There are approximately 7,058,410,003 people in the world. Depending on your location and daily activities you may see one person a day or see thousands. Just sitting in the library, dozens upon dozens of people cross your path, yet there is the possibility that you may never say a single word to any of them. On such a big campus, it is easy to meet a person once and never see them again.

Being college students, it is even more common to have people come into our lives briefly and leave quickly. We are in a constant state of transition. In high school, you may have the same people in the same classes every day, and you don’t stray very much from where you are. In the working world, you work with virtually the same people every day. Here on campus though, it is easy to disappear into the masses, missing opportunities to connect with people. Unlike in high school or at work people are constantly coming and going. Your best friend may be studying abroad and that new roommate you have may be like a mouse in their hole.

Many people complain that large universities lose their sense of community. It’s true! How can more than 20,000 people truly emphasize a sense of community effectively? They can’t, and that’s OK. The great thing is all of the smaller communities that develop. There are the artists, the engineers, the sports fans and so many more. The challenge, though, is stepping beyond those limited communities we have developed. Of the dozen or so people waiting in the Starbucks line with you, you may not like most of them. Although one could potentially become a lifelong friend. It is impossible to know which people we meet in any certain day will leave an impression.

A friend of mine was in the elevator the other day and a guy started talking to her out of the blue. After getting off of the elevator, he realized that he forgot to actually ask my friend’s name. Coincidentally, she ran into him the next day. This time he was smart enough to ask her name and get her phone number. The point here isn’t simply to talk to every person you meet in random places … that’s asking for trouble. It’s that there are so many people in a day that we meet and simply pass by or let walk out of our lives.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result." Of course he was talking about protests, but the same idea applies here. College is a time for taking chances and doing random things. Try a new club or talk to that quiet person in the back of your English class. There was a girl in one of my classes last semester who I didn’t talk to for the first few weeks; one day she pointed out that we had actually shared another one of our classes, which I had failed to notice. Today, I am pretty good friends with that girl.

Just imagine all the people you have never met that are standing all around you. Smile at that person you walk by and see every Tuesday between your classes. We watch so many people walk into and out of our lives constantly, but we never know which of those people will be the ones standing by our side years from now.

 — Samantha Warchol is a sophomore in psychology. She can be reached at swarchol@utk.edu.