We were sitting in one of our first lectures of sophomore year when a friendly looking lad sat down next to us. We glanced over at him briefly before continuing to stare blankly at the front of the lecture hall where the professor was setting up his PowerPoint.


We continued staring ahead, lost in a vegetative state.

“My name is Jen.”

She can’t possibly be talking to us, we thought as we turned over to the student sitting next to us. We found ourselves, however, faced with a grin and an extended hand.
Startled, we introduced ourselves and shook her hand. And then asked her something that unofficially wrote us off as upperclassmen:

“You’re a freshman, right?”

With these four words, we were taken back to our first semester at Cal. We were trying to find a seat in history class. Although there were plenty of empty seats to choose from, we decided to sit next to another student. It felt so natural at the time — we remember thinking, why not? We might get to know someone interesting.

We turned to the girl we had sat next to: “Did you finish last night’s reading?”

She jerked her head around with a startled expression: “Oh… yeah.”

We introduced ourselves.

The girl flashed a tired smile before speaking: “My name is Ashley. I’m a junior transfer… You must be a freshman!”

We looked at her pleasantly surprised and confused: “Oh, how did you know?”

“You’re really friendly.”


End of flashback. Now, we sat as sophomores in our Political Science class, trying our best not to zone out beyond the point of no return before class had even hit the thirty-minute mark – we had already become lifeless, un-outgoing upperclassmen.

So what explains this phenomenon? Why do many of us assume people who initiate random lecture hall conversations are freshman? Of course, not all people who are willing to strike up conversation with a stranger are freshmen. But from our personal experience, they tend to be — at least in those big lecture hall classes.

Well, we can think of two reasons for this “freshmen geniality”:

1) Freshmen are just beginning their college experience and have more energy to meet more people. For the rest of us, that first year honeymoon is long gone!

2) Many freshmen start out without the same group of high school friends that they had before. Even if many high school friends end up at UC Berkeley as well, old friends might be hard to meet up with, especially if everyone has different schedules. Thus, freshmen have more incentive to make new friends and meet new people. They need friends. Upperclassmen, on the other hand, have already gone through the trouble of socializing to make new friends. We have our circles. Our psychological desire to fit in with a group has been satisfied.

Either way, we could all use a little more freshmen mentality in our lives sometimes. It doesn’t take much to make lecture a little more interesting or find study-buddy for the next midterm — just a friendly, “Hey, how’d you like yesterday’s homework?”

You never know.

Image source: tostie14 under Creative Commons

a6802726 said:
Oct 24, 2012 at 9:05 pm

I’ve said that least 6802726 times. SKC was here…