The benefits of taking classes with friends
As a biochemical engineering major, TJ Blackburn took ECM 1: The Design of Coffee, a class specifically designated for engineering students, during his first year at UC Davis. When he walked into the small lab, he noticed two people in the class who he recognized from his dorm building. As it turns out, they were both chemical engineering majors as well and would end up being in almost every single one of Blackburn’s classes for the rest of his college career.
“I started talking to them more and [began] sitting with them in class,” said Blackburn, now a fourth-year student. “Then […] we hung out [more], and it was really easy because we saw each other outside of class a lot too. That really helped our friendship grow.”
Sharing classes with friends comes with many benefits. Alex Chapman, a second-year animal science major, has made many friends in her classes — something she has valued since starting school at Davis.
“I feel like the fact [that person is] a friend [means] you’re so much more comfortable going to them and asking for help,” Chapman said. “If it’s just an acquaintance or sort of a stranger that you happen to meet in a class, you’re not necessarily going to be as inclined to reach out if you want help with homework.”
Chapman notes that it’s especially easy to meet and make new friends within her major. This is because animal science majors are taking the same classes at relatively the same time during their college careers.
“I see a lot of the same people, which kind of helps keep the friendships going,” Chapman said. “There [are] a lot of faces and names that I know and a lot of friends that I’ve made. [I’ve found that] taking all the same classes as them [is] valuable because […] you have people to turn to and to hang out with outside of [class, which] is also really cool.”
The same rings true for Blackburn, who has really come to understand the benefits of making friends within his major. Since biochemical engineering is such a small major, it’s no secret as to how well he knows these people after four years of sharing classes with them.
“I’ve been in a group project setting with basically everybody in that class over the course of a year,” Blackburn said. “I’ve been doing my senior design project now so I have three other guys that I work with that are in my major and I’ve gotten really close with them because we spend a lot of time together working on our […] project. When we’re done meeting one of our goals or project milestones, we’ll go out and get a beer together or get food and hang out outside of school.”
However, as great as it is to meet and take classes with friends, every rose has its thorn.
“[Friends] can be a distraction,” Chapman said. “If you’re sitting next to your friend in lecture you might be talking to them when you should be paying attention to what’s happening in lecture. Or sometimes [getting] together with a friend to study, I’ll find that we’ll go off on tangents and do other things we probably shouldn’t be doing even though we’re studying together.”
Along with the distraction, Chapman pointed out that sometimes she also feels competitive among her friends — which can be beneficial or a challenge. Although friends push each other to do their best, that doesn’t mean comparing grades can’t cause a little bit of tension.
Despite these minor negatives, Blackburn and Chapman, who are both Regents Scholars, consistently take advantage of their priority registration to get in the same classes as their friends. The same is true for second-year animal science major Iris Chen, who is also friends with Chapman.
“Alex and I have priority so we’re pretty good at setting up our schedules together,” Chen said. “Another girl on the ultimate [frisbee] team doesn’t have priority, but she’s also an animal science major so we’re always like ‘oh my gosh, I’ll sign up for the later sections so that she can get in,’ or we’ll have the same discussion or sit in lecture together.”
Chen has yet to have an experience where a new acquaintance from class becomes a lasting friend, but she recalls her past classes with friends as thoroughly enjoyable.
“My friends I’ve made are from a sports club or the dorm, and [although] we’re all different majors […] we took a general education [course] together and we were able to see each other at least three times a week,” Chen said. “That was really nice even though we never really got to hang out. [Now] we can talk about it and we have inside jokes from the class, which is really funny.”
College can be busy and stressful, but sharing classes with a friend — or better yet, meeting a new friend in class — can help make academic life a lot more bearable, and oftentimes a lot more fun. Not to mention it opens the door wide to make friendships that last to graduation and beyond.
“I think that, inherently, people who are in your major or are taking similar classes will have similar interests and personal traits or characteristics, [becoming] people you’ll get along well with,” Blackburn said. “I think if you take the time to go meet people who are in your classes or your major, you’ll find that you have a lot in common with them, and I think that that can lead to some good, long-lasting friendships because of your similarities.”
Written by: Marlys Jeane — firstname.lastname@example.org