Columns, Opinion

Wake Me Up Boston: The elusive 18,000

As I make my usual trip to Warren Starbucks from my central campus housing, followed by either crossing the street to CAS or COM and ending on Bay State Road to complete a day of classes, this thought always crosses my mind: How on earth does BU have a population of 18,000 undergraduate students?

That’s 18,000 students all going about their individual days, and I only know a few. When I say “know,” I mean really know know. I don’t mean that I know who their friends are, where they’re from, what their major is or what they do on weekends. I mean that I know what brings them the most happiness, their unique quirks and their innermost worries.

On an average day, I find myself seeing the same familiar faces — faces traveling along similar paths as I am on a typical weekday, but I do not know these faces beyond their physical attributes. These faces might also stop at Starbucks and pick up their morning latte macchiato, stop for a bit and chat with a friend in line, and then set off to to their next destination along this stretch of Commonwealth Avenue. It boggles my mind how so many people attend the same school at the same stage in their lives with many of the same struggles that come with being an adult. They all are trying to navigate their way in this confusing, wonderful world.

Yet somehow, it is simultaneously very difficult for us to form a deeper connection, to get beyond the hardened shell in which we have hidden ourselves, to break through the physical barrier that divides our similarities and accentuates our separation from one another.

BU is a big school, but I think many can attest to the fact that there are times it can seem smaller than ever. Within the BU community itself, there lies a parallel universe of multiple smaller communities, branched off according to individual colleges, majors, clubs, teams, Greek organizations and various other circumstances that unify groups of people. This is a situation that is not unique to BU, but to colleges everywhere.

We tend to converge with people whose interests outwardly align with ours, not for any other underlying, complex reason other that it being easy and convenient. There is nothing wrong with meeting people and forming college relationships this way — in fact, finding common points of interest and utilizing them as a social opportunity is a great way to start.

Beyond the comfortable circle we establish for ourselves exists a world of people we otherwise would not know — people we pass and see every day on our college campus whom we normally wouldn’t think to reach out. I am guilty of this every day, as I continue my daily routine without thinking twice about the thousands of students doing the same thing around me, besides the ones I am already friends with or are within my social environment.

Many of these students might not be so comfortably nestled in a social circle that is easily defined, but simply just are. Some might even fit into a smaller, tight-knit community and still not genuinely know the majority of their peers. As a whole, it is undoubtedly impossible to be aware of all 18,000 students attending school with us, but we can start somewhere, which leads me to my next train of thought: the concept of diversity.

BU is known for its diversity, but why is it sometimes so hard for our student body to mingle and join forces within its diverse groups? Because it defies the expected and requires us to stop the routine flow of our days to notice the unnoticed. We walk the same sidewalks and attend the same classes and study in the same library as so many other BU students who each have their own unique stories and experiences to share with whoever will listen. 

My personal goal by the end of my college career is to meet and get to know as many people as I can — whenever I can — within the larger community of our school, even if it means starting a random conversation with a person next to me in line for coffee. Easier said than done, but who knows? Maybe I would never have encountered that person if it weren’t for that exact moment. Maybe I won’t even like that person. What I do know is that I tried and am one step closer to making the most of my college experience by venturing out into the unknown.

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