How to Avoid Awkwardness in a Small Collegetown

23 January 2012
by A.M. Murphy

Few understand the faults of a lifetime spent living in Delaware more than us local residents. Firstly, those outside the state are unlikely to know who we are and, if they do, probably wonder why anyone would ever want to live here.

If asked, “What do you do for fun in Delaware?” the common DE teenager mumbles about the movies (all 4 theaters), our tax free shopping, and maybe manages to mention ice or roller skating before the inevitable cry of, “We’re really close to Philadelphia!”

University of Delaware, where past acquaintances
are always running into each other.

Nothing, however, can be more ingratiating about living in a small state than the fact that, after living here for most of your life, you start to realize that you know everyone. Well, obviously not everyone, but the longer a person attends school in our dear state, the less strangers you encounter on a daily basis.

This situation reaches its climax for locals at UD, especially if you are part of the unlucky set whose entire high school, middle school, elementary school, and their mothers decided to come along with you. Unless you choose to lock yourself up in your dorm all day (which will do no good, that kid from middle school who smelled funny then and hasn’t changed lives across your hall), it is essential that you stop cursing the gods and take charge of your awkward situation! Here are some ways how:

1. Dress like you’re about to see your ex…

Because there’s no avoiding it, you’ll run into them eventually. Not only is it likely you will see them, but you may even run into their current girlfriends. It may be from across the street, down the Green, or sadly in your own lecture hall, but trust me, if you took the extra time that morning and avoided the sweatpants/t-shirt/Ugg boots/North Face jacket look, you will feel stronger and more confident.

In an outfit of your choice, you will be able to walk by with your head held high. This policy also works for whatever haters you have roaming around from your high school.

2. Take caution in your gossip.

Don’t forget, not only are there kids from your high school at UD, but you have to worry about the network from the other high schools in the area. After a while, you will see how deep the connections with people go; so and so went to middle school with this person from another high school, or their parents go to the same church, so on so on.

The point is, you can rarely be too careful with whom you’re talking to about whatever juicy piece of news you heard, and if you don’t watch out, the story could be quickly traced back to you. If you’ve really got something good to tell, save it for you best of friends and leave it at that.

3. Master the art of the sidelong glance.

One day, you will be walking across the bridge to your early afternoon class and suddenly, on the horizon, will loom a sight that you will come to dread whenever seen: The Acquaintance. You know of these people; you may have attended the same school for years before college, been on the same sports team, went to the same after school club, what have you. Chances are you’re even Facebook friends.

But now, it’s been months or years since you last talked and in that time you have established you will never be the closest of friends, not because you don’t like each other but because that’s simply the way things work out sometimes.

However, since you are both still civil decent people, you know you would feel guilty if you ignored their existence completely. So now at this crucial moment when the two of you come to pass, an entire range of social graces has to happen:

  • Don’t make eye contact too soon. About 3 seconds will prove sufficient.
  • Fiddle. Scratch your ear, adjust your iPod speakers, glance at the trees, do whatever necessary to ensure no more than those 3 seconds of eye contact.
  • Keep the Crucial Moment simple. When you both make eye contact and acknowledge each other’s presence, don’t do anything outrageous. A simple nod and smile should be enough to get you through, and then you can sigh with relief and continue on with your life.

These three pieces of advice should be enough to get you started on your journey as an in-state student. As time goes on, you will meet more people at college who will become your new group of friends and eventually any previous school drama will truly stay in the past where it belongs.

For more original insight, check out these posts:
Top 4 Things to Keep In Mind Before Showing Up to College
How to Coast Through College

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2 thoughts on “How to Avoid Awkwardness in a Small Collegetown

  1. Really enjoy how you gave a title to things like "The Acquaintance" and "The Crucial Moment". Everyone pretty much knows they feel bad when they don't address this "Acquaintance" after eye contact is made

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