Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 8, 2022

Learning how to choose a seat in a lecture hall, one day at a time!

By DIKSHA IYER and LAURA SALEM | October 8, 2022

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COURTESY OF LAURA SALEM

Now that their first fully in-person semester has begun, Salem and Iyer reflect on the changes and challenges.

Our first fully in-person year at college has not been without its ups and downs (or else, would we even be true to this column?). Anytime we enter a new experience, it’s most likely not done properly, thus leading to our current predicament: lecture halls. 

How does one sit in a lecture hall? What if you get a left-handed desk by accident, but then you can’t move or else everyone will know that you made a mistake? Because, of course, everyone is paying attention to you and only you. 

Every time we enter the lecture hall, we are confronted with the huge decision of where to sit and how to get to the seat. The intense awkwardness of trying to squeeze through the aisles, not trip over everyone's feet and not stick our butts in faces that we aren’t acquainted with almost makes us want to miss the class all together. Also, we always have to leave at least one seat in between us and the stranger we’re next to so as to not look like a creep. 

Unfortunately, this gap makes it difficult to talk to the people around you and almost impossible to make friends with those in your lecture. Picking the perfect seat in lecture is not where the problems stop. 

Once we have found our seats, we are confronted with the world’s smallest desks that don't even fit the entirety of our laptops. As people who enjoy alternating between handwritten notes and typing notes on a computer, we are forced to choose between the two as there is not enough room on the desk for both. The desks also squeak really loudly. 

In our evaluation of Hopkins lecture halls, we have to conclude that the hall with the best desk-and-seat combo is Mudd. Gilman is an atrocity, Maryland is painful and Hodson is passable. 

Now that we have to physically go to lectures, it feels like our entire college experience has changed. We both feel new pressures and anxieties to look and act a certain way during lectures. We always assume that people are paying more attention to us than they really are. It’s dumb, we know. 

We both feel extremely drained from this semester, as we transition from the sedentary lifestyle we’ve enjoyed the past two years (we are nothing if not habitual homebodies) to the active lifestyle of college (actually having to leave the dorm to go to class is a tragedy). 

Previously, we both attended lectures from the security of our dorm. Within that space, we had the freedom to interact with the material to the extent that we wanted to. It didn’t hurt that we got a few extra minutes of sleep too. 

Now, we are flung into situations where we have to physically attend every lecture, every discussion section and every club meeting. Physically traveling places takes more mental energy than we are willing to admit. It can almost feel daunting. 

College has also been quite isolating, which is surprising because of the in-person aspect of it. One of the reasons that we were so glad to come back in person was the increase in interactions that we could have. We anticipated that our friend group would grow. It doesn’t seem like it has, and this is weirdly disappointing. 

When we attend lectures, we sit in our seats anxious that the people with friends are noticing that we are sitting alone, and we leave as soon as the professor is done talking. We thought that it would be easier to make friends, but actually, it seems easier to avoid talking to anybody. We’re still not sure if this is a result of us being sophomores or if it is another college thing that we have yet to grasp. We place our bets on the latter. 

However, it is also encouraging to have in-person discussion sections because we can see the small reactions that our peers have to the subjects discussed, which did not necessarily come across in the Zoom format. This makes it easier for us to connect to the people in our section. We feel a weird kind of affinity to the weekly meetings that we have with our section members, only to never interact with each other in any other place on campus. 

For example, if we tell a funny story during a Sociology discussion section, hearing the little titters and giggles and seeing the smiles and shaking of heads from others can bolster our mood when we otherwise would not have had the opportunity to see these human interactions in college before.

It reminds us that our peers are just like us and that they might emulate the feelings that we share in this column.

Laura Salem is a sophomore from Tolland, Conn., studying Psychology and History. Diksha Iyer is a sophomore from Dearborn, Mich., studying Public Health and Economics. Through their differing perspectives, Laura and Diksha stumble their way through their college experience one step at a time.

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