential support system required. We curate this community throughout our days at UNC-Greensboro or any university.

Community is a key part of shaping our growth and keeping us successful in the difficulties we face at every turn.

Community is not found in brick and mortar, but a location’s inhabitants. Political geographer John Agnew defines space as different from place. He says that a place holds your individual emotional attachment. The space is a physical presence, but the place is created within the person through the thoughts and connections made in regard to a certain location.

If that does not float your boat, take human geographer Doreen Massey’s interpretation of defining a place with, “a particular place not only brings together local and global influences, multiple cultures and identities, but it also contains historical influences which shape its present, as do its plans and potential for the future”.

To put this idea into perspective, my experience at UNC Greensboro has turned me into living proof of the necessity of community. When I first came to college, I knew nobody. I was alone and kept myself busy with chores, school work, and a small handful of friends. Sure, I was content, but I had no feelings of commitment or pride for the university.

It was not until I joined a living-learning community, Make A Difference House, that I created the support system that carried me through a time of personal tragedy. It was community that inspired my work in UNCG’s Housing and Residence Life, joining my fraternity for women SAI, and a myriad of other connections that helped me evolve as a person. The buildings did not make me love this university; it was the people.

These ties do not just allow someone to love their respective university, but they truly help them survive the stresses of college life. It is the same reason why we flock into study groups come exam season.

The people we come to love and trust are the ones who get us through every trial and celebrate every triumph in our years attaining a higher education. In turn, the moments and communities we design for ourselves become more rewarding and educational than the classes themselves.

Returning to the quote from Doreen Massey, the influences we find in new cultures and perspectives help us develop as people. Through the intertwining of pathways we see as students, every person is given the opportunity to adapt and learn in a way a textbook could never do.

Our classroom discussions and honest questioning of material can be far more rewarding than a one-sided lecture. These people-driven experiences make each day more rewarding, and consequently make UNC Greensboro seem more golden with each adventure and epiphany.

My story is not alone in the truth it shares. Every college student is better off with a network of peers available to support them. I have heard it from students all across campus about their friendships keeping them afloat in ways both big and small.

To be poignant and poetic, if life at UNCG was a tapestry, then every friend and acquaintance would be adding another color to the artistic creation. It is a somewhat pretentious visual, but it hopefully conveys the idea of how vital each person can be to making this experience all that it can be: prismatic and multi-faceted versus one-note and bland.

If you still do not believe this to be true and this whole article is hokum, take these conclusions drawn from a study by the National Survey of Student Engagement. The NSSE determined students who are more involved will find more success academically, have more positive interactions with staff and university faculty, and will also lead to improvements throughout the university and the institution.

Community on a university campus means the institution will be more likely to improve, so do not be a lone wolf. Leave it for fictional brooders and actual canines. Instead, create yourself a community for your GPA, for others around you right now, and for the kids who are starting to get university letters in the mail. Trust me, they will never thank you, but you will know about the win-win situation developed through your personal college community.

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