The coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for first-year students to make connections and form friendships. Penn State Berks is working to remedy that with a new program, titled "Speed Friending." The next event is scheduled at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10. This event is limited to Penn State Berks students.
The program is coordinated by Colleen Tillger, coordinator of counseling services, and Ivy Wang, coordinator of residence life. Tillger explainsed, “Ivy and I both noticed many students seemed to feel isolated and lonely, having difficulty making friends on campus. So we came up with the idea of Speed Friending.
Speed Friending is a virtual event based on the concept of Speed Dating, where a group of individuals is paired off for short periods of time in a round-robin fashion, so everyone has the opportunity to meet and get to know every other person in the group.”
Students start in a main Zoom room and review the ground rules. They are given conversation prompts to help break the ice and get to know each other. Then they go into breakout rooms to pair off for approximately five to eight minutes at a time. At the end, all participants return to the main Zoom room for a recap, and students can share their contact information via the chat box with others who they’d like to get to know better.
“This event is really relaxing and the connections made in this event feels genuine. Since you are in a breakout room with one person, it makes it easier to open up and find common ground with the other person in the room,” commented Aadithya Sreeprakash.
"Although I was a little nervous about speed friending at first, the people I met were really enjoyable and it was obvious that I had made some new close friends!" added Emily Butkovich.
The first series of four events were held in October and were targeted toward residential students. Each event was centered around a specific topic. Topics included gaming, media, hobbies, and general chit chat.
Wang stated, “This event really appealed to the students who attended. Colleen and I witnessed their excitement grow each time they returned to the "main" Zoom room to be paired with another new student. It was really great to see connections being fostered in this virtual format despite COVID limitations.”