School and Work Environments
In Canada and the United States
Finding a friendly
school or place of employment where you will feel welcome
and be productive
Where you attend school or work greatly impacts the quality of your life. After all, you spend most of your waking hours there.
In the United States, most heart attacks occur
at or near 9:00 a.m. Monday morning. That is the most typical
starting time for the work week.
This page helps you pick an uplifting university or work
environment that you will enjoy—that will have a positive
impact on your health and well being.
You'll also receive tips for finding an environment
where you will "fit in"—a place where you will
be comfortable with the other people.
Some universities are more
friendly than others, and you'll find it easier to make friends
in these environments. Smaller schools
are said to be friendlier than larger ones, but there are certainly
exceptions, such as the University of Southern California and
Most families in southern California came
from somewhere else (some 10 percent from Canada alone in Orange
County, the location of Disneyland), so people are used to striking
up conversations with people who they do not know.
Talk to people
How can you tell if a school environment
is warm and friendly prior to applying? How can you tell if the academic atmosphere
Well, talk to people. Ask questions.
Be friendly, but ask blunt questions.
am very concerned about what I eat. Does your food service prepare
most meals from fresh ingredients, or does it use mostly canned
and frozen items?"
You are getting specific information here,
but perhaps more importantly you are testing the attitudes of
those who reply.
If your questions are unwelcome, watch out.
Talk to a wide variety of people, not only
in the admissions and student aid departments, but also in housing,
food service, accounting, and certainly in your planned academic
department. If telephoning for information, ask to speak to current
students. They will tell you what the place is really like.
Focus on your academic department
If the head of your prospective academic
department and her professors seem aloof and unfriendly, that
is a very bad sign. That alone should make you very uneasy.
While the primary mission of a great university may not
be to make people feel good, the people who administer and teach in your
department may set the tone of your entire time there.
And, if others on
well, you have learned what you need to know about that institution.
The best way to find out about a school is to visit the
campus while school
is in session.
Picking a university is a momentous decision and
certainly worth an exploratory trip once you have done some preliminary
Block some time to explore on your own, instead of just
taking organized tours. Also, venture into the area around campus.
Beware of commuter schools
Beware of commuter schools, such as two-year
community colleges or even some provincial and state universities,
where most students come from the immediate area, live at home,
and keep their secondary school friendships.
It's harder to join
a long-established group of friends.
You are better off at a school like McGill in Montreal
where most people come as strangers, if you are a stranger.
Pick a place that shares your values.
example, if you love to learn and excel in your school work, beware of universities, sometimes well-known ones in both Canada and
the U.S., where anti-intellectualism reigns.
If most students
want nothing more than to have fun and party while waiting for
the diploma that will bring a good job, you may not feel at home.
Again, ask. There is nothing wrong with fun, but you
may want more balance.
The Claremont colleges (including Claremont
Graduate University), Laval, Grinnell College, the University of Toronto, Harvard,
the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University
of Chicago, and Williams College are
examples of more academic atmospheres, although not all of these
may offer friendly living environments.
Dr. Voyageur defines "academic
atmospheres" as schools where highly-motivated students frequently
discuss academic subjects outside of their classrooms and where
classroom discussions are lively.
Are you a vegetarian? Pick a school such
as University of British Columbia, California State University
at Humboldt, UC Santa Cruz, or Maharishi University of Management in Iowa. The
first three campuses are in areas with many vegetarians. The last actually
serves organic and not deliberately genetically engineered veggie meals to
all its students.
Love the ballet? University of Toronto, Columbia University, etc.
Certainly not every student or even a majority of students at
these universities will share your values, but you will find more
like minded people than at many other places, which should make
making friends easier.
A true university experience demands exposure
to different ideas and values, but you want a comfortable base
from which to gain this exposure.
Are you entering the job market instead
of school? Then find a friendly company. After all, you will spend
much of your time there.
How do you find a friendly company?
the same ways you find a friendly school.
Talk to people and ask
questions. Especially get to know the people with whom you
will work each day. You may spend more waking time with them
Go To >> Making
friends and meeting people
Go To >> Finding a suitable dorm
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