University of Alabama
BackgroundInterview Date:April 2018
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2018
High School Experience: Public school in a suburb of Atlanta with a little over 700 students in my grade.
Major: Biology on a pre-med track
Extracurricular Activities: I was in a fraternity; worked in a developmental biology research lab; did volunteer work for food banks and Habitat for Humanity; and was part of the Druid City Garden Project, which was an initiative to bring learning gardens to classes at elementary schools in Tuscaloosa.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
It was pretty much online homework, nothing crazy. Then usually 3-4 tests a semester.
Is there anything you felt the biology major does especially well or especially poorly?
I thought the classes were all pretty good and I thought the professors were all pretty good. I thought they made the transition from high school to college as easy as possible.
How did they do that?
I think the course layout helped. Their lectures lined up well with the homework so that every homework you did was feeding back into the class. It wasn’t like you were learning one thing in class and then the homework was something completely different. I also think the lectures and homework prepared you well for the test. Opposed to for some chemistry class they would ask questions on some new stuff from the textbook that wasn’t really covered. Everything you did in class was for a reason, it was to help you understand and help you do better.
Are you happy with your major choice?
Yeah. In terms of medical school, it didn’t set me apart, but for me it was good. It was what I was interested in and it was the major that had the most overlap with what I had to take for pre-med.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Presidential in a four-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment style dorm.
Sophomore: Frat house in a single bedroom but shared a bathroom with one other person.
Junior & Senior: I lived in a townhouse with three of my fraternity brothers.
What was your favorite living situation?
Living in the frat house will probably be the best living situation of your life. You’re also so central in campus so you’re so close to everything. It was very convenient and a lot of fun.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I would say it’s a pretty safe place. Every once in a while, you get an email alert saying there was a robbery somewhere but it’s pretty rare. I’ve never witnessed it. I’ve always felt very safe in Tuscaloosa.
What was your favorite place to get away from campus?
There’s a really nice river walk [along the Black Warrior River] that has a market at the end of it that sometimes has stuff going on. I go to the movie theater with some of my friends.
Did you experience any culture shock moving to Tuscaloosa?
I moved from Philadelphia to Atlanta when I was 14, so I kind of had an adjustment. It wasn’t much of a culture shock to me because I had adjusted to the southerners. My roommates were all from the northeast and they definitely had some culture shock. The thing is Alabama is [56%] out of state now.
There’s a lot of northern kids, so in terms of the people you’re around the adjustment is not that big, but when you’re with all the other southern kids and you see how they dress and stuff it is a big culture shock. But I think it’s good. I think it makes you more of a well-rounded person to be able to know how the other half of the country acts and their etiquette and stuff like that. I’m glad I’ve lived in both the north and the south because if I ever need to do business or deal with someone from either part of the country I know how to deal with them because it can be very different.
Pros and cons of being in Tuscaloosa, Alabama?
1) It’s a very laid back town.
2) It’s a very walkable campus. It’s nice to have a car but you can walk everywhere.
1) There are a lot of restaurants, but they kind of get old after a while. I’m originally from Philadelphia, so I’m used to having a lot of local places to eat. There are a lot of chains in Tuscaloosa and a decent number of solo restaurants but there are not that many options. I ate out a lot and we would always debate where we should go.
2) It’s definitely a small town. Sometimes I wanted more of a bigger town, but I knew what I was getting in to.
3) It’s a tough place to go out when you’re younger.
What kind of nightlife do you like to participate in?
I’m kind of a split. I like going out, but then I also like to hang out with my friends. Both are very readily available at Alabama. If you’re in Greek life there’s always something going on freshman year. So, [going out] freshman year is not really a concern if you’re in Greek life. Every year after that you have everything you need because you have the laid back bars where you can just hang out and actually talk to your friends. You have bars that are more club-like [with flashing lights and loud music]. Freshman year you don’t need to go to the bars because you have a swap [when a fraternity and sorority have a mixer, they are generally for freshmen and sophomores] like two nights a week and then you’re probably going to have a fun thing on Friday with your pledge class.
What nights of the week do you normally go out?
I was a pre-med, so I went out the least out of my group of friends just because I didn’t want to spend the money and I usually had work. The nights that were popular that I would go out on if I could were Wednesdays – that was a big night – Thursdays and Fridays. Then Saturday afternoons people go to Innisfree.
How exclusive are fraternity parties?
I’ve been to plenty of parties where I barely knew people at the fraternities, but one of my friends that I was with knew somebody. If you have a connection, it’s not hard to get in. I’ve never had trouble. If you just stroll up and not know anybody you might have problems.
What is an alternative option to going to a bar or frat party that you like to do?
