New Buddy? No Problem!

When Fumiya Abe-Nornes joined CHEPS as a student researcher in May 2019, he quickly realized the brilliance of his peers.

“Being a newbie in a research group of a couple dozen, it was definitely intimidating—especially feeling like I wasn’t smart enough or that I wouldn’t be able to contribute in a meaningful way,” he shared. “But having my buddy, Justin, helped a lot.”

Justin and Fumi were paired through the CHEPS Buddy System, which aimed to connect students from various projects and strengthen bonds throughout the group.

“[Justin] took me out to lunch and we chatted about CHEPS, interests, life, you name it. He helped me realize how friendly everyone at CHEPS is and that it’s an incredibly welcoming place. Shortly after, Justin took off to pursue his career, and I started to find my place in CHEPS. The Buddy System stopped after that—COVID-19 hit less than a year later. Looking back, I’m sure it was quite difficult for many CHEPSters to connect with others during that remote period. When I came back to CHEPS with a more involved role as a staff member, I started to realize that outside of project groups, students didn’t have many opportunities to meet each other. With that, inspired by the impact the Buddy System had on me, I pushed to bring it back for this Winter semester.”

There were no formal requirements to participate in the Buddy System other than to meet with one’s buddy at least once during the semester. Students first submitted reflections about their year in school, their academic discipline, the length of time they’d been in CHEPS, their career aspirations, and their hobbies. Twenty-seven students signed up for the program, and with the help of a few groups of three, the buddies were formed! CHEPS then sponsored a gift card for each pair to enjoy some coffee, boba, or snacks while chatting.

Check out some Buddy System highlights from February:

Yanru and Caroline smile at the camera while seated with their food at a booth at Panera Bread
IOE graduate students Yanru (left) and Caroline pause their Panera to pose for the camera.

Caroline learned that Yanru has been living away from home since the beginning of high school, as it was located in a different city than her hometown. They enjoyed participating in the Buddy System, reporting that it was nice to be paired with someone outside of their CHEPS projects whom they didn’t yet know very well.

Statistics graduate student Yuanbo (left) smiles at Starbucks with Public Health undergraduate students Aparna (middle) and Andrea.

Andrea enjoyed learning that Aparna has been skydiving and that Yuanbo went on an ice climbing excursion with the CCRB the previous weekend!

IOE graduate student Yiran (left) and IOE undergraduate student Josie enjoy some Starbucks.

Josie was able to ask Yiran for some suggestions on course selection…and on buying a car! They ended their day with a trip to Costco.

BME undergraduate students Ally (left) and Jared cheese at CHEPS.

Ally and Jared learned that they are both earning the International Minor for Engineers and that they both hope to pursue graduate IOE degrees someday. They had so much fun connecting at Starbucks that they forgot to take a picture, choosing to snap one the next time they crossed paths in the CHEPS office. Jared later shared, “I had a ton of fun taking some time to just talk to and get to meet Ally, and it helped me feel more connected to CHEPS as a whole.” Ally agreed, saying, “[The Buddy System] is a great way to get to know each other outside of just working on our project together. We were able to have fun and learn about each other without being in a work setting.”

CS graduate student Michael (left) with CS undergraduate student Sandy.

Michael and Sandy’s experience with the Buddy System especially exemplified its purpose. Sandy shared, “I really enjoyed getting to know Michael, and I thought it was really fun to go and get coffee together. It actually kind of saved me, because I hadn’t met anyone in EECS 445 yet and had a big project due…when [Michael and I] shared schedules to plan, we saw we were in the same class! So, we went to office hours together. I liked the whole idea, and I liked that I was paired with someone with similar classes.”

By all accounts, the resurgence of the Buddy System has been more than worth it. We are so grateful to Fumi for making it happen, and he says it best: “Although [logistics are] difficult because of how busy people are during the school year, if it means that even one person feels more welcomed at CHEPS—one friendship is created—it’s a success.

— Written by Hannah Buck, CHEPS Staff