Why does no one say hi on Locust?
Are Penn students bad at making real connections?
We go to a pre-professional university that values networking and connecting us with world-renowned researchers, business men and women, philanthropy organizations, musicians, artists and entrepreneurs.
So why don’t we talk to each other?
Let’s think back to New Student Orientation. During NSO, we got to know our hallmates, classmates, professors – and even some upperclassmen. We strolled down Locust trying to make friends or find connections to social events.
Each night during NSO, I went out with a new group of people. Each weekend, there was a new potential friend willing to trudge to Hill brunch with me. It seemed someone always wanted to get to know me. Conversation was uninhibited and intriguing.
But somewhere along the line, we settled down into the school year and fell into the monotony that is college life: sleeping, eating, working, and socializing.
With this monotony, however, came a stop to the interactions we had with new people.
We attend clubs with the people we already know, go out with people we already know, eat meals with people we already know and study with people we already know.
Suddenly, campus appeared full of students hunched over their phones, speed-walking down Locust, trying to get to that class, that meeting, that lunch date.
I was surprised to find the girl I had that one lunch date with no longer made eye contact, let alone waved when we passed each other on Locust.
The girl I had attended my first college party with, who sang obnoxious frat party music with me while we waited in an endless bathroom line, no longer smiled or said hi when we crossed paths, leaving me awkwardly grinning at the top of her head while she looked down to avoid eye contact.
The guy next to me in line for food in the dining hall no longer started up a conversation or even smirked when I accidentally threw my reusable plate in the compost bin and proceeded to attempt to retrieve it, much to the dining hall manager’s dismay.
Essentially, the effort to create connections had died. No one said hi anymore, and Locust was quiet.
What happened to the environment of networking and connection that Penn praises? Why do we no longer think simple conversation is worth our time?
Maybe we don’t say hi because we don’t fully understand the relationships we have on campus. We wonder: Are we on that level where I should say ‘Hey!’ or are we on like, smirk and head-nod level? Do we acknowledge each other after she walked me back to the Quad on Saturday even though she doesn’t even know my name?
Who wants to be the person who thinks the girl we chatted with in line for the bathroom or shared a table with at Starbucks has become our friend? Who wants to risk awkwardness or rejection?
We are, after all, Ivy League students, who do not view rejection in a positive light. So we avoid it altogether.
But when we become so focused on the academics and resume-boosters for our job and graduate school applications, we forget one of the most important aspects of getting a job or getting a fantastic recommendation: the connections we have.
While the students around us may be the great leaders in our future, we’ve somehow we have forgotten how valuable each one of us is to each other.
At Penn, I have already met some of the most charismatic and interesting individuals that I probably will ever meet – and they are not always the people with impressive extracurricular actives or that 4.0 GPA. Instead, they are the ones who turn to you and discuss the bizarre new food expo in Hill dining hall or hold then door for you at Van Pelt then proceed to converse with you for the elevator ride to the fourth floor.
To me, the Penn students who will be the most successful are not the ones who will receive an ‘A’ in Organic Chemistry, but the ones who will remember your name and greet you on Locust. They are the ones with the connections worth having.