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Just ask them to get coffee, already

Turn acquaintances into friends before it’s too late

Friday is my favorite day of the week.

Actually, that’s a lie — Thursday is my new favorite day of the week solely because of karaoke at Pizza Hut. Yes, you read that correctly, and yes, it is just as incredible as you are imagining it to be. But anyway, back to Friday.

Friday is my second-favorite day of the week because — with the exception of the German 1010 class I decided to enroll in as a second-semester fourth-year — my day is completely empty. I have no weekly obligations or meetings eating away at my calendar. But, while I could waste away my day watching reruns of “How I Met Your Mother,” I don’t. Instead, I fill my day with lots and lots of coffee dates.

Before your mind starts running too far down the wrong path, I use the term “coffee date” as platonically as possible in this context. My goal is not to line up romantic date after romantic date like some sort of University version of “The Bachelor.” Instead, I have two goals every Friday. First, I try to catch up with old friends that I have not seen in far too long. Second — and more commonly — I try to turn acquaintances into friends.

What does that mean, exactly? It goes without saying that we all accumulate a lot of acquaintances throughout college. You know, the people you connected with on Facebook after some event first year, or the friends you shared small talk with in the few minutes before class — and have barely talked to since. Maybe you like their photos on social media and maybe you say hello if you pass each other on the sidewalk, but you don’t really know them in any sense of the word.

So, why don’t you get to know them?

That is the question that I asked myself at the beginning of last semester, and I am glad that I did.

This University is full of undeniably cool people. After approximately two decades of life, we all have stories to tell and passions to ignite. Go listen to others’ stories and share your own. Despite now being in my eighth semester of college, I have undoubtedly learned more from people than from classes throughout my time in Charlottesville. From my first day of first year, the foundation of my education has been a good conversation.

Don’t get me wrong — it can be scary to muster the courage to ask someone to get coffee, even if you intend it platonically. This fear likely stems from the fact that getting coffee has evolved into a strange, grey zone full of romantic interest, posturing and confusion. If love were a game, then a coffee date would be the field of its opening match, and it’s a rough surface to play on. However, it is possible to successfully navigate these convoluted expectations, and it’s worth it every time.

I took calculus during my first semester at the University, and I still get lunch regularly with friends from that class. After trading places between Jordan and the U.S. for a year and a half, I recently reconnected with a former classmate from my introductory Arabic course, leading to a wonderful evening spent singing our hearts out at the aforementioned Pizza Hut karaoke. This past week, I went to the Winter Farmers’ Market and traversed Charlottesville in search of free coffee with a friend who used to just be a friend of a friend.

In all of these situations, the easy thing to do would have been to just let these pseudo-relationships continue on until graduation, after which our only contact would be the occasional like on Facebook. Now, however, I have a real connection with each of them, and if we ever end up in the same city in the future‚ whether for a weekend or a year — I have no doubt that we will renew our friendship.

So, as you approach the rest of your time in college, I urge you to take the leap and take the opportunity to get to know those around you while you still can. Not to devalue the education gained through classes, but books and papers will still be accessible to you after you graduate — this specific set of people won’t be.

So, what are you waiting for? Just ask them to get coffee, already!