It finally happened. After weeks of taking public transportation, attending in-person classes, and eating out here and there, my immune system finally decided to shut down, and I fell victim to the common cold.
I know, it seems dramatic, but after living through a global pandemic as a completely healthy person waking up one day with a congested nose and a fatigued body, it felt like my body had just betrayed me. So, instead of attending classes and meeting up with friends I spent most of my week curled up in bed with a cup of tea and box of tissues. But when I was not contemplating the times when I was healthy, watching Netflix, or reading a book, I found myself in my dorm room kitchen, which, in a way, turned out to be the best way to get to know my flatmates.
Before my cold, I almost always made quick meals in the kitchen, ate at the cafeteria at the university, or just ran into a cafe to grab a quick bite to eat before heading home. But as the hours in my bedroom passed, and I realized that I had neither the energy to go to a cafe nor the desire to call for delivery, I forced myself to stand up and actually prepare myself a decent meal.
Pasta with pesto at lunch and tacos for dinner, followed by washing dishes, meant a constant back and forth into the kitchen. And while I really do enjoy cooking, spending more time in the kitchen meant I was able to meet more of the flatmates. While my dorm does have a community room attached to the kitchen, most people usually take their food back to their rooms. So, if there was a place of interaction for anyone on the floor, it was the kitchen.
Though I am somewhat self-conscious while cooking in front of others, preparing and cooking my meals provided me with the opportunity to truly become acquainted with the people who I passed in the halls every day. Whether it was the time when washing dishes turned into a two-hour long conversation about our favorite films or that time another roommate and I discussed differences in cuisine between our two cultures, being in the kitchen, albeit sick, made me feel more connected and comfortable with those living around me. Though living in the midst of a pandemic did mean taking a test to rule out infection, wearing a mask to prevent infection from the common cold, and frequent sanitation, in the end, it was definitely all worth it. And all it took was a frying pan and a simple “Hey.”
As an introvert, it has not always been easy to make friends right away. At times, I doubt myself and my confidence wanes from time to time when introducing myself to others, especially in large groups. Such feelings were intensified, especially in a new country with a different language. Nevertheless, taking little steps to step out of my comfort zone has helped so much. Just asking my flatmates about their day or giving random compliments has truly helped ease the internalized tension built up inside my brain.
Since that week, I find myself always greeting whoever walks in the kitchen and have tried to not take myself too seriously when it comes to meeting new people. Though it is definitely still a work in progress, I am glad for all the meals I cooked and all the people I met along the way.