If you like eating alone, you may no longer have to be alone in eating alone.
Duke Student Government is interested in designating a “new dining and conversation space” in West Union, according to a recent post on the Fix My Campus Facebook page. In the accompanying survey—titled "Eating By Myself"—students are asked whether they prefer to be surrounded by friends, strangers or no one when they eat and how often they eat meals alone. It also brought up the idea of a designated area in West Union for “solo diners” or for “strangers to eat together and engage in conversations.”
"As soon as [DSG] heard that students were skipping meals due to their social anxiety surrounding eating alone and saw that somebody suggested this as a solution, [DSG] thought it would be a worthwhile project and decided to take it on," said junior Quinn Steven, a member of the FMC committee.
After DSG was made aware of this problem, the FMC committee was asked to help gauge student interest in the possibility of new dining options, Steven explained.
"We thought it would be a nice system to help build a stronger Duke community by encouraging conversations between those who do not usually cross paths," she said.
Although DSG has not yet chosen these spaces, they are considering the small room attached to JB’s Roast and Chops’ main dining area for its quiet environment, Steven noted.
The new dining space should fit within the “natural traffic pattern” of West Union, Steven said, so students sitting there could also speak to new people, along with friends.
"To identify the [space], we thought a table tent or table-top image would be most effective because it identifies what the purpose of the space is, but wouldn't be too imposing and would limit any insecurity a student might have about sitting in this space," Steven said.
First-year Jade Davis said that she was interested in both the eating alone and eating with strangers dining options, noting that she might use each space depending on her schedule and her current mood. She added that she would personally make use of the solo dining space more often if she was busy or “on the go” and would try eating with strangers if she had the time.
Melissa Montoya, a master's student in biomedical sciences, said she and other graduate students would also uses such spaces in West Union. Like Davis, she indicated that her level of work and her daily schedule would affect whether or not she chose to eat alone or with strangers.
Montoya also noted that the dining with strangers option would probably help connect Duke students, both undergraduates and graduates.
Davis indicated, however, that she was more comfortable eating alone than with strangers.
“[You are] intimidated to sit down with people you don’t know,” she said. “If I’m in a social mood, I’d gravitate towards people I already know rather than strangers.”
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