For you new students, in your first months at university you’ll be meeting more people, in less time, than you probably have in any other period of your life. Most of you are in the same situation – new to town, don’t know many people yet, worried you might not make any friends. This means everyone is friendlier and more open than usual, but also that you’ll likely be hearing the same questions over and over: ‘What are you studying?’ Or maybe, if you’re not speaking Swedish: ‘Where are you from?’
Don’t get me wrong, these are important questions to ask. But if you’re going to befriend someone you’ll get around to learning the answers to these questions eventually, anyways. I’d like to suggest some other questions as alternatives, to learn the really important information before you decide whether you even care if they’re German and they study Environmental Science.
Personally, I could determine whether I’ll be friends with someone in only one question: ‘Have you read Harry Potter?’ If the answer to this is anything other than ‘Of course, like seven times’ then I’m going to quickly start preparing an excuse to leave.
On the topic of books, asking what the last book or article they read was is a great way to find out what someone’s interests are – it’s basically like asking ‘What do you care about?’ but in a less direct, more socially acceptable way. Ditto with ‘What’s your favorite documentary?’ or ‘Can you recommend a good podcast?’
Maybe, to set yourself apart and make a more memorable first impression, you’d like to start with an icebreaker – ‘Does it smell like updog in here, to you?’ They’ll respond by asking ‘What’s updog?’ and you can very suavely say ‘Not much, how about you?’
Jokes aside, what it will come down to isn’t so much the question you’re asking, but rather the fact that you’re asking a question. To all you arriving new students, welcome, and I wish you the best of luck finding yourself a circle of new friends. And to all the returning students, welcome back, and don’t forget to stay curious – there are always interesting people to meet.