Making friends is no simple task, with or without a pandemic. The return to campus earlier this month marked the first time the majority of students could see long-missed friends in nearly a year. The 2023 Class Council is helping their classmates foster new connections through a “friend-matching” program.
“Everyone formed friend groups first semester of [our first] year, and then we got sent home,” said Susu Gharib ’23. “You’re stuck with that one friend group, and you didn’t get the opportunity to branch out.”
The program, which was partially inspired by the dating app Tinder, was intended to facilitate social interaction amongst students who had not become friends before leaving campus in the spring of 2020. It started shortly before the beginning of the spring semester, when organizers sent a Google Forms survey to all sophomores. It had several questions, ranging from the straightforward “Are you living on or off campus?” to the more casual “What dining hall do you prefer?”
Responses to the questions were sorted by Gharib, the council’s programming director, who created groups of five or six students. Each group was then sent an email with instructions to get in contact with the other members of the friend-matching group. The form gathered 150 responses from sophomores.
Students were primarily matched based on their personal interests and their preference for how they intended to meet (e.g. “Zoom call”). This was intended to encourage meaningful interaction between members of the friend-matching groups. After being matched, students were given suggestions for COVID-19-safe activities, including the ZOOM-ba event hosted by Thando Khumalo ’23 and a socially distanced meal on the steps of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
The questionnaire was met initially with some hesitation by the sophomore class. According to the 2023 Class Council, some were concerned that the friend matching primarily catered to white students. The 2023 Class Council welcomed this criticism and worked with it.
“I tried to make [the groups] as diverse as possible,” said Gharib in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
“We have open communication with our class. They should criticize us. If there’s anything they want to see, we’ll do it,” added Tiffany Delgado ’23, Class of 2023 vice president, in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “We take [criticism] to heart because we all really care about our class.”
Following the initial hesitation, the matchmaking program was more positively received.
“It has been going over really well. People are leaning into it,” said Gharib. “All of my friends in my [college] house have said they reached out to the people I grouped them with and made group chats or GroupMe groups.”
Due to the program’s success, the 2023 Class Council is considering redoing the program with new questions and groups.
“I could totally see us doing something similar again with different groupings or activities,” said Rory Devlin ’23, president of the 2023 Class Council, in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
To the 2023 Class Council, the friend-matching program is a model for the type of events they should be organizing to facilitate class unity in a largely virtual semester.
“You’re supposed to do things for your class so that they can meet new people and have a cohesive class,” said Gharib. “It’s what class council is supposed to be.”