In the midst of all the chaos of meeting countless new people, of trying not to get lost, of balancing classes and homework with meetings and sleep while also remembering to eat, do laundry, and maybe go for that run, the first few weeks of freshman year are no joke. It can feel like a blurry parade of names and faces with those awkward moments when you make eye contact in the dining hall with someone you are almost (but not entirely) sure is in your 10 a.m. chemistry class (Do I wave? Do I say hello? Do I just ignore them?).
But after a whopping month at this thing called college, I have compiled a list of five questions that all freshmen are probably tired of answering by now (but also guilty of asking).
1. What is your major?
Almost always the first question asked after meeting someone new, this is not a bad question by any means. It is just repeated so often that I feel like sometimes we can let our five-second answer be what defines who we are to other people. I am definitely more than just a "Biochemistry major on the pre-med track with a…" and I know you are too.
2. What do you want to do with that after graduation?
I feel like I have met three kinds of freshman so far. First, the ones who don't know what they want to be when they grow up and are trying to figure it out (cough, cough, cough, me). Secondly, the very few who truly have a deep-rooted calling to a specific profession. And lastly, those who think they know, but who really don't know. There is nothing wrong with any of the above because after all, college is an amazing opportunity for us to find what makes us happy, discover our passions, and develop our skills. So, I don't really think that it is realistic to expect other people (and ourselves) to have our lives figured out already (I definitely don't).
3. Isn’t it just so hot outside?
We are in Waco, Texas. Of course it is hot outside. Enough said.
4. Where are you from?
Given that we are probably not from the same hometown, this question usually becomes another dead-end that leads to another awkward moment of silence in the conversation (even after an "Oh, I think I know someone from XYZ place too"). I have found it much easier to talk about the place we do have in common, also known as the unique and wacky Waco, Texas. Plus, it is a great way to learn about really delicious (or really cheap!) local restaurants.
5. How are your classes going?
So this one isn't too terrible… unless you are looking for more than another mumbled "Good," "OK," or "Not bad." To create a more interesting conversation, might I suggest a "So, what is the most interesting thing about one of your classes?" "Do you have any crazy professors?" or, "What is a really good thing and a not-so-great thing that has happened to you this week?" Trust me, you will hear some funny answers and be able to laugh alongside your newfound friends.
I truly believe that the quality of our conversations is directly correlated to the thoughtfulness of our questions. So in order to find common ground and connect with the people around us, let's just remember that we are all complex, interesting, multi-faceted people who have more interests than just our majors, richer backgrounds than just our hometowns, and bigger dreams than just our professions.