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Students Get Crash Course in Charm

Ying Lee -- The Tech
Students learn dining etiquette while participating in Charm School Wednesday.
By Karen E. Robinson
Staff Reporter

All those who thought charm and grace is something inherited and not learned found evidence to the contrary filling the Infinite Corridor at Charm School last Wednesday.

Booths were set up in Lobbies 7 and 10, as well as the Vannevar Bush Room, from noon to 4 p.m. There were 22 booths, with topics as useful as "Impressive Interviewing" and as unusual as "Exemplary Locomotion: Walking and Elevator Etiquette."

Overall, students found the atmosphere of Charm School to be fun and informal. Rose G. Radin '02 called it "a little irreverent, and kind of funny" way to present social graces.

Dining, interview etiquette taught

Radin especially appreciated the table etiquette session, and said there were "a lot of rules that people didn't really know about. It was nice to learn them; it gives me confidence," she added.

Shiping Hu, G, who came to MIT from China, said he "wanted to learn for a long time" how to dine properly. Morning sessions were led by Roseanne Thomas, founder and CEO of Protocol Advisors, Inc. She led participants through the stages of a meal, from taking your napkin when the host takes his to leaving it just to the left of your plate to signify that the meal is over. Never again should MIT students wonder which bread plate or water glass is theirs: auxiliary dishes for liquids (water, champagne, soup, etc) go on the right, while those for solids (salad, bread) are on the left.

Workers from the Career Services asked students what they would do if, on the way to an interview, they found themselves in an elevator with the CEO, with three minutes to chat. Answers ranged from the usual "make small talk" or "find out about opportunities" to the more interesting, "drop a pen and see if he picks it up" to a straightforward introduction.

Charm School teaches tact, fashion tips

Ever wonder just how to back out of a conversation? Sarah Gunter, an officer in the Alumni Association, at the "Small talk/ attentive listening" booth advises a statement such as, "Oh, I don't want to monopolize your time here" at a reception or party, or "I'm really thirsty; want to go get something to drink?"

Megan Helper '98 and Dhaya Lakshminarayanan G, in their talks at the "Body Language" station, advised not talking with your hands much or looking at your watch.

A less popular attraction was the "fashion police" standing at the east entry to Lobby 10. They gave out violations to people wearing white (evidently a taboo between Labor Day and Memorial Day) and to those using both straps of their backpacks. Deborah A. White '02 comments that "I was just trying to save my back in the long run," and Helena W. Fu '02 pointed out that "High school is one strap. College is two." Maybe even the fashion police have a few things to learn.