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drawing of two people sitting next to each other on a bench
drawing of two people sitting next to each other on a bench
Photo by Rowan Mohan and Danielle Escobal

Two Minute Snippets: How UMD Students Connect Strangers

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for many to form connections with others. But, UMD freshmen Rowan Mohan and Danielle Escobal aim to change that by helping strangers create relationships online. “Two Minute Snippets” is the girls’ passion project that hopes to remind people of the power that comes with diverse stories and vulnerability. 

It started when Mohan, a journalism and public policy double major, wanted to start a podcast centered around empathy and the power of different perspectives. After advice from a professor, Mohan decided to change the formatting to shorter videos to be more engaging. 

Armed with her idea, she asked Escobal, a journalism and sociology double major and Asian American studies minor, to be partners on the project. The two had become close friends over the summer, bonding over their shared passion for storytelling and discovering new perspectives.

The main goal of “Two Minute Snippets” is to facilitate meaningful empathy between people. Mohan wanted people to realize that although individuals have so many different life experiences, most undergo the same emotions and stresses and joys that come with being human. These videos are meant to make people realize the differences and similarities that make people’s lives intertwine. 

“Not only do we want to be able to share peoples’ perspectives, we wanted them to feel open enough to be vulnerable with us, to kind of show the UMD community that there are so many unique perspectives within it,” said Mohan. In just two minutes, audiences can see into the lives of people they may not have normally crossed paths with. 

“Rowan and I both know the importance of vulnerability and sharing our experiences, but in this online environment it’s very difficult to do that, especially as college freshmen. So we figured that a way to substitute that would be this virtual interview,” said Escobal. 

The girls have a set list of basic questions that could be answered by a broad group of people and apply to different situations. They also ask follow up questions depending on the answers given to them. Questions include asking participants how they would describe themselves, what they wish they could tell their younger selves and how their families have shaped who they are, for better or for worse. Their answers are compiled and edited into two minute videos full of clips of them answering the questions, and just talking in general. The project has its own Instagram page and website where the interviews can be viewed. 

Throughout the process the girls have faced some unexpected challenges. Mohan noted that it was hard not to interrupt responses sometimes during the interview process because the people were so genuinely inspiring. “But I think that kind of speaks to the level of connection that you’re able to achieve, and the level of relatability,” said Mohan. 

The two-minute time frame has also proven to be a challenge on occasion. 

“It’s definitely an interesting learning process while we are figuring out how to effectively deliver those messages,” commented Escobal.

Although “Two Minute Snippets” is a fairly new project, both girls already feel the impact. 

“I remember after we finished filming, I put the camera down and was like ‘I feel so connected to you, I want to talk about this more,’” said Escobal, thinking back to an interview with fellow UMD student Auva Amirmokri. “I just thought it was amazing how this [was] my first time meeting this person, and after 20 minutes of very deep conversations…I consider [her] one of my friends.” 

Both Mohan and Escobal are very proud of the slogan they’ve come up with for this project: ‘Let’s meet at the place between me and you.’ The saying is accompanied by a drawing of two people sitting together on a park bench.

“It’s this idea that that life is so complex, and you’re going to cross paths with so many different people, and eventually you’re going to meet up…in that moment you’re going to share so many different and amazing things,” explained Escobal. “We’re trying to bring people, even though they’re not physically together, on this little picnic bench that we’re imagining.”

Kara Thompson is a sophomore Journalism and Government & Politics double major at the University of Maryland, College Park. In addition to writing for HerCampus, she is a copy editor for Stories Beneath the Shell, another UMD publication.
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