The grad student mixer, also known as the Reception for Graduate Students, is truly a mixed bag. Sometimes you strike up a conversation immediately with interesting people who aren't antagonistic or otherwise problematic. But that's for lucky people. If you aren't a lucky person, you bumble around for 20 minutes, wondering if you should leave, attempting to make eye contact with people, hoping you bump into someone in the room who will make it worth your while, all the while praying you won't do or say anything to horribly embarrass yourself.
Here are other things that sometimes happen:
-Sometimes you experience the Surprise Encounter, someone you haven't seen for years until you almost knock them over in the food line. This can be either a positive or negative experience.
-Sometimes you're the only person in the circle who has no idea what's being discussed, but you have to pretend you do. That, like the first scenario, might have varying degrees of success.
-Sometimes you get into a fight over the last piece of chicken satay. It's really a lose-lose situation at that point.
-Sometimes, despite being completely sober, you are so addled from the grad student mixer experience that you are unable to locate your car in the parking garage and are forced to ask one of your new grad student mixer friends to help you look for it for over 20 minutes, thereby demonstrating epic incompetence. [True Story. I was in great form this year. Thanks, David! For more on this, see my post on why you need grad student friends to save you.]
-[REDACTED] There's a reason I like to call it Historian Speed Dating. The high tables, the lack of seating, the constant moving around the room, the three minute conversations of "SO, real quick, what do you study?". It's both fun and ridiculous, and by the end of it, you're not entirely sure what's happened. In keeping with theme, where this ends is somewhere on a spectrum between "well" and "so, so badly". Like prom.
Someone once asked me why, if there's a high possibility of an awkward situation, do I go to such events. The answer is, I like interesting people and I'm generally confident in my ability to suss them out. Granted, sometimes you end up with a guy who won't let go of your hair (like last year), but other times you end up meeting a bunch of new smart, fun people that you're likely to see again in the future. This year might be able to cancel out last year. Maybe.