Graduate student instructors are the unsung heroes of our institution of higher learning. Without them, we’d be a bunch of strung-out nerds with ungraded exams and no chance of earning an easy 15 percent in “participation.” But as wonderful as GSIs are, let’s be honest: Our interactions with them are generally nothing short of painfully awkward, as most of us lack the social graces it takes to engage in a smooth, comfortable conservation with someone who holds our grades in their hands. The Clog has laid out a power ranking of the most uncomfortable encounters you may have with your GSI.
5. Your section
Even though you can mentally prepare for this particular situation, awkward moments in discussion or lab sections are bound to happen. Whether it’s because it’s obvious that your GSI doesn’t know anybody’s names or because it’s obvious none of the students did the reading, it’s usually hard to get through a section without some discomfort.
4. In office hours
Office hours are generally self-imposed awkward confrontations with GSIs that we sometimes have no choice but to put ourselves through. If you’re going because you don’t understand the material, it’s easy to assume that they think you’re dumb. And if you’re going because you want to kiss ass, well, they probably know that too. So no matter what your reason for going is, it’s pretty much guaranteed that this face-to-face, one-on-one encounter will be some degree of unpleasant, at least momentarily.
3. While you’re flyering
Flyering on Sproul is already embarrassing enough, as your dignity is slightly compromised each time someone rejects the paper in your extended arm. But it all comes crashing down when you unintentionally hit your GSI with that “Hey, are you interested in consulting?”
2. In the elevator
This comes in close to the top of the list because you’re literally trapped in a small steel box with nowhere to go. Do you make small talk? Do you ask about yesterday’s lecture? Do you just smile and shift your feet in uncomfortable silence? The only thing that makes this situation better is knowing it will be over soon.
1. At a bar
Wait, GSIs have lives too? Encountering GSIs in a venue involving alcohol comes in at No. 1 on our power ranking, as this scenario completely dismantles the school-life separation we minimally try to maintain, and it shatters the illusion of professionalism that we like to shroud our GSIs in. After seeing them dance at Funk Night or throw back a margarita on Taco Tuesday, going to section will never be the same.
We love our GSIs for everything they do to keep this school running, and even though we like to think of them as existing in the little bubble of class, we forget they are people too. Next time you experience an awkward run-in with your GSI, show them this article and have a good awkward laugh about it together.
Contact Hannah Nguyen at [email protected].