If you're tired of talking about the weather this week, you should meet Danielle Goh (W '20).
Danielle started SmallTalkProject.com this semester because her classes weren't enabling her to be creative. She wanted to physically work on something and see the results of it. After expressing her frustration to her friends at the Starbucks under Commons, they suggested that she create a blog.
She rejected the idea—she'd already tried that, and it hadn't worked out as planned. Instead, she noticed the amount of interesting people around her and thought that perhaps, she could "talk to people at Penn and get to know them, and maybe that could be a thing."
Essentially, small talk is a project that showcases Penn students who do interesting things (regardless of what that means to them). Danielle explains that a main reason for why she started this was to share people's stories.
"I feel like at Penn, there's a very set notion of success," Danielle says. "If you're successful, you got a summer internship at Goldman or BCG—which is great, good for you—but also, there are so many other cool ways to be successful."
What cool ways, exactly? Danielle says she still doesn't know, as the interviews are a very organic process. She wants to learn about "whatever they're passionate about and want to talk to [her] about." The goal is simply to learn about what they do and try to avoid making small talk. "The more diverse the better," she says.
Danielle also talked about the first person she interviewed, Isabella Cuan, and the reasons she picked her to be the first interviewee. She explains that Isabella is a friend of hers and she already knew abour her passion for photography, which Isabella wrote about for Street last year.
As this was her first small talk entry, Danielle wanted to make it easy on herself, which meant choosing someone she'd be comfortable approaching, someone who could give her candid feedback and be supportive throughout the whole process.
For the future, Danielle simply wants to keep going with the project. She hopes that readers will get out of their bubble and talk to some of the people she interviewed. Though she's trying to prioritize seniors because they're about to graduate, she's taking recommendations from anyone. These recommendations come both from the people she features on small talk and from a link on her page.
Danielle sees the project as a benefit to the Penn community as well as an opportunity for personal development. She really enjoys learning about others but notes that it isn't something that comes naturally to her.
She says, "As someone who's introverted, I can have a good conversation with someone but they'll probably need to approach me first."
This project then forces her to actually reach out to people, and she hopes it makes up for all the eye contact she avoids on Locust.