In high school, friendships in classes were easy — we had the same classes throughout the year, which gave us plenty of time to get to know people. Or, if your high school was cliquey as hell, then your friends at the beginning of, say, sophomore year, had already been determined and you were NOT LEAVING YOUR CLIQUE for fear of death or social ostracism. Fun high school stuff like that.
In my [limited] experience at Stanford (hello, I am still a freshman), it’s a bit trickier — in most cases, 10 weeks is not enough time to get to know and become friends with your classmates. Particularly if assignments are submitted by just you, yourself, and… you (this idiom does not work in second person, I am sorry). Group projects/presentations are sometimes helpful in creating relationships, but rarely do they stick: presentations end, new groups are formed, etc. You know the deal.
Around winter quarter (and bear in mind, this is also when my whole life was super hectic and I didn’t have a lot of time for things anyway), I missed having a few friends in my classes — and a lot of my friends from clubs or from Donner (where I live this year) were taking different courses.
I wanted to build new friendships, but I didn’t really know how.
I was also absurdly busy, there weren’t enough group projects in the course load that I was taking, and it felt unnatural to reach out to others in the class, even though I generally consider myself a pretty friendly/outgoing/extroverted person.
So imagine my surprise when I realized that, for the first time this year and without any extra effort, I have found myself genuinely making friends this quarter with the folks in TAPS 103: Introductory Improvisation — a class in which everything is a group project.
Now normally, I am kind of iffy on group projects: In my experience (both in college and in high school), either everyone drops the ball or everyone is trying to grab the ball out of each other’s hands. Both scenarios are not super fun, and it’s rare that when random groups are assigned, everyone just clicks.
In improv, things don’t always click — but that’s part of the fun of it. And through the process of making things click, and creating a random story or scene out of nothing, somehow friendships start to form.
Our lil’ TAPS 103 class now has our own GroupMe. We are (planning on) going fountain hopping after class on Wednesday. There are just around twenty of us in the class, but something about it feels like a crazy weird family. (Particularly after The Vigil on Monday.) (No, you do not get any clarification on that.) (Take the class and find out.)
And that feels great. It’s a different kind of community than you’d find in a freshman dorm or a club, and certainly probably definitely a different kind of community than you’d find in any other class, but it’s a community nonetheless — and a really fun one.
I can say that TAPS 103 already — at the start of week five — has got to be one of my favorite classes, and probably for this very reason. We’ve built a little community of beginner improvisers, who all support each other as friends would and who laugh together as friends would and who… are just friends to each other.
Contact Matt Bernstein at mbernstein ‘at’ stanford.edu.