story | Kan Ren Jie, Contributing Reporter
image | Rachel Juay

Lunch Tag has resumed and has been ongoing for the past few weeks. Using an online system, students are paired so that they can share a meal and in the process, get to know each other better. Indeed, that’s why I signed up.

Many other students had similar reasons. Liao Jianglong ’20 said that he signed up to know more people, noting there was a “gap” between the different cohorts of students. Lunch Tag has helped him to bridge the gap by allowing him to know more upperclassmen. This was echoed by Daniel Ng ’18, who remembered that he signed up for Lunch Tag last year as he felt like it was a “productive use of meal times … All the people I met in Lunch Tag, with the exception of one or two, were with people whom I was not familiar.”

I found myself in a dining hall I didn’t frequent often, looking out for a stranger amid the sea of unfamiliar faces. The only commonality was the ever-present dining hall queue (but that’s a topic for another time!). I sat down at the table closest to the scanning counter, and waited slightly nervously for my Lunch Tag partner to arrive.

Initially, I was skeptical about the program. After all, weren’t friendships forged over a short period of 30–45 minutes rather superficial? However, Ng said that, for him, “Lunch Tag was the opportunity to form a number of relationships”. It allowed him to make first contact with people whom he is still in touch one year after.

Perhaps the superficiality of any Lunch Tag pairing cannot be blamed on the program itself. Martin Vasev ’18, the organizer of this semester’s Lunch Tag, concedes that “all starting conversations are superficial; that’s a first conversation.” However, he said that you can build on relationships from a starting conversation. “The first meeting doesn’t have to be the last.”

Vasev also revealed some interesting statistics: as of Sept. 2, the program has 203 participants, including several Dean’s Fellows and Dean of Students staff members. Of these participants, 67 are freshmen, 63 are sophomores, 36 are juniors, and 27 are seniors. There is an average of 15 to 20 Lunch Tag meals on any given day, with 257 pairings completed to date.

For Vasev, this high participation rate is really encouraging. “I’m glad that people are actively engaged, and that we’re growing stronger as a community,” he said. Another participant, Ryan Foo ’20, agrees with this sentiment. He said that he had “never had a bad Lunch Tag” and really enjoyed how “[conversations] will segue into what [his partners are] interested in…”, which has allowed him to learn more about a myriad of different topics, from the role of the Student Government to his Chinese philosophy readings.

Indeed, Lunch Tag has helped to bridge gaps in the Yale-NUS community. But there still remains a need to continue to meet people outside of the context of this program. Foo observed that Lunch Tag is “inorganic”, a formalized way to meet new people, but to its credit, “it still feels ‘organic’ when we sit down [with others over a meal].”

Ultimately, Foo said,  “We should go out and meet people we don’t know!”

As for me, my first Lunch Tag ended without any incident. The conversation was enjoyable, we both discovered that we shared several common interests, and it was a great opportunity to meet an amazing person that I otherwise wouldn’t have. Consider me Lunch Tagged.

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