The weekend began with the Narrative4 event. Accompanied by what was perhaps the best catering I’ve ever had at an event (shoutout Zingermans), we were guided through a compelling, insightful story exchange activity. Upon signing up for this event, I was intrigued. I honestly had no idea what a story exchange would entail, but as someone who writes and podcasts for an extracurricular, storytelling plays a strong role in my life, personally and professionally.

In the story exchange, everyone had to partner up with someone in their small group. Each individual in a pair had 5 minutes of uninterrupted time to share a story that involved community in some way. The individual listening was tasked with actively listening and taking notes if they felt necessary – they would be reciting their partner’s story from a 1st person perspective to the rest of the group as if it was their own. The task was unconventional, but seemed straightforward. However, when my partner began telling her story, I realized just how quickly small details blended in with each other and how easily my mind would wander.

After we all shared our stories with the group, I opened up to them about my experience and reflected on the choices I had to make. As I was listening to my partner, I had to make a decision of whether to write down their story, for the sake of accuracy, or do my best to actively listen, for the sake of personal respect for them and their story. I also shared the barriers I faced as I attempted to actively listen, including my struggles to make consistent eye contact and not overthink all of the details.

Ultimately, however, it wasn’t the accuracy of the stories that mattered, rather, it was the effort to actively listen and the trust we had (many of us, strangers) to give each other personal glimpses of our communities. There’s another significant takeaway I have from this event that comes from a quote in the Narrative4 presentation that was given to us: “Compassion is the channeling of empathy into action”. It helped me conceptualize that storytelling could be a tangible, valuable way of fostering empathetic connections.

The next day, many of us came back together for the Rutgers game in David Barger’s suite. I’m not a sports person, but I had a relaxing time with good food and even better friends to hang out and watch the game with. Of course, it was also great to see some alumni and members of ProStaff again. With that, I’d like to take the time to thank everyone who reminded me about the rules of football throughout the day so that I understood what was going on when I periodically looked to check the score.

I’m so grateful that I got to be a part of such a fun and enriching weekend at the BLI. This one weekend reflects a broader theme about the value and vibrancy of the BLI. In this community, we work and play. Amidst enjoyable experiences with amazing people, we’re always curious, learning new things, and reflecting our insights in our relationships and work on campus. Thank you to everyone who attended and put everything together!