The quarter system lends itself well to passing friendships and temporary identities. Ten weeks pass at a clip, and quarters end, years end, college ends. When you don’t stay in one place for too long, you can be the person you are in that moment without having to think about the person you are in the long run. You can be a blip.
Or, you can put forth a Herculean effort to make yourself permanent in a stranger’s life. It is no small task to make a true friend in a class that meets twice a week for 10 weeks. First, you have to get over being shy. Your 20s are not the time to back out of a conversation because you are too scared to keep talking. So my mom tells me, since I give in to my shyness all too often. Second, you need to resist the temptation to always sit by the people you know. When I walk into HumBio lecture I see several distinct nation-states flying their sorority flags. I’m just as guilty, and always sit by the same two or three people who I know. The stakes are higher with the compressed time frame of the quarter system, so step up to the plate and meet those stakes. Reach out. Take a risk.
Third, you have to be open to the brave souls who do venture to meet people in class. Many of the adults in my life talk vaguely about meeting people in their lectures when they were in college, the chance encounters that sparked lifelong friendships. Maybe their reminiscences are true. If so, those fondly-remembered encounters are far less ubiquitous than alums make them out to be. So if someone does have the chutzpah to break the tacit laws of indifference between strangers in lecture, honor that, and be open to what they have to say.
You are surrounded by people who also got into Stanford. Chances are they have something interesting to say. Go learn someone’s story. You can be shy when you’re old. Seek to understand where someone is coming from, and soon you can seek to be understood.
Amused? Confused? Outraged? Share your thoughts with Renée at firstname.lastname@example.org.