How To Replace Awkward First-Year Questions

It’s that lovely time of year again, when the first-years start rolling into campus with their clean, shining faces, inspiring us to begin another semester of honest hard work … Alright, who am I kidding? I admit it, I’m a first-year. Our faces are more likely to be shining with sweat in this 90-degree weather, and it’s not a lovely time of year—it’s a downright awkward one. 

Take, for example, all the conversations first-years are forced to repeat over and over again with their classmates or even upperclassmen curious enough to ask. It can be anything from which classes you’re taking to how you felt about that sexual assault conversation outside. (Answer: uncomfortable, as I literally had ants in my pants. Just try to shake ants subtly out of your jeans while someone’s discussing STDs). 

The worst thing about these conversations is that you remember absolutely nothing from them. I’ve had the same conversation with a fellow first-year twice in one day because both of us were too polite to point out that we’d already met each other earlier and completely forgotten what the other person had said.

I’m not saying this is because our generation has become apathetic or pathetic. It’s just because of the sheer volume of conversations that we have when we try to meet the other 400 people in our grade, 1,600 people in our school, and 6,900 people in the Claremont Colleges. And the worst part is, it’s the exact same five questions each time.

Exhibit A: The Top Five Questions First-Years Ask Each Other

1. What’s your name? (It’s important to look like you’re paying attention during the answer, even as you think to yourself: I will forget this in the next minute.)

2. Where are you from? (You will forget this unless you happen to be from the same region or like the same sports team. On that note, go Red Sox!)

3. Where do you live? (You will also forget this. Unless you live in Mudd-Blaisdell, in which case you will think to yourself: Ha, they don’t have air conditioning.)

4. What critical inquiry seminar are you taking? (They will never be taking the same one as you.)

5. Who are your sponsors? (They’ll say, “Mary and Tony” and you’ll respond, “Oh, they’re so nice!” even though you’ve never met these people.)

Good as it is to cover the basics, questions like these will invariably lead to awkward second conversations down the road once you realize you have forgotten what other people said and they will have done the same for you—or worse, they remember you and you don’t remember them. Instead, take a stab at these five questions.

Exhibit B: The Top Five Questions First-Years Should Ask Each Other

1. Would You Rather … (the classiest of classics)

… be 8 or 80 for the rest of your life?

… live on a desert island completely alone or with someone you hated?

… lick a stranger’s toes or their armpits?

2. Mate/Marry/Kill

Men: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Ryan Gosling

For a real challenge: Marilyn Manson, the Youngest Jonas Brother (the one even younger than Nick Jonas), Clint Eastwood (your first date would be an interview before the whole Republican convention)

Women: Jessica Alba, Beyoncé, Mila Kunis

For a real challenge: Snooki, Martha Stewart, your ex-girlfriend

3. What food would you not want to eat on a first date? (This is a prime question, because if you ever ask them out, you’ll know where not to take them.)

4. If you could be a singer or in a boy/girl band from the ‘90s, which singer/band would it be? (some options: Backstreet Boys, New Kids on the Block, The Spice Girls, Britney Spears and don’t you dare forget Marky Mark)

5. If you could give one person in the world a present, what would the present be and to whom would you give it? (A deep, soul probing question to leave your new friend pondering.)

Now my challenge for everyone reading this article is to ask the next person you meet these questions instead of the five you’ve grown tired of asking. A day or two later, I guarantee you’ll remember that guy who wanted to be Vanilla Ice or wouldn’t mind licking a stranger’s armpit.

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