Dinner with 7 Carey Strangers

Michelle Jones

Michelle serves as the Associate Director of Coaching and Education for the Career Development Office at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, where she supports all students in their career growth. She comes to Carey with 7 years of experience working with students 1:1, teaching courses, developing workshops, and managing large-scale career events. Michelle holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from James Madison University and a M.A. in College Student Development from Appalachian State University. She is a certified Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), CareerLeader, and StrenghtsQuest practitioner and is a certified MBA Career Coach through The Academies.

By -

On October 22, seven Carey strangers gathered in the Career Development Office for dinner, each bringing food or drink for their dining companions. They had all been randomly selected to participate in the inaugural Dinner with 7 Carey Strangers. Inspired by Georgetown’s Dinner with 7 Strangers, the Carey Career Development Office wanted to replicate this unique experience that fosters community bonding between students, faculty, and staff.

We had five students, each representing a different program, one faculty and one staff member.

  • Mitchell Alvarez | MS Health Care Management
  • Adler Archer | Healthcare Certificate
  • Aatmaja Desai | Global MBA 2017
  • Luke Lavoie | Staff, Office of Marketing & Communications
  • Nayoung Louie | Faculty, Discovery to Market
  • Ruibo Wang | MS Finance
  • Ran Zhou | MS Marketing

This is their story.

What were your first thoughts when you were invited to the Dinner with 7 Carey Strangers (DW7CS)?

Aatmaja: My instant reaction was “Is this legitimate?” Then I thought, this is one of those emails that goes out to many of us but it still mentions “you have been hand-picked.” After I emailed Michelle, I got to know that this was real and then I was very happy to know that I was one of the 7 chosen ones.

Ruibo: I thought it was a genius idea. As a Chinese student, I usually hang out with Chinese community. It’s quite a good opportunity to get to know other parts of Carey.

Ran: I like this idea. It’s exciting to think that you have no idea whom you would be having dinner with. It’s like a blind date with other 6 strangers but far from awkward because knowing that we all are from Carey makes me feel connected with others even though we have not met before.

Luke: When I was initially invited to DW7CS, I thought: “This could be really fun or really awkward.” I was a little hesitant because I don’t really like to talk about myself, and this is the kind of thing where you have to do that. But I also wanted to meet some new people and hear their stories: what led them to Carey; what about business interested them; what they thought of Baltimore; etc.

What were your first impressions once the dinner started?

Ruibo: It was so diversified. Everyone has different backgrounds. We come from different programs and different countries.

Ran: We had pasta (I love pasta), meatballs, homemade salad, and even wine! Also the view of the harbor with sunset was perfect. It was beyond my expectations. You can tell from the details such as candles, table settings and selection of participants (we are all from different programs or operations) that Michelle had put her mind into organizing this dinner.

Luke: I could feel a little nervous energy in the room, but I think that’s good in these types of situations because it forces people outside their comfort zone. Another impression I had was the diversity of food on the plate, and how good it looked. Did I mention I was hungry?

Mitchell: To start off, I loved the location. The room that the dinner was in had a spectacular view and the room was set up as if it was a private room in a 5-star restaurant.

How did 7 strangers start the conversation?

Adler: We chatted a bit about whether or not it was some sort of social experiment that was being recorded on hidden cameras. Eventually we moved on to more pressing matters (i.e. the wine).

Nayoung: I don’t remember exactly but there was no awkward moment. The conversation flew easily.

Mitchell: We started off our conversation by introducing ourselves, and saying something that we felt was unique to us. After talking for a while about our experiences and what we want to do with our lives, we decided to go through some of the prepared ice breaker questions that were provided for us. These were great, and really got the conversation going.

Ruibo: It was quite natural. We introduced ourselves to each other and had small conversations while waiting in line to pick up food. When we really settled down at the table, we were quite familiar with each other.

What did the group discuss?

Ran: We discussed a bunch of interesting things. From the beginning it was personal experience such as what you have done before you went to Carey, what you like about Baltimore. Then we tried questions from the pool like what is the best advice that you ever received (Never get married! LOL), what is the superpower you would like to have, what is the most weird question you were asked in an interview, what place would you go for a weekend if money is not a problem. We all have wonderful memories to share. After that the discussion went smoothly to everyday topics like dress code (I didn’t know that Baltimore residents have the worst dress code in the States), makeup, TV shows, best restaurants. The atmosphere is cozy and relaxing. Everyone enjoyed it.

Ruibo: We talked about several things. From the impression of Baltimore to what brought us here. Everyone was happy to share their thoughts and experiences.

Luke: The conversation pretty much ran the gamut from Baltimore life to popular culture – social media, movies, television shows – to the cultural differences around education in the east and the west. We talked a lot about traveling too.

Was there a moment when the group started bonding? If so, please describe it.

Adler: I was struck from the start by how interested everyone was in connecting. I’ve done a lot of networking in the past and am accustomed to at least a few people seeming to be completely uninterested in chatting. The evening flowed quite naturally.

Luke: It’s hard to pinpoint a particular moment, but I do remember a fun, animated conversation about television shows. I guess I’d have to say we started bonding right from the beginning. I think everyone came in with the right attitude, and because of that the conversation, and laughs, came pretty easily.

How did you feel leaving the dinner?

Adler: I was happy to make new contacts, and potentially new friends from the event. It also gave me stronger sense of the goals of some of the high caliber students that I get to study with.

Mitchell: Leaving the dinner, I knew I had made new friends and connections.

Ran: The dinner went so well. Michelle told us that we could stay longer if we’d like, and that’s exactly what we did. We chatted for another half hour. Though it was a 2.5 hour dinner, I feel that I’ve known them for years.

Nayoung: It was fun. I am connecting with one of the people I met next week.

Would you recommend DW7CS to other students/faculty/staff members?

Aatmaja: I would DEFINITELY recommend everyone to participate in this initiative. I think it’s an amazing way to meet some of the nicest people from diverse educational and cultural backgrounds and build relationships that are hard to build otherwise. This will also allow students, professors and staff to learn from each other, which is usually not possible in the routine setting.

Luke: I would absolutely recommend this to others. I think it can be easy to get isolated in our little bubbles, and we don’t realize the vastness and diversity of the Carey community. It’s good to sit down with people with different backgrounds and perspectives because it can challenge your thinking or inform you in unexpected ways. Plus it was a pretty good time.

Mitchell: Absolutely! This was a great experience for everyone involved, and best of all, we walked in as strangers and left as friends.

Nayoung: Yes!

What would be the benefits of implementing this program on a greater scale for the Carey community?

Aatmaja: This will allow building of relationships and create a sense of community/family within Carey. I exchanged a “hello” to one of the 7 members the next morning; I would have not noticed that person if I would not have been part of the dinner. I see this concept going viral and creating a lot more smiles and hugs at Carey.

Adler: It gives people an opportunity to meet others who they might not ordinarily come into contact with. I’m an online student and very interested in networking with other students on campus so this event was a great way to do that.

Ran: Unlike formal networking event, which I could only know someone’s name and nothing much, this dinner gives me the chance to sit with 6 other people for 2 hours and share personal and valuable thoughts. It’s a great way to build friendship because friendship needs time to cultivate. In Carey community, we all have different backgrounds and we all would like to share with others, but we don’t have the chance. It was wonderful that I learned so much from others (like Baltimore’s best restaurants, what’s it like in London and Miami, and how’s the course from an instructor’s standpoint).

Ruibo: This program can help the community to interact more frequently.

Mitchell: The benefits of taking this large scale, would be to have students and staff intermingle and meet each other outside of the classroom. This would be a great networking experience for everyone involved.

Comments are closed.