Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Sounds of the Dining Hall

Like any transition, moving to college prompts many questions. How hard will the work be? How much food will I eat? How long do I have to live with this roommate? Coming from Virginia, I knew a good amount of people going to UVA and although I wasn’t the most outgoing, I wasn’t extremely shy either. So, it wasn’t until the first morning of class when I stepped foot in the dining hall that the daunting question surfaced: how will I make friends?

Sure, for the first and even the second week, everyone’s in the same boat. On the street, at the gym, and in class, you say hi to anyone you recognize: the people in your class, your hall or suitemates, maybe some people from orientation. You might even exchange numbers. But come the third week, everyone’s settling in. Cliques aren’t necessarily established, but people have begun making memories with one another, whether it was over an insane frat party, a midnight game of Basketball or a 2:30 a.m. fire drill.

Not excepting you. You have a Friday night buddy system, you’ve joined an intramural team, and you’ve even hosted a dance party with your hall. But here you stand, glass of cranberry juice in one hand, your plate of stir-fry in the other, alone. You my friend, yes you, have become a victim of the first year. “Why me?” you wonder. You’ve scanned every table for a familiar face and already rejected the to-go box. Two choices: Sam, whose constant stream of drip sweat is sure to spoil your appetite and those hotties you and your friends were gushing about earlier only to find they were right behind you; somehow, it doesn’t seem so funny anymore.

No, don’t even reach for your cell phone; fake texting is lame.

But hear, hear! Literally, listen!

Sound #1: There is the sizzling of your stir fry. A grand concoction of “broccoli, carrots and chicken.” You would have asked for more but you have no idea what else there was and you weren’t quite brave enough to try the pineapple. Consider asking others, “What are those things you got on your stir-fry? Are they good?” or “Have you ever tried it with pineapple?”

Sound #2: There is a conversation behind you. Eavesdrop! If they are talking about soccer say, “Are you all talking about the club team? I have a friend who wanted to do that.” or “You play soccer? I’ve been looking to play a pick-up game! Where are you all rooming?”

Sound #3: Not big on asking questions? Music, baby! All of the dining halls play music, from John Mayer to Kenny Chesney to Led Zeppelin. If you know a song start singing. I’m glad I did. Going through the yogurt line, I picked up singing, “If only my life was more like 1983….” The guy next to me joined in, and a full show choir erupted! No, not literally. But a fellow John Mayer fan, I asked to sit with him and my first morning was spent with 8 other guys I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

In conclusion, there are many scheduled, organized ways to make friends, but you have to take advantages of other less obvious opportunities. If not, sit with Sam Stinker and stomach the stench; he or she is probably an athlete, and with a little deodorant, might make a good running buddy! Or sit with the cuties you were gushing about; you have four years, so best reclaim your dignity now! If all else fails, try to remember the face of the last person you saw eating alone in the dining hall. You can’t and no one else will either.

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