We’re those people…we have classes together, we live together, we study together: yep, we live in an Integrated Learning Community (ILC). More specifically, SILC: Science ILC.
SILC is defined as follows by my university: “First-year students considering pre-health or science coursework may choose to live in the Science Integrated Learning Community (SILC), where events and activities related to the sciences are brought right to your floor and where tutors, resident assistants and fellow students support each other inside and outside the classroom.”
As a science major at a liberal-arts based school, I chose to live on SILC, and several tests, midterms, and late, late nights later, I bring to you the pros and cons of living with people in your program and major.
1. You’re kept on your toes. Because you take the same classes – and at a smaller school, have many of the same sections – it’s very unlikely that you’ll forget an assignment or test: everyone is talking about it and studying for it all. Tutors share previous years’ tests, and fellow students studying for the same classes are present any time you’re in the dorm.
2. Cohort and support. The RAs on my floor are both science majors, and one is doing the same track that I am currently on (major, minor, and pre-professional track). You run into (and live with) your RAs and tutors: both great resources that know your program, major, classes, and professors well, and have at least a year’s experience in the same areas. Friends who live on non-major designated floors say it’s harder for them to find fellow majors to ask questions or have “go-to” people they can talk to about STEM/pre-health specific topics.
3. Community around academia builds a unique relationship. Living with other people who chose to live with fellow majors/program students brings about a unity around these topics, and build socially upon that. (Let’s be real, science jokes are the best.) A large amount of people on this floor share the same academia, but from there become friends on other levels – like the weekly ultimate frisbee game our building held for the first weeks of school. You grow on a solid academic based foundation, but add on levels that creates great relationships.
1. Stress is abundant, and contagious. As you can imagine, cohorts of up to all eighty students taking the same courses vamps up the stress levels around tests and big assignments. During tutor review sessions the nights before tests, I swear you can almost feel the stress and anxiety in the air. Learning how to deal with that – for example, doing different review sessions, not in the ILC – helped with teaching myself how to handle my own stress, and how to study.
2. Competition. It varies year to year, and between social groups, but the competition that is abundant in your program and major becomes something you (literally) live with in an ILC. The other side being kept on your toes is that it’s constant, and not always positive. Your assignments don’t end when you finish them – there’s constant “Have you done this yet?” and “Can you help me?” As stated earlier, tests bring out the worst, both before and after: people discussing scores, what grades they “need to get”. While its great to have people who feel your pain, it’s absolutely vital in an ILC to figure out how to be a soundboard for people, without letting their stressors become yours.
3. Internal competition. A subset of general competition (both aggressive and passive-aggressive), I define “internal competition” as the internal monologue one has, comparing his or her life to those around them. For example, hearing people going out, or being done studying, or doing other activities can set up a intense self-consciousness: Why am I still studying, and people in my classes aren’t? Am I behind? Am I working inefficiently?
While I anticipated this dorming choice (as any) would have its pros and cons, as soon as I started learning how to make everything work, I’ve enjoyed my decision. I may not have known what the specific cons would be, they have come to be a special part of my college transition and lifestyle, and the pros, in relation to what I want out of college, are huge, and heavily outweigh the cons.