by Juniatian Editorial Board
Upon my arrival at Juniata, everything was so picturesque. I could really feel the “tight knit community” vibe that was always talked about when I visited, talked to students, and read pamphlets on this little gem when I was trying to choose a school.
People were interacting with each other, introducing themselves and talking with friends about their summer escapades. In my dorm people went door to door introducing themselves, getting familiar with the hall. It was glorious; I met new people left and right, and all of a sudden, school felt like home.
Yet, what I noticed was that I got comfortable. I had made a group of friends, and by a certain point, it was that group of friends that I would eat dinner with each day, hike up to the cliffs on sunny days and find in the evenings after I finished all my work (or, at least, most of it). I was at a point where I felt as though I didn’t need to meet more people because I had that core group I could rely on.
Now what I’m proposing is that we all step out of our comfort zones. We don’t necessarily have to long jump out of it, but as a community, we can all take a few extra steps to foster an interconnected, inclusive environment. Instead of closing ourselves off to those who we aren’t directly familiar, we can make ourselves accessible to them.
The first step is small and relatively simple. Skipper the Penguin says it best in the Pixar movie, Madagascar, “Smile and wave boys, just smile and wave.” As we walk from class to class and we see someone; be it a friend, acquaintance or a complete stranger, we can all just give a smile and a wave.
Smiling has been proven to improve moods, boost the immune system, reduce stress and, not to mention, smiling is the universal sign of happiness. And waving? Waving is just a lovely form of acknowledgement; a way to say, “Hey, I see you! And, I’m happy to see you!”
Next, we can even take the effort to engage with people who we don’t know. It can be hard with so much going on (not to mention the crazy amount of work we all deal with), but meeting new people can do so much for us as individuals and also for the Juniata community as a whole.
On a personal level, when we meet new people, we expose ourselves to new viewpoints and ideas, not to mention we gain the opportunity of forging new relationships. These potential relationships could turn into great friendships and build a strong network of support, which is essential for us students during this crazy college life.
On a community level, meeting one new person could introduce you to an entirely new group of people. As more and more groups get connected, Juniata as a whole becomes more connected. If our campus becomes more connected, its community can thrive even more than it does now.
This type of community would create a sense of security. If we feel more comfortable with one another, we have a better chance of learning, understanding and improving as human beings. In a connected community, people can feel safe to speak their mind, knowing that their opinions will be heard, considered and discussed in a productive manner.
As a result of these productive conversations, we can all learn to listen and digest other viewpoints in order to be more informed and rounded. The best way to find new opinions is to find new people. However this is not the only goal, by expanding our networks we can all live in a friendlier place, a place where we know that at any time we could engage in an interesting, impactful conversation.
It may seem daunting, but like I said we don’t have to launch out of our comfort zones into the unknown. We can start small with smiles and waves, and simply put out good energy. Once we get comfortable, then we can take the steps to engage and meet people. The college provides many great places to try this.
While attending events like Lobsterfest, Madrigal, or even the Storming of the Arch, there are large crowds of people all excited about a particular thing. This shared excitement can serve as a conversation starter, and get all parties more involved in and excited about the event. Even sporting events are great places to try this once again there is a common interest present and a lot of people excited about one thing.
So let’s give it a try! Smile at the next person you see, and at the next Juniata tradition you’re enjoying, whether it is Mountain Day or Graduation; ask a stranger what they like best about it. You may not become best friends with them, but there is a chance that you might make their day or you might even make someone feel welcome at this little school. It’s just like Mother Teresa said, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”
Categories: Volume 97 Issue 6 Oped