table_talks

TableTalks partnered with Hillel at its Passover seder, setting placemats on tables with questions such as "What is your favorite passover tradition?"

Photo: Courtesy of Sophie Beren

Many believe that come second semester of freshman year, few people branch out.

For this reason, College sophomore Sophie Beren brought TableTalk to Penn. The club’s mission is to start and increase dialogue between students, particularly those who would never interact under ordinary circumstances.

“This is something Penn needs. Few people want to meet different people and we want to fill that void,” Beren said, who is the founder and president of TableTalk.

Originating at Emory University and only recently brought to Penn, TableTalk has three different initiatives. The first, called TableTalk, involves two student groups who decide that they want to meet and have a discussion. The club then provides a space for conversation, food and a facilitator.

“You have much more in common with people you categorize as ‘the other’ than you would think,” Beren said.

During the talk, the clubs can ask each other questions and give each other advice. If one group has a strong social media presence, they can help another group which does not.

The second initiative, LookUp, partners with Penn dining by placing big placemats and bins for people’s cellphones on tables. The placemats will have different questions to strike up conversation, such as “What is your favorite restaurant in Center City?” This initiative is particularly geared towards freshmen during NSO so that instead of playing with their phones, they will engage in conversation and “look up.”

The third initiative, CampusCouches, will place couches on College Green. One member of the TableTalk team will sit and invite people over to chat, even for people who have five minutes in between classes.

“With all the mental health issues on college campuses, TableTalk provides a location, time and place for students to reach out,” Marketing Chair and College freshman Emma Finkel said.

The club plans to have two TableTalks and CampusCouches by the end of the semester. Beren emphasized that TableTalks are something group or club members can decide they want to participate in on their own.

“We would never set up a TableTalk. We want groups to approach us,” Beren said. “For example, a Penn pro-Israel group and Penn pro-Palestine group would be an amazing table talk, but we would never set that up.”

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