BackgroundInterview Date:February 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: South Asian/Pakistani
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Public all-girls school in New York City with a graduating class of about 90 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Sociology with concentrations in Gender & Sexuality Studies and Africana Studies
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in Million Hoodies for Justice which is a grassroots organization program for Black and Brown students, and I’m in the Muslim Students Association (MSA). I used to be in Peer House, which highlights sex education and mental wellness, and I was part of a radio show my freshman year.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
All of them have had an impact on me at a certain time, but Million Hoodies for Justice has specifically been helpful because it has grounded me in my activism. I also started to understand more about myself through that as well.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
For Sociology the classes are heavily reading-based and discussion-based, so you have to make sure to do the readings in order to have a constructive discussion in class with other students. For a lot of the classes, there’s a midterm essay and a final essay or exam.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
They do a good job of finding events and speakers outside of the classroom that we can attend. Within the classroom, the professors are very well calculated when they speak and are very understanding of the concept of inclusivity and practice that in the classroom.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think it can be competitive, especially because it’s a predominantly White institution so I’m either the only person of color in the class or one of a few associates. Sociology tends to attract more students of color because we want to learn more about ourselves, but in other subject areas there’s not a lot. It can be competitive in that people talk to talk and get participation points. People are competitive in an individualistic sense. [About 61% of students at Bard are White.]
How accessible are your professors?
They’re very accessible because they have office hours and they’re always emphasizing how we can come to them. It’s also a small school so almost all of your classes are 30 people or less, so you have a more personal relationship with the professor. Building that relationship is more on the students, the professor is not going to nag the student to have a relationship with them. [98% of classes have 29 students or less.]
Do you think that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
I think theoretically they like to think they are, but in practice, it can be difficult to acknowledge a person’s privilege no matter your background because there are different kinds of privileges. Sometimes people will move around certain subjects that they feel uncomfortable by, but I would say that once students do want to understand something they’re very adamant about it.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice so far?
I was initially Sociology when I came in, but I then switched to Psychology because I wanted to take to the route of being a special education teacher. I still want to be a special education teacher, but don’t know if Psychology is the route I want to take for that, so now I’m back to Sociology. I was on and off with it, but what made me decide on Sociology is that my mind is more stimulated in the academic sense in that field. I like that it answers questions about institutions, cultures, and peoples’ behaviors that I didn’t feel Psychology did.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student? Were there any resources or systems in place that helped you adapt?
There is the Bard Educational Opportunity Program (BEOP). They bring in BEOP students for a two-week pre-orientation program to help adjust to and understand college life. Bard also has two programs for first years, Language and Thinking, which happens in August, and Citizen Science, which happens in January. Those can be great transitional points for first years.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: I lived in a Treehouse, which is a more communal suite type of dorm. I lived in Maple, which is a women’s dorm, and there were about ten people there.
Sophomore: I lived in a co-ed dorm with about 30-40 people.
Junior: I live in Manor House in a single and share a bathroom with one other person.
How was transitioning from New York City to Annandale-on-Hudson, NY?
New York City is very vibrant and there is always something to do. When I came here it was really hard because I felt like I was in a bubble and it was very isolating. It’s really about finding community in individual people because it can hard to cultivate a strong community in a campus that is predominantly White and without much school spirit around athletics. It was difficult, but once you find your people it gets better.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel pretty safe in the physical sense on campus. I still get a little afraid going into the neighboring towns because there’s not a lot of diversity, so I tend to go in groups. On campus, I feel safe. [The population of Dutchess County, NY is 71% White. The overall crime rate in Tivoli, NY is 71% lower than the national average.]
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
Currently, my house because I live off campus. When I wasn’t living off campus, I like to go to the lake in town. It’s really beautiful in the fall and I really enjoyed going, talking with friends, and looking at the leaves.
Pros and Cons of being in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY?
Pros: The environment slows you down and makes you question yourself and your surroundings.
Cons: It’s isolating.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Bard?
