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Three Editors, Three Ways: Approaching potential friends in your lectures, labs, and seminars

By November last semester, you were beginning to fall into a rhythm: You’d wake up at an ungodly hour, go to class with your friends, travel with your squad to Butler and Ferris, collapse in bed long past midnight, and repeat the whole schedule the next day. But now that the spring semester has begun, that’s all been thrown into a tailspin.

You walked into your first class today and immediately met a crowd of students hunched over their computers, with not one familiar face in sight. You knew nobody in your new classes, so you’ll be friendless and bored for the rest of the semester… Or maybe not.

Since your old friends from past semesters aren’t in your classes now, it’s time to start making some new study buddies. Approaching people in lectures, labs, and seminars might initially seem daunting, but three Spectrum editors are here to walk you through the process.

Friend-Spotting in Lectures: Isabella

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The only words you need to finding them lecture friends.

Between fighting to stay awake and trying to understand what the hell your professor is talking about, making a friend in lecture may be the last thing on your mind. However, having a lecture buddy is super helpful if you need notes or help understanding a lecture topic.

Sit next to people in your discussion section

After a few discussion sections, you will begin to recognize some faces in lecture. Pick a seat near one of them and spark up a conversation, as you two already have one thing in common: your TA. Use your TA as a conversation starter. Before lecture starts, discuss his harsh grading or his new haircut.

Approach the participator

The kid who always raises their hand to ask questions obviously has their shit together and isn’t shy. If they seem approachable (i.e., they’re not a pretentious snob), introduce yourself and ask a few questions about the previous lecture. You might become lifelong friends, you might not, but you’ll have someone to talk to in those awkward five minutes before class.

The Scientific Method (of making friends in Labs): Huber

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Oh, the fun you’ll have this semester.

If you’re a science major like me, chances are you’re going to have to take at least one lab course every semester. Since they’re so long and have so many different sections to choose from, you might be forced to register for one without anyone you know. So what do you do when you’re trying to make new friends?

Partner up

Labs are the easiest classes in which to make friends because you usually need to have at least one lab partner. If your TA doesn’t assign groups, don’t be afraid to ask someone if you can join theirs—or find another solo person in the room and start your own. Talking about the lab assignment and your TA is the easiest conversation starter, and you may just make a new bestie.

Bond over your confusion

Whether your TA assigns partners or not, it may be hard to have a convo when you’re trying to extract the DNA out of an onion. If you really want a new friend, the easiest way to get to know each other is just to say you have no idea what is happening. (I did this every lab session, mainly because I actually didn’t know what was going on.)

Your partner will either say they don’t know either and you’ll both laugh and continue the convo, or they’ll explain it to you. Either way, you can ask them to review the material together. You might hit it off, increase your grade, and cause fewer accidents in class.

Sit next to familiar faces

If you’re in a lab, you’ll probably also be taking the general lecture science class. So, if you spot your last lab partner, or anyone from lab really, don’t be afraid to say hi and sit next to them. Talk about your love (or hate) for physics, or about how poorly you did on the exam. Who knows, you could make a lab and lecture partner for life.

Squad-Searching in Seminars and Discussion Sections: Veronica

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Squad? Squad? Where art thou?

Ah, seminar, the treasure trove of all those in need of new friends. Like labs, seminars and discussion sections are some of the easiest academic forums in which to make friends because of the small class sizes, the fact that discussions force you to directly respond to one another, and the frequent (enforced) opportunities for group work.

There are a handful of methods you can employ for this semester’s round of squad-searching.

At the beginning of class

Stroll into class. Easy enough, right? Lol, think again. If you’re actively searching for friends, plan on showing up to class a couple of minutes early (at least the first few days) so you’ll actually have time to exchange names and have the beginnings of a conversation.

Plop your tush down in a seat—but don’t sit at the very end of the table if everyone is gathered near the front. Trust me, if there’s an empty seat next to a person (even if the rest of the table is relatively empty), it’s not weird to take the chair next to them.

In the middle of class

A lot of seminars and discussion sections will ask students to break up into smaller groups. For your friend-finding purposes, what more could you ask for? Do the work with your group (and contribute equally—nothing is more off-putting than a fiend [not friend] who doesn’t pull their weight). As you wait for the other groups to finish up, you’ll have a perfect opportunity to instigate a conversation that can be continued as you leave class.

At the end of class

Don’t dart out the door the minute the professor says, “See you next time.” Take your time gathering your things. Continue the conversation that you began at the beginning or in the middle of class. That’ll give you an excuse to wait for your new-found friend as they gather their things. Leave the building with them and chit-chat some more. A couple of sessions into the semester, you’ll be exchanging phone numbers, inviting them to get a bite to eat at JJ’s Place, and braiding each other’s hair.

All three of these friend-finding methods rely on one major thing: talking. Approaching people in your classes and randomly beginning conversations might seem weird to you, but it really isn’t. Hasn’t anyone ever tried talking to you at the beginning of class, even if it was just to ask if you were on the waitlist or not? Did you think it was weird back then? No, so the same will apply to you. Make the first move and introduce yourself.

Have any other foolproof plans to snagging your new lecture, lab, and seminar buddies? Care to share? Tell us on Facebook, Twitter, or on Spachat @CUSpectrum.

Isabella Monaco is Spectrum’s associate editor and a Barnard first-year. She’s the silent, nervous freshman sitting in the aisle seat of a lecture hall, furiously taking notes. Reach her at isabella.monaco@columbiaspectator.com.

Huber Gonzalez is Spectrum’s deputy editor and a Columbia College sophomore. He’s in way too many lab sections but has tons of friends. He’s also very humble. Reach him at huber.gonzalez@columbiaspectator.com.

Veronica Grace Taleon is Spectrum’s editor and a Barnard sophomore. Through her squad-searching method, she’s probably introduced herself to approximately 70 percent of the student body. Reach her at veronica.taleon@columbiaspectator.com.

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