Everyone knows the feeling of first day jitters when starting a new class. You may be normally unfazed, but there’s a certain bit of undeniable anxiousness that comes with entering a room full of new people. Here’s the good thing: everyone is feeling it. So how can you break through all the awkwardness of this new situation and get those anxious feelings out of the way so that a new conversation (and maybe something more) can have the potential to spark?
Before even saying a word, the first important thing is to try and relax. You need to seem approachable and friendly to the people around you. Even though you don’t know anyone yet-- and it may be tempting-- don’t immerse yourself in playing with your phone, texting, or hiding under headphones before class starts. Use that time before the professor walks in to scope out your classmates and feel out potential friendships. Make eye contact and smile, then strike up a conversation.
So how exactly do you go about the conversation part? Eduard Ezeanu, self-proclaimed Social Confidence Coach, makes a good point on his blog People Skills Decoded. He brings up the idea that most people hesitate to talk a lot about themselves when starting a conversation; they tend to just try to show interest in the other person, rather than to share information.
Many of these opening conversations during the first few minutes of class are going to be very quick, so why fill them up with the cliché questions that everyone asks? It’s a better idea to try and share a bit about yourself, too. That way, the two of you can find a common interest to bond over. The important thing is to try to get yourself out there, not just drill the other person for information.
Laura Gordon, a sophomore at the University of Vermont, agreed and suggested breaking the ice first, by making a joke about the professor or school before going into details about each other. “Once you’ve both had a good laugh and can relate to each other, ask the usual ‘what major are you?’ or ‘what year are you?’ type of questions,” she said. “It’s better to have a quick laugh and already feel some sort of relation before just getting into the standard things.”
Laura also warned, “Try to seem genuinely interested and make connections to their answers. I’ve probably had those generic conversations with dozens of people and usually never talk to them again, so try to go beyond the scope of general information.”
Though it may be a little nerve-wrecking, especially in an already unfamiliar situation, go ahead and try to chat someone up next time you sit down in class. Chances are, they’ll be glad you took the initiative.