I don’t really like parties. I like kickbacks or to hang out with a small group of friends, so nightlife isn’t really existent for me because I like the more laidback scene. In terms of weekend activities, I have club events, doing homework, or hanging out with friends and watch movies. The weekend is more about decompressing.
What are some of your favorite events on campus or around town?
There’s an area called SMOG where mini-concerts are held. There are also athletic events, so I’m going to a basketball game soon. There will other events here and there, like the Black History Month Gala that’s coming up or the Women of Color Gala that happened last semester. Spring Fling is also a big one where the whole school gets together during a weekend in May and participates in a three-day carnival-type weekend.
How happy were you with the nightlife options at Bard? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m satisfied with my weekends here other than that there’s a food court near my dorm that isn’t open on weekends.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I met most of my friends through BEOP, and then I met some people through classes here and there.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
It is cliquey. I personally don’t like to be in groups. I have friends from different groups, so for me it’s different. People are really relaxed, but they don’t stray that far away from their group of friends.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Not very often, unless it’s Spring Fling. My group of friends is mostly people of color.
How would you describe the South Asian community on campus? How strong is it?
A lot of the South Asian community comes from internationally because Bard has a strong international presence. For me personally, being South Asian it’s hard to connect with other South Asians because I’m more Americanized and seem less like they, so there’s a back and forth between identity in a way. If there’s an event and we all get together, there’s a sense of community. The best way I can put it is it’s loosely organized. [About 12% of students are international.]
How do you like the size of Bard in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that impacted your experience?
I like it. I went to a small high school and middle school so I like the smaller setting. I think it allows for more intimate relationships to develop and that is something I prioritize.
How was transitioning socially as a first-generation college student? Did that influence your social transition at all?
It didn’t affect me at all because I’ve never really seen myself as a first-generation student. That’s not an identity I held onto until college came around because the emphasis on college helped me understand where I am systematically, so it made me hyper-aware of my presence on campus, which can either be good or bad. I didn’t let that label affect me or put pressure on me, but later on, it started to affect me when my parents were saying to not do sociology and to become a lawyer or a doctor. There’s also a stark difference between my family and a lot of the families here who have wealth. It hasn’t had an impact socially or with my friend group, but it has impacted me with making career decisions and not having to keep my family in mind because I’m the one to create.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
They definitely make an emphasis on finding it. They have a program called Bard Works where you can go to Washington, D.C. and learn from different panelists in different fields. They also have one in New York City. For me personally, I’ve used my peers. Something that I think people forget is that the company you keep is your network as well.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I haven’t used the career office mostly because my high school put such an emphasis on professionalism so I already had the tools coming into Bard for resume building and stuff like that.
Have you learned any computer programs that will be helpful professionally?
I had experience with Excel in Psychology and SPSS in Sociology.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how helpful is the office?
I go into the office to make sure my bill is being paid and I’m on track. They’re definitely very helpful, but it’s just a stressful environment to be in because it’s a tense subject.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Bard before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew more about the separation between students here and how choosing a major would work.
What is something a prospective first-generation student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
You have to listen to your body and listen to your gut. If you feel uncomfortable in a certain department, despite family tension, you have to follow what you want to do. Once your parents start seeing results, they’ll start to understand how it makes you happy. Focus on building yourself in college and give yourself the option to explore. It’s good to have a Plan A and a Plan B.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The campus is really beautiful in the fall and spring. People will be out and about and you will see people lounging around outside. The winter isn’t a good time to visit because it’s going to be gloomier and there will be snow. Make sure you give yourself a personal tour after the campus explore more of the northern part of campus. Also, make sure to see Blithewood Garden on the south side of campus because the tours don’t take you there.
Reasons to attend Bard:
1) The study abroad programs. Bard puts a lot of emphasis on the international community and the study abroad programs are really great.
2) The financial aid. [66% of students receive Bard aid.]
Reasons to not attend Bard:
1) If you want a place where you have a community already or where there is school spirit, Bard is less of a place for you. There’s a lack of community here both within different types of students and also within the different identity groups.
2) If you want to major in the sciences, there is a small community for that but there is not a large network. [There are only six departments in the Division of Science, Mathematics, and Computing.]