An Interview On
Brown University

Background

Interview Date:April 2018

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: I guess I would identify as white, but my mother is half Pakistani
Graduation Year: 2018
High School Experience: I grew up in different countries. I went to a private international school in Geneva with a graduating class of about 100 students.
Concentration: Neuroscience
Extracurricular Activities: I was part of the Applied Music Program for piano, I taught English to Immigrants, and I play intramural sports. I mainly do a lot of research for different labs. I also mentored for Women in Science and the International Mentoring Program.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
I think mentoring had a big impact on me. I really enjoyed it I might try to incorporate that in my life if I become a professor or something like that.

Academic Experience

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your concentration?
Honestly, the courses outside of Neuroscience that are required for the degree are probably the hardest, like physics and chemistry. Those have recurring problem sets and you have weekly labs for physics and chemistry. The upper-level Neuroscience courses are mostly seminars and you meet for 3 hours and you read primary papers about current research, you discuss it, and do a presentation.

What are your major graded assignments?
Well at the moment my thesis probably, so I’m taking fewer classes now and focusing on that. There are two labs that I work in so that takes up most of my time. I run participants and do analyses and stuff like that.

Is there anything that you feel your concentration’s department does especially well or especially poorly?
I think at Brown, in particular, there is a really strong Neuroscience department in terms of the faculty. There are just so many brilliant professors who just do really incredible research and I think that is really unique about Brown.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I guess it’s a lot of self-teaching. They give you readings and they expect you to understand the material in lectures and classes. They don’t try to just review the concepts they try to test your knowledge. I had one class last year where they essentially grilled you for 10-15 minutes on a general concept and you’d have information from the paper to with. I think they really try to promote critical thinking which is nice.

What has been your favorite class in your concentration?
Neuropharmacology. It had a lab component to it, which is normally pretty annoying, but in this case, it was interesting because we got to apply what we learned in class. You just study the effects of different drugs.

What has been your least favorite class in your concentration?
Organic Chemistry, for sure.

What’s a fun class you’ve taken outside of your concentration?
I took a History of Russia class which was super interesting and for that, the professor was just brilliant.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: I lived in Keeney quad in Everett. I had one roommate and for our situation we were lucky. Most people have just one room with two people but we had two separate rooms and our own bathroom.

Sophomore: South Caswell, which is a sophomore dorm. I had one room with two beds and my roommate was a male athlete.

Junior: Hegeman in a suite, so you have your own individual room and a shared common room. I had three roommates with that.

Senior: Off-campus

What was your favorite living situation?
My favorite is off-campus, definitely.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel very safe, I haven’t had any issues at all. I would just leave my dorm room unlocked, which probably wasn’t very smart.

Pros and cons of being in Providence, RI?
Pros: (1) I like the size, it’s not a super big city but it has everything you need.
(2) And I like the fact that Brown is kind of separate from that so you have the bubble if you need it.
(3) It’s cute.
(4) It’s close to Boston and New York, so if you want a bigger city it’s there.

Cons: (1) Definitely the weather. It’s really cold and snowy.
(2) It’s not super interesting as a city.
(3) It’s safe but I wouldn’t wander alone late at night, there is some crime.

Social Opportunities

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
This year, because I’m off campus, I just hang out with my friends at their houses. There is a student bar which I go to once every week or two. I know freshmen and sophomores do a lot of dorm parties. I go out on Fridays and Saturdays. I would say that I do like the drinking culture at Brown. If you don’t want to drink they don’t pressure you.

Can you describe a typical night going out freshman year?
The dorm parties were not that fun. Brown is not known for partying very well. It would just be like a stuffy dorm party. It was usually a crowded room with loud music.

What are some alternatives to going to a party or bar that you like to do?
Honestly, just hanging out with friends. Either just chilling with them or watching a movie. I really love my intramural soccer team so I play pick up now on Fridays.

How happy are you with Brown’s nightlife? Is there anything you would change?
I mean I think it was fine. I’m not really a huge fan of frat parties or dorm parties. I just think it’s kind of crowded and gross and you don’t get to talk to people. I think sitting in a calm setting like a bar just chilling with them is a lot better and it’s been good. I don’t really care about the nightlife too much because I just find other ways to hang out with my friends.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
A lot of them lived on the floor above me or on the same floor as me freshman year.

How would you describe the overall social scene at Brown?
I think in general people go out, and I think mostly to dorm parties or house parties, and a few bars and clubs. I don’t think anyone is really that crazy. I don’t think you see people getting completely wasted on a weeknight. I think a lot of people don’t go out and party who are pretty studious on average.

To what extent do international students mix with domestic students?
I think in general Americans are very accepting of a lot of people which I really appreciate. People don’t really ask, “Oh, you have an accent where are you from?” They just accept you into their culture, which I think is pretty unique to Americans. In general, I think there is kind of a divide. I think it depends on nationality. Europeans tend to mix pretty well because we’re all kind of the same. Maybe other nationalities or ethnicities don’t mix as much. I think there is more divide in terms of wealthy international students, they kind of stick together. They definitely have their own cliques.

Are there systems in place that help international students adapt and feel at home?
There’s an International Mentoring Program. At the beginning of the year, you have an orientation program and events throughout the year to help students adapt to American culture.

Were there any parts of Brown or American college that surprised you?
This is an issue with Brown students, and I think people at some other universities, but people here are pretty liberal, and I agree with most of the political and social views students have here, I think they’re kind of hypocritical in that they accept one sort of mindset. If anyone has a different view, rather than debating with them and discussing with them, people tend to shut them down. That was something that surprised and disappointed me.

Do you think that people are happy with their choice of Brown?
I think so, I mean there’s always something wrong with the school. Brown is nice but it’s not that special. Like, I’m sure other schools are the same. For me, I feel most regretful about financial aid. That has really not been helpful and I could have had better financial aid at other schools. But overall, I think in terms of academics and social life people are pretty happy.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
The students who recently graduated have given me good advice. In terms of older alumni, no, I haven’t reached out to them.

How helpful has the career office been?
I found one particularly good advisor and she was pretty helpful. I just go to them to help figure out my life and they just ask the right questions.

Have you learned any computer programs that will be especially helpful professionally?
Yeah, I took a MatLab course and I have been using that in my research and I will use it again.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew before entering Brown as a freshman?
I wish I knew more things about myself. Like, I wish I knew more about what I wanted to do later so I could plan my courses better. I think I was lucky because my sister went here and was two years older so I learned a lot through her. Nothing really took me by surprise.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
There’s this really cool staircase, the List Art [Center] staircase. Brown and RISD students put their own art and design throughout the five floors of the staircase and I think it shows the quirkiness at Brown.

What is something a prospective international student should know that we haven’t touched on?
I think they should really be aware of the American college experience in general. I don’t know if Brown has anything in particular that’s special compared to other American schools, but it is very different compared to others. For example, in the UK is very different and is a place where lots of internationals go to.

Reasons to attend Brown:
1) The open curriculum and lack of requirements you have to take. I think that really means that people who are in a class really want to be there because there are no base requirements. It also lets you really explore different course options. If you’re not sure what you want to do, you can really take whatever classes you want.
2) I think people are very talented and intelligent and you can really find all sorts of students here. Everyone has something to say which is really nice.

Reasons to not attend Brown:
1) It’s really expensive. I guess you have to decide if it is worth it to come here for that much money. [Total cost for the 2018-19 academic year is $73,892.]
2) Brown may not have the right course path for you. You have to ask yourself if you’re going to benefit the most out of what Brown has to offer you.

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