What comes to your mind when you hear the word “stranger” without any context? A suspicious person on the street, a random person you met in an elevator, or an acquaintance who avoids eye contact with you? Notice that none of the thoughts listed above brings any enthusiasm to you. What if out of nowhere, you receive an email from your organization inviting you to join six strangers for a dinner? I got the same from Carey with the title “Dinner with 7 Carey Strangers.” At first, I thought this is one of those spams sent out to multiple people, but when I found out that it was from our Career Development Office, I immediately said “yes.”
And, I am glad I did.
Once I asked a friend, “what is the one word that comes to your mind that sums up my personality?” He said, “gregarious.” I, too, would like to think that I am an outgoing person. However, I have a core group of friends at Carey with whom I study, hang out and depend on. Because of the comfort level I have with them, and because of my loyalty towards them, I tend not to go out and make new friends that often. I think most of us follow this pattern upon entering a new environment, especially if away from our home culture.
The dinner with strangers was a unique opportunity to meet six other people that I did not choose to spend an evening with. While there was a curiosity about it, there was also this skepticism about how the evening would go. To my surprise, the group of one professor, one staff member, and five students from different programs, did not struggle to start and engage in the conversation.
Most of us were from different ethnicity, educational backgrounds, and interests, none of which was a barrier to our communication; rather, we learned a lot about different cultures in just a few hours. Something I found especially wonderful about the event were the interactions one could have with a professor and a staff member. I not only learned about the professor as a person, but also understand the challenges and expectations she faces in the class. The two and a half hours were full of surprises, laughs, stories, and excitement.
What happened after that? I got a couple of new LinkedIn contacts and a couple of business cards, but most importantly, now I share more smiles and hugs at Carey than I used to before the dinner. I truly believe this concept can go viral and create this amazing connection between wonderful people whom one cannot meet through their programs.
I personally think that the title of this initiative should be changed to “Dinner with 7 Carey Friends You Are Yet to Meet” instead of “Dinner with 7 Carey Strangers.” After all, weren’t all your friends strangers to you at one point in time?