There are lots of low-key bars and breweries. One of my pledge brothers used to perform stand-up comedy at this place called Loosa Brews. There is a theater that does Broadway shows in Tuscaloosa. Then there are the more adult bars to sit at with TVs. There’s also the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater that has outdoor concerts on the weekend.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife? Do you think you could have fun without being in Greek life?
Yeah, you can 100% have fun without it. I mean it also kind of depends on the kind of person you are. If you are a really outgoing person you’ll have fun. My freshman year roommate wasn’t in a fraternity and he went out more than any of our roommates and went to more sorority date parties than any of our roommates. He killed it and he wasn’t in a fraternity. It’s all about what you want to make of it. Not being in a fraternity is not going to hold you back from having fun or doing anything.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Alabama? Is there anything you would change if you could?
For me, I was fine with it because when I was going to college I had a goal in mind to get into medical school, so I was not trying to get distracted by nightlife. I’m happy with it because there’s all the variety you could want. There are the club type bars, the laid back bars, you have everything you need.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I met my closest friends through the fraternity.
Do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Yeah, I mean I have kind of a skewed perspective I think because it’s different in Greek life and outside of Greek life. In Greek life, I know Black people and gay people in good fraternities and I would socialize with them. For the most part, you socialize mostly with your fraternity. I think for the people who aren’t in fraternities tend to have a lot more diversity in their friend groups because of the kind of people who would tend to not be in a fraternity.
What is the impact of Greek life on the social scene?
From someone that is in a fraternity, you can have a great social life in you’re in a fraternity or not in a fraternity. I have friends that were both independent and in fraternities that have great social lives. I think if you’re someone who’s nervous about making friends immediately, I think Greek life is a good place to start. Even if you don’t end up joining a fraternity you can meet a lot of people through rushing. I think if you’re in a fraternity you’re guaranteed to have a big social scene and you can make what you want of that. Like I chose to not be a big part of it for a while and focus on studies, but when I wanted to it was still there. I can’t speak much to what it’s like to not be in a fraternity, but all my friends who weren’t in fraternities had a great group of friends and a great time and it didn’t impact them at all. And because it’s a big school there are a lot of people who aren’t in Greek life. [There are more than 11,500 students involved in Greek life, making up 34% of the undergraduate population.]
How would you describe the student body?
I think it’s a pretty diverse school. You have about 56% of students coming from out of state, so you have a good mix of regional diversity. Then there’s a large Black community, so I mean it’s a pretty diverse student body. [The administration] is still trying to figure it out. There are still people who claim it’s a racist school, but I have not seen that. I have many Black friends here and I think they feel safe and happy at Alabama. [About 10% of students are Black and 76% are White.]
Do you think people at Alabama are happy with their choice by senior year?
I think so. I think for a lot of my friends who complained about Alabama were from Boca Raton and South Florida were looking for that club vibe more. We don’t have that many club type bars, we have bars where there’s a live band on stage and you’re ordering beers but it’s not like a club. There are more club-like bars opening, now we have three. They complained for like 3 years but realized how much they loved Alabama by senior year and that you can get the same thing at some of our bars. I think by senior year most people are very happy with it. I think it’s a very good school.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I’m going to medical school so I haven’t really had that experience with it. I know just from being in a fraternity you have a good network.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew before entering Alabama as a freshman?
I was worried that I was going to a really southern school, but it really wasn’t. It’s the perfect mix. It can be southern if you want it to be, but it doesn’t have to be. There is a huge population of non-southern kids, and that was the base of my friends. Yeah, it’s in the deep south in Alabama, but it’s more about who is there that makes it what it is, and who’s there is 60% out of state kids. I wish I would have known that there were so many non-Alabama kids like me.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The Bryant Museum is a cool place to go. It’s a football museum. Then off-campus, the only thing to see would be downtown, which is only like one or two streets so I think it would be hard to miss that.
Reasons to attend Alabama:
1) If you’re looking for the big SEC college experience, definitely go to Alabama.
2) If you’re looking for a place with a strong alumni network and school pride that lasts their whole lives.
3) If you want to win national championships in football.
4) It’s a great place if you want to go to medical school. I was also worried about Alabama hurting my chances of being accepted to because it has a bad reputation apparently for being a “dumb school.” But, they have such a great pre-med program and they do a great job of getting their kids into medical school. I think the name is not going to hurt you even if you think it will. It’s a well-recognized name and is on the same playing field as any SEC school.
Reasons to not attend Alabama:
1) If you don’t want to be at a southern school, I wouldn’t go to Alabama because there is a strong southern presence. It isn’t overwhelming, but it’s there.
2) If you’re looking for a place with a town that has a lot to do, I wouldn’t go here. Tuscaloosa’s a great little town, but as I said there’s not that many places to eat, there are not a lot of art museums to go to and stuff like that.