Instant Friends: Just Add Food!

Nothing brings people together faster than new, and sometimes intimidating, situations and sharing meals. Going to college means mastering control over awkward situations, learning the skills of small talk, and knowing that eating with new people provides an excuse for contemplative silence. Studying abroad in a new country, well, that puts all of this to the test.

As someone who’s a bit shy when it comes to striking up a conversation, social situations are a bit stressful for me. I’ve never been the best at breaking the ice and keeping up conversational banter has often left me tongue-tied. Coming to Ireland was a bit like freshman year at Loyola all over again. I was in a new city with new people and new professors and new class systems and new everything. Not gonna lie, it was kind of scary.

At Loyola I had a friend group, well, several friend groups, and I had activities outside of class that I knew would be full of “regulars.” My professors knew me by name, and I knew I could have lovely conversations outside class with many of them. Loyola’s small campus provides a very cozy feeling to those who are a bit homesick, and apart from the Humanities building, it’s fairly easy to navigate.

Being at UCC is like transferring to a state school: there are over 20,000 students, the campus is much larger, the classes do not cap at 35, and I haven’t met any of my professors yet, so I can’t really tell you how that’s going. But despite these differences, there seems to be a universal equation for making new friends.

Food + People = Natural Flow of Conversation

During my Early Start course we had a coffee/snack break halfway through the lecture period and after the first day, people started joining each other for tea and coffee. I met a great group of friends who were history, anthropology, archeology, English, and various other majors and we had wonderful conversations that day and during the following weeks.

But I really think a lot of this had to do with eating food. There’s something so communal about breaking bread, or a chocolate croissant, with someone. Now that I have a new roommate, this also carries over. We make dinner at about the same time, so we chat as we cook and our conversations carry on well past our plates becoming empty.

A couple of weeks ago Erin and I were eating lunch in the Chaplaincy and there were some Irish students hanging out there. After a bit, they joined our conversation and we had a really fun time getting their perspective on stuff. We also learned some more of the slang (“Crack” here does not mean the illegal substance like in the US, just a heads up).

This past weekend I had to register with the police (that I was legal, and a student, and would be leaving in December, etc.), and on the way to the station, Erin and I came across a few American Early Start students who were doing the same thing. After a (very) stressful 2 hours, we had a celebratory meal together at a wonderful little bistro. And again, the entire time we were together there was a running conversation.

I’m telling you, there’s something about food.

Speaking of which, I should probably get some lunch now. I bought some fresh bead yesterday and I’ve been dying to make grilled cheese.

For photo-sets of my wanderings in Ireland, please visit roryroamingthegreenhills.tumblr.com. Thank you!

Unconventional Study Spots (Lead to Interesting Acquaintances)

Remember how I wrote about my fun, book filled Sunday afternoon?
Well, I’m happy I enjoyed it while I could.
Because then Monday came and I went from

Yeah, 'cause everyone wakes up like this in the morning :P
to

I know I’ve put a very happy, chill kind of spin on Loyola so far, but everyone has a “crazy day.” Or week. Or month. Or semester. Sometimes it gets hard to handle and I wonder Why On Earth Did I Sign Up To Do So Much Stuff.

Just as I convince myself that there are never enough hours in a day to do everything, some little bit of happiness comes my way and makes the stress more bearable.

This week, it came in the form of an engineering professor.

It’s strange that a faculty member who is on the opposite side of the education spectrum from my major would influence my life, so maybe I should give a little back story about our acquaintance.

Fact #1 About My Study Habits: They aren’t normal.

I hate working at my desk. In fact, I hate working in places that are designated for studious application. I avoid the library like the plague (mainly because it’s on the opposite side of campus) and I have never been to The Study (but I hear it looks like Hogwarts). Instead, I find cozy places on campus to do my work.

In my first semester I discovered the huge armchairs on the second floor of Humanities – perfect for propping up a laptop, sorting articles, and writing papers on the large armrests.

These chairs are PERFECT

The Reading Room became my weekend sanctuary as I ploughed through comp/sci projects, Theology readings, and accidental naps in the poufy reclining chairs.

Couldn't really get a better shot, but trust me, those chairs will make you fall asleep!

My second semester led me to the basement of Donnelly Science Center where I wrote Lit analyses and ate lunch before I walked over to Knott Hall for a math class.

"Would you like a desklamp with that?"

My study spaces always change, but they all have one thing in common: it’s relatively quiet, they’re near my classes, and I can separate my work life from my home life.

Thing is, I didn’t realize how quickly people could consider you a permanent installment in their environment.

After a few weeks of doing homework in Donnelly, I got used to seeing certain professors pass by; they got used to me sitting there. One day, they came up and talked to me, learned I wasn’t an engineering major, still offered the use of the engineering lounge for studying, and ever since have always said hello.

Normally interaction between departments, especially that of the sciences and humanities, is fairly limited at college. But not here.

Definitely not here.

One of these professors saw me on campus during the first week and asked if I would still be studying in Donnelly. I wasn’t sure if my classes would bring me there, but they have, and now I’m back in my “office” as he jokingly put it.

On Monday he said I should feel free to bring a desk lamp.

To him, I’m not some transient student who is one out of two hundred in a lecture hall. I have a name, a face, habits, and am truly recognized as a human being.

Having really busy, crazy days is part of life, but having someone who cares even in a small way makes it worthwhile.