Think back in time, like last week. As you walked across campus last week, do you remember seeing a stranger, a person in one of your classes that you never talk to, a semi-friend, or even a professor?

Did you see someone that you really wanted to avoid without seeming too rude or seeming too nice that you end up having to talk to them?

Throughout my daily interactions with my fellow warriors, I have come to conclude that we would rather say hello to people we know than people we don’t know, simply to avoid awkwardness.

What did you do?

Last week, when you ran into that stranger on campus, which of the following did you do as you passed by each other?

  • A head nod up or down?
  • A half-smile or a fake, cheesy smile?
  • A verbal, “Hello!”?
  • Looked to the floor admiring its beauty?
  • Passed by in complete ignorance of the other?
  • Or did you pull your phone up to your face so fast that you almost hit yourself?

Have you ever initiated one of these interactions but the greeting was not reciprocated? I often find myself in the same situations. Like many of my fellow classmates, I don’t like to be left “hanging.”

It’s also very awkward when I ask for a high five and end up getting a fist pump or no high five at all. It creates an uncomfortable moment, yet we all make a conscious choice of how we will acknowledge the person we see walking towards us.

These conscious decisions have the power to make an encounter with a stranger incredibly awkward or not awkward at all. Since these choices hold so much power, I am finding it harder and harder to know what actions to take when I encounter someone as I journey across campus.

Can these interactions be avoided?

No, you cannot avoid them. I must admit that I have tried avoiding individuals many times in the past. Being a student here for almost four years, I have learned that it’s rude not to acknowledge the people walking by me.

In the past, I would typically make eye contact with the people walking by, but I always found a reason to shy away from any interaction beyond that. When I am in these situations today, I often resort to a simple nod or a half smile while listening to my headphones.

However, I feel like my choice of interaction is still robbing me of an opportunity. The opportunity to meet someone new. The opportunity to encourage someone on campus. The opportunity to make someone’s day – even if they are a complete stranger.

WSU is filled with some of the most interesting and friendly individuals. You never know how far a simple hello can go.

Who knows, you may find yourself opening your comfort doors to a friend or potential romantic partner.

Maybe you will even encounter a stranger coming out of an exam that killed a little bit of their soul. You never know what a smile could mean to that person. It could serve as a reminder that everything is going to be okay and motivate them to try harder on the next exam.

I understand hiding in our own friends, phones, or worries can be more comfortable than a moment of awkwardness, especially during this time in the semester.

But trust me, stepping outside of your comfort zones and embracing the awkwardness has the potential to impact someone else’s day in a positive way.

College Life Tip

Say hello – it feels good and it is like a dying art. Instead of only texting, emailing, snapping, tweeting, or listening to some sick beats, look around as you walk through campus, and say hello to the people passing by.

You never know how big of an impact it might make in someone’s life.

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Jorge Ornelas

Jorge Ornelas is a Communication Studies and Spanish double major from Andover, MN who enjoys listening to music.

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