Let’s Talk About…Icebreakers
Week one icebreakers are my favorite part of starting a new quarter at UCI. They create an unintentionally perfect storm of comedic genius, each student visibly tensing up and struggling to think of a quirky, semi-relatable fact about themselves to hopefully entice or attract like-minded people in the class.
Awkward moments like these are beautiful things to witness, placing people in their most vulnerable states and forcing them to perform. I am not spared from this awkwardness (most notably, once telling my classmates that I could perform speed raps before realizing that I hadn’t practiced and couldn’t perform when asked), but I definitely enjoy it a lot more than my friends seem to.
Icebreakers can be painful experiences, but the wounds they inflict create a common enemy students can discuss and rag on after class. None of my good friends have enjoyed participating in any type of icebreaker, and, while I love any opportunity to potentially embarrass myself, feigning disdain for these forced social interactions has proven to be a steadfast method of meeting people with senses of humor similar to mine.
Icebreakers typically can’t fully break the tension of meeting 30 new people as their name implies, but they can crack it enough to generate conversations after class, making them a little more tolerable in my book than a professor’s hour-long syllabus recital.
Isaac Espinosa is a third year electrical engineering major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m extremely awkward, and while week one icebreakers seem like they should be an awkward kid’s worst nightmare, I actually happen to like them.
It’s inevitable that the first few classes with a new group of people are going to be stiff and quiet. No one raises their hand to answer questions because they don’t want to be “that kid.” No one is really sure where everyone is coming from, so a question about formatting an essay or a simple equation can be embarrassing. No one knows which people to catch after class in hopes of striking up a friendship. Icebreakers take away some of that mystery.
They give people an opportunity to be funny or serious or sarcastic or bored, but on their own terms. Of course you have to answer the question, but you can do it your way and it provides a lot of freedom. Icebreakers usually help me figure out people that have similar personalities to mine and who I can see myself being friends with. Ideally, no one wants to be judged by 10 seconds on the first day of class but the quarter system is so quick that you can otherwise go through a course without meeting anyone. College is supposed to be a time to get out of your comfort zone and icebreakers do just that — break the ice.
Caitlin Antonios is a third-year English and literary journalism double major. She can be reached at email@example.com.
“Alright everyone! We’re going to have a little icebreaker. Let’s go around and say our name, major and one fun fact about ourselves!” a cheery voice announces. Almost instantly, I look at the fellow next to me and in that moment, our eyes speak volumes of our opinion. Not again. We don’t have much time to convey our discomfort so I broke eye contact and began to think.
“Let’s see; six people in front of me, each person averaging 12 seconds per response gives me…102 seconds to think of an answer to the question,” I thought. Sure enough, by the time I finished calculating that and heard a couple of terse introductions, I had mere moments to plan out my answer. Should I go with funny? Sarcastic? Angsty? Aloof? Wholesome? All of the above?
It’s hard to relay a convincing elevator pitch to potential friends in three to four sentences. When students complain that word limits on college apps prevent us from fully expressing ourselves, is it really fair to expect us to make a personable impression in a room full of strangers with just a few words? Just let the interactions happen naturally. Making friends through icebreakers seems to operate on finding common ground. While that is well and good, sticking to familiarity is the opposite of why we come to college. We should seek out adventure and engage with multiple perspectives. Forced engagement via these icebreakers do little to help that. Although I’m not a fan of icebreakers, I’m glad I’m not the only one who shares this sentiment. Ironically enough, the idea of an icebreaker becomes the icebreaker. Funny how it works out.
Eashan Kotha is a second-year biological sciences major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The thought of each new school year brings about a sense of excitement and uncertainty. Along with that anticipation comes the cringeworthy icebreakers that accompany the commencement of week one classes.
I’ve never been overly fond of icebreakers. Despite the potential for starting friendships that go beyond the quarter’s end, most icebreaker interactions start and end with one professor-provided question. They consistently force students to begin discussions under awkward circumstances. Rather than spontaneously initiating a conversation about our year, major, or a shared interest, we’re forced to answer cookie-cutter questions with classmates.
Such activities also fail to take into consideration students’ varying personalities and capabilities: reserved versus active participants, incoming students versus upperclassmen, or domestic versus international language speakers. Everyone has their own way of speaking up and making friends, and structured introductions make many people needlessly uncomfortable.
Yet, despite my resentment of icebreakers, I cannot help but admit that they’ve introduced me to some of my closest friends. Had it not been for my professors forcing us to share some aspect of our lives, my quiet demeanor would have overshadowed my desire to talk with them.
Using icebreakers to relieve tension usually just creates more awkwardness — classmates sitting quietly, carefully avoiding eye contact until the professor calls for volunteers to share their answers. However, students willingly converse during those rare opportunities where we’re given time to discuss our summer breaks or recall personal, not academic, stories. So, if an icebreaker is going to be used to start off the school year, it’s better to deploy a casual conversation-starter rather than one relevant to the course.
Lilith Martirosyan is a third-year business administration major. She can be reached at email@example.com.