Why 2 students are mapping where people cry on University of Waterloo’s campus

Tons of tears have been shed on the University of Waterloo campus: Mid-panic attack at the gym while writing an exam, post-fight on the Bombshelter patio, at a lecture hall after meeting astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Two engineering students at the university are mapping the places people have cried on campus hoping to show that campus crying is a communal experience.

“It’s one thing to say that you are not alone … people are always going to tell you that,” said Queenie Wu, one of the map’s creators. “It’s a totally different story to illustrate that.”

The project, called Waterworks, was created by Wu and her friend, Leslie Xin, combining their love of engineering, art and maps. Both are third year students in systems design engineering.

The pair put a call out for crying locations and got more than 300 responses. There’s a mix of sad, stressed, angry and even happy tears.

“What surprised me is the amount I was able to relate to a lot of the stories,” Xin said. “I was just going through saying like, ‘Yeah, I feel you. I have been there.'”

Crying as a connector

The idea stemmed out of online art therapy sessions the two have been having during the pandemic. Like most students, Xin and Wu aren’t on campus right now, but wanted to recreate the feeling of being together.

It may sound odd, but they realized crying could be a way to do that.

“Crying doesn’t necessarily have to be negative,” Xin said. “You can also cry when you’re happy or you’re frustrated or you’re overwhelmed … and those are all valid as well.”

They have gathered hundreds of locations where people have cried on University of Waterloo’s campus. The places and reasons for tears range from meeting Chris Hadfield in a lecture hall to fighting with a partner on the Bombshelter patio. (Submitted by Queenie Wu and Leslie Xin)

Realizing other people had cried about similar things on campus helped them feel less isolated.

It’s given Xin a new perspective for when she eventually returns to campus and passes all these places, now knowing people have cried there.

“We’ll just have a greater degree of empathy for everybody,” said Xin. “And recognize that everybody is going through their own situations.”

The pair plan to keep updating the map, as more submissions come in. They hope it stems conversations about mental health.

Students from other schools have reached out. They’re eager to make the project open source so other students can populate their campuses with tears and stories, too.

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