It officially dawned on me the other day that there were, in fact, five weeks left of the semester. This realization was triggered by my teacher, who started our class by telling us how we had less than 10 classes left before our final. It was then that my end-of-semester stress rose to apropos levels. How could the semester be ending already? I still feel like I just got to Oxford and that the amount of work I have to do by the end of the semester is beyond my human capabilities.
Being as overwhelmed as I was, there was only one solution: lunch. All my friends had classes, so I grabbed a salad at Armstrong and found a little table underneath the beautiful, white flowering trees. I opened my Google calendar and tried to call my sister in an attempt to soothe my mind, when someone I never expected approached my table.
She lives on the floor above me, and we met during the first week of school but hadn't talked much since. I even forgot her name the minute I saw her. Carrying a smoothie and her laptop, she asked if she could join me at my table since the others were full. I said of course and asked her what she was in a rush for. She told me about how she was planning her schedule out with her advisor, spurring a conversation between us that bounced between many topics including sign language and our weird sleeping habits.
In a time when we were both really stressed out, it was the smallest social interaction that grounded us. The idea that we could form a friendship was not why my neighbor decided to sit down with me, but ultimately it is friendship that came from the small gesture, or in the very least, a new level of respect.
Becoming real friends with new people is something that typically stops in college after we rush Greek life or join organizations. We find our core group, and we stay with those people. But what we shouldn't be exclusive about is who we can show kindness to. We could all benefit from breaking social norms and extending kindness to others you may or may not even have met before. I myself even admit to avoiding eye contact on public transportation or adhering to the silence of a classroom by staring at my phone. However, I don't think those have to be our default reactions.
I challenge you to try talking to someone you wouldn't normally. You never know what you'll get out of it, and after my spontaneous lunch today, I discovered that we'll be living in the same dorm next year, so now I have a friend that I'll already know.