By: Mohamed Mahmoud

As a student who is currently living off campus, I can confidently say that McMaster feels more like home to me than any other campus could have. Like most students from Mississauga, of the first places I considered applying to was the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus. But as soon as I took the campus tour, I knew there was no way I could make it my second home.

McMaster was not like that for me. Aside from the fact that I needed a reputable school for engineering, one of the main reasons McMaster was one of my top choices was because of the student sense of community that Mac comes with.

Yes, there are many universities in Ontario that are visibly and reputably surrounded by million-dollar homes and expensive cars that are centered with the hustle and bustle of a downtown city center. There are larger campuses and better parties, but there is a more important priority for first years.

When I was an incoming first year, I knew that the environment that what would soon become my second home is surrounded would need to be welcoming. McMaster in collaboration with the Westdale community certainly provides me with a sense of inclusion, and I believe that this is something that is unique to McMaster.

As someone who has both commuted on the GO bus and lived off campus, I can certainly vouch that living so close campus is a luxury. It allows for me to get to know students more closely with time being more of a flexibility (even though 30 hours a week of school is hardly a luxury for engineering kids), my full-time commitment seemed like less of a hassle.

I also had the opportunity to visit local coffee shops and had a chance to admire the character that downtown Hamilton buildings have in comparison to the ones in Mississauga.

As someone who has both commuted on the GO bus and lived off campus, I can certainly vouch that living so close campus is a luxury.student sense of community that Mac comes with.

With the reputation of Hamilton being viewed as a “ghetto” area, and in light of the recent break-in reports on the Spotted at Mac Facebook page, there have been mixed feelings about whether or not living off campus is such a great idea. This is understandable. However, these reporting have presented something great about the Mac community that not all universities have.

With so many students living off campus in the Westdale area, these reports have prompted an increase in police presence around the campus and a great support with student stake outs and communal protection. With the security on campus and the increased security off campus as well as groups like the Students Walk Home Attendent Team, students can begin to feel more reassured of their safety both on campus and off campus.

Hamilton may be seen as a second-class city next to Mississauga or Toronto, but it opens doors for a friendlier environment for students to grow, live among their peers and experience a sense of community beyond McMaster’s borders.

In addition, paying my own rent and struggling to make time to go grocery shopping in order to stop spending on food has taught me many valuable life lessons. In struggling to cook my own meals without my mom and feeling broke every time I check my bank account, I can now say that I understand what “adulting” is.

When choosing which schools to apply to, my guidance counsellor told me to seek out the campus that is the smallest and balance that with the reputation of the program I was going into. At first, I did not understand why this was important, and sought out the school with the largest campus with the classiest city life. But as my first round of university midterms came along, I began to understand why community and a sense of inclusion is so important for students.

As students, there is no doubt that we are susceptible to the feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression, and trust me, Thode does not help.

Though there are people to reach out to and share your feelings with at ever university, sometimes that’s not what you need to “fix things”. In some cases, simply having a sense of belonging is just enough to do the trick.

Although we don’t have the University of Toronto name and our buildings are not extravagant, we have something that is more genuine and definitely more important to graduate with.

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