Populus Gives Something to the People

Pema L’anson investigates the newest student movement.

Coffee date?

St Andrews has recently seen an onslaught – and I don’t use this word lightly – of events branded Populus. Speed friending, mass-adoption events, free hot chocolate; all buzz-words that hark us back to the heady days of Freshers’. But it’s October and we’re still seeing these events – why? I went along to an event last Saturday to see what it’s all about. 

The event I picked – purely based on when I was available – was Populus’s Coffee Date on the 1st of October. On approach to Mansfield, attracted by large cardboard signs outside proclaiming the free hot drinks, I was ushered into a large, clinical-looking room. In roughly-grouped circles of chairs, students of all ages, genders, ethnicities, and year groups sat together. Everyone clutched packets of laminated question cards in their hands, the questions varied on all levels of bizarreness. These included questions like, ‘If you were shrunk down to the size of a penny and stuck in a blender, what would you do?’ ‘Would you rather have giant bug eyes or 8 legs?’ ‘What is the most important part of a sandwich?’ And so on.

The awkwardness began to dissipate as I began talking to new people. I didn’t know their courses, year of study or even their names! But the environment was such that I felt that it was okay to just read out one of my cards, and jump into conversation. Here I felt the magic of Populus kick in – the creation of an environment where people, any people, can come along and just have a chat. 

After the first couple of weeks in St Andrews, many may feel that friendship groups are set in stone. We feel that everyone’s found their friends, that everyone is in a group, now, and it’s impossible to break out of them. If you’re someone who doesn’t make friends easily, or you just didn’t find people who you click with in those first few weeks, then it isn’t hard at all to feel left out. Hence, the creation of Populus.

Upon asking attendees how they felt about Populus, I was met with only positive replies. Some people had never been before, some had been to every event; some were on the committee, some had never heard of Populus prior to that day. Yet, everyone I spoke to loved the idea, as it brings people together through their communal admiration of drinks and snacks. The question cards, too, were repeatedly brought up. 

Has Populus succeeded in its aims? The people who I talked to at the event think so. Sam Ross herself even thinks so. I know so. When I interviewed her for this article, she said that she never expected this turn-out – though in her world, if it helps even just one person, “that’s our job done”.

This sentiment is at the heart of Populus. This purity, this kindness, this unabashed desire to help other people out is exactly what makes Populus so important.

If you’re interested in joining one of these friendly events, the team will be happy to see you on Wednesday, October 12 at 2 pm for ‘Meet the Populus Parents’.

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