November 11, 2016

SERENDIPITY | Charlie’s Cold Coffee Challenge (CCC)

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Why do we go to college? You’re probably thinking that the answer here is simple. Well Charlie, if you would stop writing this article in the middle of Sociology 1101, you would probably realize that you go to college for the superior education and job opportunities! Yeah, most of America would probably agree with you.

In typical Charlie fashion, I’m going to counter the first paragraph I’ve written for this article and say something vaguely controversial that I’m sure everyone reading this will agree with anyway (I tend to do that all the time in order to increase viewership and Facebook likes): we don’t go to college for the textbook education. Wow. What an absolutely revolutionary revelation Charlie!

Well it’s true! We don’t! We come here for the education in addition to:

  1. Dorm Experiences
  3. Drama
  4. Intramurals
  5. Clubs
  6. Roommates
  7. Romances
  8. Bonding Over Pain
  9. Sports Teams But Maybe Not At Cornell Although Huge Shoutout To Cornell Football For Making Cornell’s Sports Expenditures A Little Bit Less Than A Complete Utter Waste
  10. Unforgettable and Unexplainable Friendships

Based on this brief list (I’m sure that everyone’s reasons for coming to Cornell vary slightly), it seems that when discounting the educational value of Cornell, we go to college for the human experience. We go to college to learn, not from our Harvard Ph.D professors that weren’t good enough to go back and teach at Harvard (completely kidding here, I understand that this is a completely tasteless joke that mitigates the accomplishments and intellectual capabilities at nearly every professor at my university and only perpetuates the toxic nature that is the elitist framework the Ivy League perpetuates – please have mercy on my soul), but from our peers. Our peers are the final piece in the quintessential college experience; we marinate in their insights and experiences.

Well… we’re supposed to. None of this marination truly happens. Psychological studies have proven that we surround ourselves with like-minded people (which creates an interesting paradox in which we strive for diversity while clinging to likeness). Even Facebook’s timeline algorithm fills your page with posts it thinks you would agree with and like, stifling diversity even further. Nevermind the fact that this kind of paradigm silences opinions and therefore, in my view, progress, this echo chamber prevents college students from truly making the best out of their college experiences.

We aren’t really learning that much from our peers. We are only learning horizontally instead of vertically. From a business perspective, a vast majority of my friends on campus are pursuing some form of business. As a result, our shared experiences, for the most part, can be tied together with business clubs, business recruitment/interviews and other business friends. Yes, there is learning – after all, my quantitative friend can help me stroll through a discounted cash flow (DCF) while my qualitative friend can tell me all about the BCG Matrix, but that’s the extent of it. They can’t tell me about how to become a beekeeper, nor can they tell me about the extent to which sulfides impact wine. If I wanted to learn more about, say, racial mobility and the dynamics of race and inequality in the United States, I would have to find someone else. In our current social framework, this would be tough; I would either need to reach out to a friend in sociology (which I have few) or find someone I’ve never met before.

Last year, while eating alone in Appel Commons, a senior (whose name has escaped me) sat down across from me and said: it looks like you’re just on your phone, let’s have a chat. I was startled. Who dare interrupt me from my hotdog, french fries and YouTube? Initially, I engaged in the conversation out of politeness. Maybe, if I just talk to this guy for five minutes, he’ll leave me alone. Well, he didn’t leave me alone, and our conversation lasted over an hour. Was it absolutely interesting? Though this experience is one I’ll mostly keep to myself, I’ll say this: I got the opportunity to dip into the life of a working class student striving to become a writer.

The conversation was meaningful and memorable. At the height of it, both me and the senior were open with each other, willing to continue the conversation and genuinely excited to listen. So, if this little gem was possible between a timid transfer student and a senior with his foot already out the door, why is it so difficult for strangers to connect at Cornell? Everyone here is bound together by one common trait – we’re here to learn and build ourselves up towards our personal definition of greatness. It shouldn’t be that hard to talk.

As I was thinking about the experience several weeks later, I recognized the necessity for connecting with my peers. I needed to switch up the palette and color my life with more perspective – I wasn’t about to let this once-in-a-lifetime experience that is Cornell go to waste. Luckily, the solution I came up with was simple – cold coffee. The solution was meant to act as a shock. By forcing myself to approach strangers and get to know them, I would be rapidly introduced to people in a deviant sort of manner. Ultimately, this process would force me to adapt and be more open to new people. Then, I would be able to laterally learn.

This was the weekly solution (it’s called Cold Coffee because it’s a play on the Cold Call):

Step 1: Grab coffee with a random person you’ve never met before.

Step 2: Do it again with a different person.

My personal results seemed to fare well. Though I have only been able to have Cold Coffee once or twice, each event was quite memorable, and I am striving to complete more of these impromptu dates before I graduate.

George R.R. Martin, in A Dance with Dragons, writes “a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives one.” You are here at Cornell University of all places. You aren’t just living a life. You’re living a life that most people dream of. Go out there and live a thousand lives. Live the thousands of lives that represent your diverse, intelligent and unique classmates.