We all know the conventional wisdom about first impressions: you’ve got one shot, and you’d better not mess it up. All of the advice is about the impressions we leave on others, but we tend not to hear as much about the judgments we make upon encountering new people. Our brains are really good at perceiving patterns and sorting things into categories, even where no pattern exists and categories simply don’t make sense. I struggle to fight off the snap judgements I make on an almost daily basis.
We tend to think about people we meet or see around campus the way we think about ice cream: if it looks like rocky road, we assume it’s rocky road. We tasted it once, and those bites of chocolatey, nutty, marshmallowy goodness tell us everything we need to know. But people aren’t ice cream. We don’t come in flavors. People who look the same aren’t the same. Whether you’re new to campus or have been at TU for a while, it’s likely you’ll be running into new people over the next several days and weeks. As we meet and interact, let’s try to think of each other as humans, lest we all melt away in this scorching heat.
And now, your 3 things.
- Don’t assume. Maybe you’ve heard this before: when we assume, it makes an ass of u and me. This is true. There are brilliant athletes on this campus, and intelligent, engaged hipsters. Maybe you already understand this-awesome! But if you don’t, you may be missing out on meeting your future best friend just because you think she won’t like you because she’s tool cool/not cool enough/not from where you’re from/was home schooled/is in a sorority/whatever. You also might think you can guess someone’s sexuality by looking at them, but chances are you can’t. So stop trying. Same goes for religious background and ethnicity.
- We have one of the largest international student populations in the country, yet TU has struggled to create a space that fosters cultural exchange and increases understanding. Let’s do better. The international student lunch hosted by the Wesley Foundation on campus is a good place to start (and you get free food!). So is making a conscious effort to reach out, and remembering that if you were thousands of miles from home, you might be a little shy, too.
- If you’re white, read something (anything!) about white privilege. It’s important. This article is a really excellent place to start: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Race and privilege can be really difficult to talk about, but if we all want to live and study in a place of mutual respect, we’ve got to be open to the conversation. This campus community is an ever-evolving work in progress, and it’s within our power to make sure it becomes a better, more inclusive place.
Okay, so this version of this song is terrible, but I couldn’t find a better one, and the song itself is awesome.