5 reasons why you should befriend your GSI

Isabella Ko/Staff

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Forming positive relationships with people can take you pretty far in life and, at times, can make life a little bit easier. As one of my professors alluded to a few weeks ago, people often forget about how important it is to network and relate with people — you can find a lot of success in the relationships that you form with the people around you. And while that may not be profound or unknown, it does hold a lot of truth. The reminder of how important it is to cultivate relationships influenced my stream of thought as to which relationships that should be formed and maintained during our undergraduate — for those of us who are undergraduates —time at UC Berkeley. 

And then it came — cultivate some solid relationships with graduate student instructors! Duh. There is promise in forming good friendships or a working academic relationship with your GSIs. Granted, not every GSI is down or has the time to cultivate relationships with their undergraduate students, but it can be advantageous to be homies or on chill communicative terms with your GSI. 

Below, I have outlined five reasons why befriending your GSI can be a good idea. But I have not told you how to do it. That is up to you to figure out (hint, just ask some dope questions and strike up a conversation after class if you care about the topic or department that they are a part). If you do not care about befriending your GSI, then these reasons may seem irrelevant to you. But I am going to say, from experience, that having an understanding and being on good terms with your GSI can really improve your attitude toward a class and your performance in a class. Here are some reasons:

Relate to your GSI 

When you get to know a GSI, you are reminded that they have a life that is autonomous from the class in which they are grading you or teaching your section. GSIs are usually very chill people. Most GSIs I have encountered just want you to succeed, but odds are they are concerned with other things aside from the work that you are doing. I have found when I sit down and have a real conversation with my GSI that they are not in much of a different spot than I am. They just have more responsibilities. Talking to GSIs and forming relationships humanizes them in a sense and makes you realize that just like us — they have many other things to be doing. This may be a relief for students who are concerned that a GSI is tripping hard over something a student did or didn’t do. 

Cultivate mutual respect and empathy

By forming a relationship with your GSI that goes beyond answering a couple of questions in section or pulling up to office hours once a semester, you are able to gain a sense of mutuality. Y’all are in this together. They have to grade what you do, and you have to do what they have to grade. Like the first point of humanizing your GSI, when communicating and checking in with the GSI, you are creating space for mutual respect and empathy. 

They encourage you to do more high-quality work

With a relationship at stake, the odds of you wanting to do your best work is higher. When you begin to care about a human being and remember the fact that they have to grade your work, you are probably more likely to want to turn in quality work for them to grade. Think about it like this: If you were homies with someone, would you want them to give you something crappy or something good? 

You’ll be less afraid to ask for extensions

With a foundation of mutual respect and empathy, there should no longer be any qualms or concerns around asking for an extension. Of course, asking for extensions shouldn’t be abused, but we all get caught up with different things in life and sometimes an assignment cannot be completed on time for a multitude of reasons. Do not use this unless you feel that you really need to. When you are on solid terms with your GSI, however, odds are that they will be chill with giving you an extension if it is in their control.

Open up a world to form more relationships with graduate students 

When you befriend a GSI, you are giving yourself the opportunity to be introduced to more GSIs or people in the graduate realm. This can be especially beneficial for undergraduates who are looking to go to grad school. You never know where one positive relationship with a GSI can lead. There is a great possibility that you could be welcomed into more relationships that can help you out in the long term. 

Of course, undergraduates do not have to go around forming relationships with GSIs — it is just a suggestion that may make your time at UC Berkeley a little bit easier. 

Contact Gina Wright [email protected].