23 October 2014: Forging new friendships over meals

Written by Jacqueline Su | Image by Alyson Adrianne Rozells

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A few weeks into the school year, the Office of the Dean of Students (DoS) sponsored an event called “Lunch Tag”, which ran for a period of three weeks from 24 August to 12 September 2014.

The set-up was simple: students signed up through a website to be randomly paired with another student for a meal. The pair then coordinates a time to meet for a meal. Once the meal is completed, the online system would enter the students back into the random draw to be paired with another student. Each meal counted as a single point earned for the participant. To earn an extra point per meal, the lunch tag pair could send in a picture of the meeting.

The programme was introduced at Yale-NUS by Dean’s Fellow (DF) Anh Vo, who graduated from Yale University. She explained, “I’ve done it before [at Yale] and really liked it because it was a fun and great way of meeting people!”

Anh added that Lunch Tag was intentionally set up as a competition to motivate students to meet frequently and to avoid stagnation after one or two meals. “It’s something you can’t do for a long period of time,” she said, “and we wanted people to sign up and be committed to it.”

Yale-NUS students were very committed to the competition, with a total of 183 participants from the Classes of 2017 and 2018, and 463 unique meals recorded in the system. Many students appreciated the opportunity to branch outside of their social circles in a relatively casual fashion.

Theodore Lai, Class of 2017, shared, “There’s no cost to do it, you don’t have to miss class…it was a good opportunity to meet new people, and it kind of extinguished the awkwardness.”

The spirit of Lunch Tag certainly struck a chord with the Yale-NUS community. As the competition progressed, it was a chance to get creative with increasingly fun meal ideas and not just have lunch in the dining hall, but also picnics on the grass, snack breaks, and other fun outings.

As Anh said, “It kind of fosters the idea that you can literally have meals with anyone and get over the awkwardness, because we’re such a small community.”

Many students felt like they had a chance to meet people they only passed in the lifts; others appreciated the opportunities for the two classes of 2017 and 2018 to get to know each other effectively. Regina Lee, Class of 2018 said, “I prefer one-to-one personal interactions where you can really get to know the other person… and especially sophomores who told me about the professors and what kinds of courses they are taking.”

The overall winner, Koon Min Lee from the Class of 2018, finished with 31 points, with runners-up in each Residential College (RC). Prizes were sponsored by DoS, complemented by prizes in each of the individual RCs, though everyone who participated walked away with full bellies and new friends.

Jane Zhang, Class of 2018, echoed this sentiment in her efforts to continue the momentum gained from Lunch Tag: “In a school as small as Yale-NUS, every lunch can be a lunch tag, which is my goal because I feel that I want to try to sit with new people every so often.”