The dinner, which occurs once each semester, gives students a chance to break from their dining hall routines and meet new people.
The Office of Residential Life has organized a Dinner with Six Strangers since the spring of 2004. Mary Pat McMahon, director of Residential Life, explained that the idea behind the event “is to bring faculty, staff and students together for a delicious meal and conversation. We offer questions that prompt discussion, sometimes around a theme and other times just to discuss favorite places at Bowdoin and in Brunswick.”
Whether they’re discussing social life, academics or memories from their orientation trips, students seem to enjoy the chance to leave their comfort zones and engage with a new group of peers.
First-time attendee Oliver Klingenstein ’15, said, “After going through names, and where people were from, there was a lull in conversation. After only a brief period of awkwardness, though, it seemed as if my table remembered that we were dining with fellow Bowdoin students, and that chances are people would have some great stuff to say. This was certainly the case. Questions began darting around, and all of a sudden an hour had passed. This positive experience, as brief as it was, made me think I could strike up a good conversation with pretty much anyone on this campus.”
After going through names, and where people were from, there was a lull in conversation. After only a brief period of awkwardness, though, it seemed as if my table remembered that we were dining with fellow Bowdoin students, and that chances are people would have some great stuff to say. This was certainly the case.”—Oliver Klingenstein ’15
Cayla Liptak ’14 also attended Dinner with Six Strangers for the first time this year. She said, “I was surprised by the number of participants … and I was equally impressed by the awesome dining hall service. It was great to see how many Bowdoin students are willing to sort of put themselves out there and meet new community members.”
Liptak was also curious to know how Res Life arranged the event’s seating. At such a small school, is it difficult for the organizers to ensure that everyone dines with six actual strangers? McMahon explained, “We do our best to place different majors, class years, faculty and staff from different departments together.”
So, the meaning of the word ‘stranger’ may be relative on Bowdoin’s campus, but the continued demand for Dinner with Six Strangers proves that students feel they don’t know many of their fellow community members as well as they’d like. “Sign-ups are always at capacity,” said McMahon, “and there are a certain number of die-hard regulars who attend just about every semester.”
Sam Sabasteanski ’13, is one of those regulars: this was the third time he had attended Dinner with Six Strangers. “Sitting down with a group of people I don’t know well always reminds me how diverse Bowdoin students are. It really is true that each student here has an interesting story and has something unique to bring to the table,” he said.
The event is sponsored by the Donald and Barbara Kurtz Fund, which supports events that bring faculty, staff and students together through the College House system. Dining Services caters the seated dinners, hosted by three college houses each fall and two each spring.
Story by Lidey Heuck ’13