My List of Things That are Awkward for No Reason: College Student Edition
As a second-year college student living on my university’s campus, there are a few occurrences that are unavoidable in my day-to-day life, but no less awkward every time they happen.
Thus, this list is a work in progress. I do not doubt that with every day I spend confined to an area the equivalent of four city blocks, this list will grow.
The “Long Walk”
Let me set the scene. Imagine that you’re walking and you see someone you recognize approaching from the opposite direction. But from your current position, they’re just far enough away that you can’t be sure that it’s them.
So, you continue walking toward each other squinting and stealing glances as you go. It’s not weird, you just don’t want to wave at a stranger only for them to look confused and pity wave back. On-campus, I fall victim to mistaken identity regularly.
At last, you’re close enough to confirm that the person set to intercept your path is exactly who you thought it was all along. But the battle is not over. You’re still tens of feet away and the question is, where do you look?
Do you opt to awkwardly make eye contact only to look away and then look back. Perhaps pretend to send a text, scroll through socials, check the weather app, or develop a sudden interest in the sidewalk?
In all reality, you find that you’re not close enough physically, or personally, to say something, so ultimately you both walk past without acknowledging the other’s presence. Mortifying.
My solution: I manually unfocus my eyes.
A skill I didn’t know physically possible until my first year of college. Developed as a coping mechanism following my first trip to the dining hall, this allows me to blur my surroundings.
If I never know who’s around me in public, I’m shielded from the social pressure of having an awkward encounter allowing me to exist in utter ignorant bliss. Genius.
When it comes to phone calls, I have a script. I have anticipated every question my little rat brain can think of. There’s a flow chart. I’ve taken notes. I have practiced this call out loud.
You think this is an organic conversation? Wrong. You’re speaking with a puppet.
Yet, I’m sweating through my shirt at the thought of dialing. I blame texting and instant messaging for stealing away my ability to verbally communicate in any setting.
Speaking of anxiety-inducing conversations, interviews are my worst nightmare. In the last month, I’ve broken out in full-body hives four times as I’ve gone through the interview process for internships. That’s a lot of suspiciously worn turtle necks in April.
Interviews juxtapose the artificial and authentic. There are correct responses when it comes to interviews. That’s why interview preparation is an industry. But on top of having the right accomplishments and abilities, you need to be the right person. Thus, the “tell me about yourself” question. Your opportunity as a candidate to be as robotically authentic as possible.
There’s also the weird dynamic that in interviews, especially for internships, I feel like I need to convince a full-grown adult that I, a literal baby college student, know something they don’t.
It’s a lot to ask from someone sweating through their business casual clothes.
Eating in Alone in the College Dining Hall
This could just be an intrusive thought, or me overanalyzing the situation, but every time I see someone sitting alone while eating in my university dining hall, the little voice in my head says “I bet you people probably think that person has no friends.”
Which I know isn’t true. Because in fact, as I type this I’m sitting alone in the dining hall eating between classes, and guess what, I have friends. They just don’t happen to be here at the moment.
Maybe it’s because in many cultures eating is such a social event, that my brain assumes anyone who eats alone must do so because they have no one to socialize with.
Again, I know that the people battling Hubbell alone are super cool people with super cool friends. My anxiety brain just can’t compute.
You know what, I’m beginning to be a little skeptical of the people I never see eat alone in the dining hall. Do you think they built their schedule so they could eat three meals a day with their best friends? How many acquaintances are on their dinner table roster? Much to consider.
RA Checks in Dorm Bathrooms
There’s nothing more humbling than hearing “Male RA on Duty! Everybody alright in there?” mid bathroom break. I mean, we’re already using communal bathrooms, shower shoes are a thing, and everybody’s hair gets stuck in the drain. Do we really need our peers playing drill sergeant? I’m just trying to do the Wordle in peace.
Communal Laundry Rooms
Nothing is as telling as watching someone do their laundry. Do they sort their darks and lights? Are their delicates washed on cold? Or are all their clothes thrown in and washed together…on warm. I’m talking socks with jeans and towels.
While college laundry rooms allow you an intimate look into the inner workings of your classmates, it also offers you a look at their…intimates. I’m sorry, but I didn’t need to know that the guy down the hall from me wears classic tighty whities.
In my experience with doing my laundry on campus, if you’re two minutes late coming down to change your laundry expect to find your just cleaned underwear piled on the sticky tile floor.
Some people have no patience, and others have no courtesy. If you empty the washer or dryer without allowing the user the standard ten minutes to come claim their clothes, you need to chill out. And if you leave your sopping wet bedsheets overnight in one of the only four working washing machines, you need to be a little less chill.
I appreciate that some people will at least pile your clothes on top of the machine, but it’s still humbling to realize that some stranger had to handle the GAP pajama shorts that you’ve had since middle school.
My recommendation: buy an extra-large hamper and don’t do your laundry until you’ve worn every piece of clothing in your closet.
Walking Across Campus Without Headphones
Simply put, your ears will be bombarded. If you’re nosy you might enjoy the snippets of gossip, but more likely you’re going to catch a Facetime conversation between people talking loudly without headphones and their phone volume on ten. Please stop doing this.
Also, people without headphones are more likely to be stopped by students tabling. So if you want to avoid certain cult like religious groups on campus *cough cough* never forget your headphones.
Using an Umbrella
I don’t know why, but I find using an umbrella, specifically on your walk across campus, to be incredibly embarrassing. Especially on days when it’s not absolutely pouring. And then once you get to your destination, you have to do the little thing where you shake your umbrella before entering the building. I would rather show up soaking wet to class than be caught using an umbrella.
Waiting in the Dining Hall Line
This might be a little specific, but if you’ve ever waited in line for a food station where you have to serve yourself, you know the phenomenon where you can reach the scooper but the person in front of you is angled just enough that they are still in the way. If you try to grab your food, you risk dropping it and potentially spilling marinara sauce down the back of a stranger. You really have no choice but to stand just a little too close, wait for them to finish scooping their food, and move on.
Accidentally “Replying All”
You saw the word “reply” and clicked it only to send off your email and realize you just emailed your entire class rather than responding to your professor. Everyone in your eight am class gets the pleasure of reading about your debilitating migraine that is requiring you to live Dracula in the pitch black of your bedroom while you beg your professor for an extension. Cool.
My freshman year Move-In-Day needs its own post, but for now all you need to know is that there was a sizable truck and trailer involved.