Oberlin Blogs

On Transitioning Acquaintances to Friends

October 27, 2019

Ish Houle ’23

Being a first-year, I have made a lot of “acquaintances.” People you know the name of, you see around, but it’s too soon to call them the scary defining label of a “friend.” As I bike through this campus, I have found myself flashing smiles to Obies in classes with me (that 50% of the time they don’t even notice) instead of taking the initiative to audibly say “hello!” I can hold the door open for someone who lives on my floor, but immediately after I put my earbuds back in and take the stairs two at a time to avoid the awkward interaction that could ensue. Acquaintanceship is comfortable; recognizing people but not enduring the stress of maintaining a conversation is an appealing relationship to me. But, simply put, I’ve realized I should be working to make more friends. Very recently, I have been taking strides to make more friends, not acquaintances, and I have a few ruminations and advice to ease anyone else like me through this complicated, awkward, entertaining process:

  1. Show up to class 10 minutes early! Aside from the appeal of punctuality, 10 minutes early is just enough time for it to be awkward if you don’t strike up conversation with whoever is next to you. If you find the seat you like in the classroom keep sitting there, and chances are whoever is next to you will settle into sitting in their seat repeatedly as well. Then, each day, you continue where you left off in conversation with your seatmate and ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, you have a friend in your class!
  2. Figure out who in a class of yours is walking in a similar direction as you after class! For me, I have one class that feels like it is a brick away from most of the main campus, and that would be a sad walk alone if I didn’t walk with someone in my class! A nice stroll with someone is incredibly conducive to conversation: you can learn about each other and reflect on the class you both just shared. A one-on-one conversation with an acquaintance can lead to stories told, potential inside jokes, riveting analysis of the class you both take, and is a beautiful slip-n-slide straight to friendship!
  3. Sit in your common room! Especially in my beautiful, large-windowed Kahn common room, I like to do some homework late-night and see who I encounter. Whether a conversation or just a friendly smile for someone walking from their dorm room to the bathroom, continued cordial contact with hallmates is a great climbing hold to friendship.
  4. Fourth meal at the Rat! A perfect place to forge new friendship! It’s hosted Sunday to Thursday 9:30-11:30pm; everyone’s tired, drained from studying, and ready for the comforting embrace of delicious food. Conversations are always the most interesting, you always find yourself sitting with an eccentric group, and asking quirky questions is invariably okay at 11pm. Not to mention that you’re sitting in the folksy “Rathskeller,” Fourth meal is a perfect location to make some new friendships. 
  5. Coming across someone when you least expect it! You can’t plan everything! Whether 12am crossing Wilder Bowl after finishing studying in Mudd Library or sitting next to someone new in the dining hall Stevie, dancing with someone from your first-year seminar in the ‘Sco or having a conversation in the laundry room, you can transition casual co-studentship to friendship spontaneously and seamlessly!

To be quite honest, this process is very much in progress for me! I’m only about a month in, and I know I’ll be continuing to use everything I wrote above and more for the next 4 years. But I’m not worried! I know and have seen that Obies are very, very cool, kind, interesting people that I’m working on getting to know (and then, over time, potentially befriending!).

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