Dear new students,
It goes without saying that a significant part of the first-year experience is getting to meet new people. During my first few weeks on Grounds, I felt like I was meeting 50 people each day. Now, with mask-wearing restrictions and social-distancing requirements, that essential component of the first-year experience is at risk. But don’t worry — here’s some advice that will help you make the most of this fall.
When meeting so many people so quickly, you’ll likely run into the same problem I faced during my first year on Grounds — remembering everyone I meet. The often cordial but brief introductions I exchanged with my fellow first-years often seemed insignificant. If I had “met” someone on Monday and saw them again on Thursday, our exchange might consist of some vague acknowledgement that we have seen each other before, communicated via a smile or maybe even a quick wave if our second meeting lasted long enough to warrant it.
This led me to wonder, how do I get more out of meeting people? How do I establish a more meaningful connection? The answer is simple — remember their name. Consistently recalling a person’s name is absolutely necessary to establishing a deeper relationship with anyone you meet. I know that this advice seems so blatantly obvious — however, you will meet an unprecedented number of people this fall, making it difficult to form close friends from simple acquaintanceships, so although it’s obvious, this advice is pretty practical and helpful.
Of course, remembering someone’s name after one short conversation can be difficult. I have found that the best way to remember a person’s name involves two steps.
First, make a point to learn their name during the conversation. Then more specifically, think more intentionally about their name and how to pronounce it during the conversation. There were so many times when I walked away from a great first conversation, scratching my head and feeling embarrassed because I could not remember their name.
Step two involves a bit more effort but trust me, it’s worth it. I learned that the only way I could recall a person’s name several days later was by repeating it over and over in my head. Sounds weird, I know, but without this deliberate effort, recalling a person’s name was left to the chance of whether my brain subconsciously saved it or not. This process removed the coinflip of remembering names, allowing me to quickly build strong relationships with the people I met.
However, there’s no need to worry about building these connections with others, even if you won’t be living on Grounds this fall. Contracted independent organizations — the University’s equivalent to clubs — will be holding events via Zoom. From music and rock climbing to motorsports and world cultures, these clubs cover a wide range of interests, offering great opportunities for you to meet people with similar interests.
For those of you at home, your opportunity to meet new people will be restricted mostly to Zoom meetings, so take advantage of any chance you get. For example, if your professor breaks the class up into breakout rooms, start a conversation with the people in there and maybe even ask for a phone number. The awkwardness of these breakout rooms is almost inevitable, so I encourage you to look past it and keep the conversation going. Attending Zoom office hours is also a fantastic way to meet and exchange contact information with even more people.
Now, nobody knows what the social life on Grounds will be like this fall. That being said, I cannot emphasize enough the value of your first year. It offers an extraordinary opportunity to meet amazing people whether you're living on Grounds or learning distantly. With the restrictions on social interaction, I believe it is more important than ever to make the most out of every conversation.
This certainly isn’t how anyone would want to start their college career. Nevertheless, I encourage you to not let the awkwardness of breakout rooms, inconvenience of masks or requirements of social distancing prevent you from trying to make meaningful connections with the people around you. Whether you’re starting the next chapter of your life from your home or on Grounds, my final advice to you is to be safe, have some courage, take a few risks and remember some names.
A rising second-year
Mario Rosales is a Life Columnist at The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.