Dunbar: Classes provide great opportunity to make friends


Blair Dunbar, Columnist

I started taking Russian as a freshman. Russian is not the most popular language at Northwestern – I think about 12 students were in my class that fall, and that number has slowly dwindled to six. I have been in my Russian classes with these same six people for about a year, yet, for some reason, I still barely know them. You would think at some point we might have become, at the very least, casual friends, considering I see them four days a week for 50 minutes each day. But NU doesn’t work that way.

NU students don’t become friends with each other in the classroom. Friends are part of other worlds: Greek life, work, extracurricular activities. In a way, I understand. Class is supposed to be a time of learning and listening. But in a large lecture classroom, how many students are actually listening, and how many are reading BuzzFeed on their laptops or playing solitaire? So, if we’re not listening, why not try making friends? Are friends really so separate from the classroom?

I guess the real questions are how do we choose our friends and why. Do we like those people in our sorority or fraternity because they constantly surround us? Do we like the people who work on the same executive board because they share common interests? Do we become friends with the people in our dorm freshman year because we are desperate?

I think we make friends our freshman year, maybe make some more during sorority or fraternity recruitment, and then we are content. It’s almost like we get stuck in a rut. A friend of mine in my sorority admitted she didn’t have any motivation to become friends with the new members: She had already made her friends in the sorority. Making and maintaining relationships is hard. Why put in the extra effort if you already have friends?

When the new quarter begins, and we enter our classrooms for the first time, we immediately look for someone we know to sit next to. If no one is available, we settle for powering up our laptops and opening Facebook or texting someone not in the room. But NU is not that big of a school. On a regular basis, I walk past someone I have met before. In just about every one of the classes I have taken here, I recognize another student. I don’t know why we shouldn’t befriend each other.

I took Psych 110 last quarter. Even though more than 100 people were in the lecture, we still participated in groups. The professor had us discuss questions with those sitting around us, and typically we ended up sitting next to the same people every day. But I never became friends with a single person. My boyfriend was assigned a group project in his business management class. Since Winter Quarter, he hasn’t spoken to any of those people with which he worked.

I’m not suggesting we become friends with every person we meet more than once. I’m saying we should keep our eyes open. Rather than making friends and being content or sticking to the people that typically run in your social circle, try striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to you in your incredibly boring biology class. A favorite story of mine involves my friend. She struck up a conversation with a guy she found attractive sitting next to her in her freshman chemistry class. They’ve been dating for nearly two years. See what can happen?

Blair Dunbar is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].