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First impressions, a second time

When I first met Jenna Calderón, I kind of hated her.

Jenna is one of this year’s Campus & Community Editors here at TMS, and though we’re good friends now, I had never actually interacted with her at all until last fall. 

As an opinion writer at the time, and a marching band member to boot, I had an idea for a column — an opinion piece on how excited I was that, despite everything that was going on with the pandemic, the marching band was still, well, marching on. My editor told me that the piece would be better off under what was the Culture section at the time, and my precious idea was sent off to another writer.

Normally, I wouldn’t have been so up in arms about it, but I love marching band; I really wanted to be the one to write this piece. So when Jenna, who ended up writing it, reached out to me to discuss sources and ideas, I let my emotions get the best of me and blamed her for the fact that I wasn’t writing the article. 

(Even though, of course, she did a great job.)

Fast forward to earlier this summer. As it was almost a year later, I’d forgotten all about the whole thing, and I headed off to Spain for a study abroad trip — Miami in Spain, a seven-week program of travel, friends, food and culture. 

At risk of sounding like one of those study abroad kids, the ones for whom the travel becomes their entire personality, I could write twenty articles on how much I loved that trip. But that’s for another time.

In a group of twenty-eight students, plus three professors, it took some time to learn the names of all my peers — but I was surprised to discover that I had friends, clubs, and experiences in common with a lot of them. 

I’d been in a group project with one girl last spring. Two of the girls were actually my coworkers. And, of course, there was the dark-haired girl who introduced herself as Jenna, and when I said my name was Ames, she replied, “I know!”

It turned out, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, that the Jenna on my study abroad trip was the same Jenna who had written the marching band article last fall. Immediately, I remembered how annoyed I’d been at not having that opportunity, but as the trip progressed, I realized that my dislike for Jenna was completely unfounded. She was sweet, funny, smart and gorgeous; we quickly became friends and I often found myself going to her for almost-daily chats, tea-spilling sessions and outfit opinions.

Why had my first impression of her been so horrible when she was so easily becoming one of my favorite people on the trip? That was the question I asked myself a few times, until late one night in Italy, I came to a realization: it was because I had never actually met Jenna.

Our conversation had been limited to a total of about four text messages consisting entirely of business matters, and because the COVID-19 pandemic had prevented me from meeting almost everyone on TMS, I’d drawn my own conclusions and formed my own (terrible) opinions.

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Jenna isn’t the only one to whom I’ve done this; there are multiple people I’ve thought were shy, annoying or know-it-alls, only to meet them in person and discover they’re actually the exact opposite. 

That’s the issue with meeting people over a screen, if Zoom and iMessage can really be considered “meeting” — your first impressions are going to be nowhere near as accurate as they would’ve been in person. Mine weren’t. That’s just the truth.

With Miami going back to in-person classes, club meetings and activities, we’re all going to meet these online acquaintances in “real life” very soon. We’re going to have to reevaluate those first impressions we made while staring at our glowing little screens in the darkness of our rooms at three in the morning. We’re going to make friends, but to do that, we have to realize that people are very different in-person than they are over Zoom, text or email.

Personally, I’m thrilled. I know that it will be difficult to make myself develop “first” impressions all over again, but I look forward to meeting more people like the ones from my study abroad trip. People like Jenna — people who really made my summer special, and who will continue to do so for the rest of my time at Miami.

I know I’m not the only one.

(Love ya, Jenna! See you in the newsroom!)