Last Tuesday was the Physics End of Year Picnic. Faculty and students gathered for dinner, a department photo, and friendly conversation. In an effort to get to know my department better, especially my underclassmen, I attended.
I thought the picnic started with the department photo at 4:45pm, but it turns out the picnic started at 4pm. I was late, but I like to think that it’s still better than not showing up. There are several throughout the year, but I actually usually do not attend physics picnics. It’s not that I don’t feel welcome in the department or that I don’t like my major. I think it more has to do with me feeling like a faux physics major. I’m a physics major, but I don’t do research in a lab. I don’t intend on continuing graduate studies in physics. I’m also not exactly very good at physics. Yet I still take the required classes and do the homework. Does this still make me a physics major? Yes.
This semester has definitely been a nice change. My only physics course was an Electronics Lab. No problem sets or exams, just projects and writing papers. After spending 8 hours a week in a class, you get really close to your classmates. That’s another thing I love about the physics department: the people. I went to the picnic hoping they would be there too. And most of them were there. I introduced myself to two sophomore physics majors I didn’t know, and one of them friended me on Facebook!
But not for long.
I made the mistake of showing them a picture of two baby cats someone had found in their kitchen vent. I had visited the baby cats in the Q Center earlier that day and had taken pictures. That instantly caught the attention of the physics students, and they rushed out of the picnic to the Q Center.
That left me and one other student and the physics faculty. My awkwardness instantly kicked in and I felt really out of place. I’m really bad at building faculty connections. Here were my professors, who have taught me since my first year at Bryn Mawr, and I didn’t know what to say. Were we supposed to talk about physics? Life in general? It turns out we talked about sports. One of my professor’s daughters recently ran in the Penn Relays as part of her high school track team and placed really well. Another one of my professors recalled buying Philly Flyers shirts for her children because they were in the championships.
I look forward to more department picnics next year and connecting with my classmates and my faculty outside of the classroom.