University of Waterloo’s renowned cooperative program is a nightmare for students who desire a social life. During the first term of university, I made a friend who is humble, generous, and humorous. But in the future, we would barely have any chances to hang out together, because we are on different co-op sequences. So I, a person who is always haunted by my insecurities, have to constantly get out of my comfort zone and talk to strangers in classrooms, cafeterias, or just anywhere on campus. Having done that a lot, I discovered the secrets of making friends are to reach out and listen.
Having the courage to reach out to people is crucial to making friends at UW. Classrooms are a perfect environment to talk to strangers. Initially, I was so scared to talk to people sitting beside me. But over time, I found out that most people are just equally nervous about talking to other people. Chances are, the person sitting beside you is anxious to break the ice, but is too afraid to make the first move.
I usually start a conversation by asking some random questions. It is sometimes really awkward for me, but I believe the other party appreciates the opportunity to talk to someone without acting awkward themselves. When they seem interested in continuing the conversation, I go on to ask them about their hobbies, high school, and coop. Gradually, some people would open up and the conversation would get a lot more interesting as time goes on. As for those embarrassing moments, they would be forgotten soon enough.
Be warned, however, that although this method of making friends works most of the time, it might fail miserably. When it does, keep it in mind that you need not talk to the person again in your entire life. Just sit on the opposite side of the classroom next time, and I doubt they would even remember ever talking to you in a few weeks.
Most people desire to express themselves, so they would really appreciate it when you act like a good listener. Sometimes, I could learn something new just by chatting with my CS TA. Because I was such a good listener, he told me about his experience of becoming a gold medalist in International Mathematical Olympiad. I was simply awe-struck. I could have never imagine that my ordinary-looking math-loving CS TA being a champion at one of the most competitive and difficult competition in the world. And from then on, I started to seek help from him about math, and he greatly helped me to do well in a proof course.
Being a good listener gives me a lot of advantages. It helps me to probe into other people’s lives, and get to know them well quickly. Sometimes, I would be amazed and humbled by other people’s amazing achievements outside or inside school. It has made me realize that a lot of students that I see every day at UW are more excellent than I could have ever imagined. It motivates me to keep on exploring in my fields of interest, and always strive to achieve excellence.
In conclusion, try to talk to strangers as much as possible at UW. Because who knows, you might befriend the next Nobel Prize laureate.