BackgroundInterview Date:November 2018
Gender Identity: Male
Graduation Year: 2021
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
High School Experience: Private school in Chennai, India with a graduating class of about 90 students. There was a strong culture of going to college in the United States.
First Generation College Student: No
Extracurricular Activities: I do cultural events, dance, theatre, and I have a job on campus mentoring international and intercultural students.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
My job and the cultural club definitely have had big impacts on my experience.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for the Computer Science major?
We have one assignment every week, and we have two exams. There are a bunch of readings for every class, but that’s all we have.
Is there anything you feel that your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
The Computer Science department does theoretical computer science really well, but it’s not really tactical. There are lots of classes in classrooms without computers. In terms of learning computer science as a theoretical for academia, it’s really good. In terms of learning tactical skills, not so much.
How would you describe the learning environment? Is it particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s very collaborative. There’s no sense of competitiveness from my experience. This is super nice because you don’t have to worry about someone else outranking you or something like that.
How accessible have the professors in your department been?
They’ve been super accessible. I can just walk into their office anytime I want and ask them questions. They are super welcoming and ready to help you out with things.
How was transitioning from your high school in India to Carleton academically? Are there systems in place to help international students adapt?
I found Carleton a lot more comfortable for me personally because there’s a lot less stress to study, and there’s less competition. This was very helpful for me because I can focus on whatever I want to do. I also like that you could choose your own classes because then I actually cared about them instead of just taking them.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I’ve always wanted to make and build things. I was going to be a Psychics major before because I thought that would help me, but I realized that isn’t something I wanted to do with my life. I was very good at [Computer Science] in high school, and so I thought it would be fun to do here.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived over the past two years?
Freshman: Cassat with one roommate.
Sophomore: Evans in a quad with three other roommates.
How was transitioning from your hometown in India to Carleton, Minnesota?
It was very difficult. I’m used to a hot and humid climate and having a lot of people around me. It’s super cold in Carleton all the time and there are a lot less people walking around. It was a huge culture shock when I first showed up, but I got used to it very quickly.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I’ve felt pretty safe on campus. It’s nice to be able to leave my stuff somewhere knowing it’ll be there when I come back. I’ve never felt threatened on campus at all.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
There’s a Mexican place called El’ Cerrito with huge portions. It’s cheap, and the food is really great.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I don’t get off campus very often, but when I do I like to go to the bowling alley. They have different leagues and it’s always full of people.
Pros and cons of being located in the Carleton, Minnesota?
1) It’s an amazing community in a small town.
2) There are lots of events that happen across both colleges that we can go to. [St. Olaf College is about 2 miles from Carleton College.]
1) It’s insanely cold.
2) It’s a small campus, but because it’s so cold it feels pretty big. If you don’t have a bike or a means of getting around campus quickly it can be frustrating because walking across campus in freezing temperatures is not fun. [Carleton has about 2,080 undergraduate students, and 11% are international.]
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
I pretty much go out every night. We have parties in the houses on campus and in the dorms, but we don’t have frats. I feel like it’s a lot better to go to dorm parties because they are a lot more relaxed and not as crazy. On slow nights, I’ll just hang out with friends in someone’s room.
What nights of the week do you regularly do things?
Friday and Saturday.
Can you describe a typical night freshman year?
I would first find a place to hang out in a small group and then go to a big party where I’d stay for the night. We have a café on campus that’s open until 1 AM on Friday and Saturday, so we’ll go there at the end of the night and then go to sleep.
What have been some of your favorite times at Carleton?
I particularly love the Spring concert. It happens in the seventh or eighth week of spring, and they get a bunch of musicians and bands to play. There are food trucks and it’s a lot of fun.
How was transitioning from India to America in terms of social life?
It was interesting. The music and the way people act are completely different. The social norms in general are very different compared to how it is back home. You just need a couple of weeks to get used to it. It wasn’t super hard.
How happy are you with the weekend activities or nightlife at your school? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m pretty happy with it. I wish there were night clubs, but I don’t really mind not having them.
How did you meet your closest friends?
It just happened naturally at parties or in class.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Carleton?
It seems pretty fun and everybody is nice. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who isn’t nice, which is amazing.
To what extent do you feel international students mix with domestic students?
That depends on the person. I’ve seen people who stick to the international students the whole time, and I’ve seen people who move away from that side of life completely and only hang out with American students. From my experience, I get along with everyone and so do most of my friends. [11% of students are international.]
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
People like to stick with their own kinds, that’s just how people are. I think everyone gets along well with each other and there’s no stigma against any group on campus. [28% of students identify as people of color.]
How would you describe the student body?
People at Carleton are advertised as quirky, but I don’t really see it because everyone seems pretty normal. People are very passionate about things they want to do, and they can talk to you for hours on end about whatever it is. It’s nice because you can build relationships based on those things.
Do people generally seem happy with Carleton by senior year? Do people leave loving your school?
Yes, I do.
Were there parts of your college, or American college as a whole, that surprised you?
The whole trust factor. It’s insane how much they trust you. I had an exam where there was no one watching me take it, which is crazy because I come from a place where there are always three people watching you in the room because they were worried about us cheating. Here, no one really cares.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Yes. The alumni directory has everyone’s emails, and they encourage you to reach out to alumni and get to know them better so you can eventually ask them for internships and jobs. It’s really helpful because you meet a lot of people.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
They are really good. They will read through your resume, and they will sit with you and review your internship or job applications. They are very critical of your resume, which is good because you want it to be good. They have a bunch of events that happen for job finding where a bunch of people come. They also organize internship and externship showcases where you can see past students’ experiences.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
It’s a liberal arts college, so you learn a lot of things in other classes. The electives of Computer Science at Carleton are super diverse. There are electives on Social Computing, Computational Biology, and Artificial Intelligence. If you want to do something, there is an elective for you to do it.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Carleton before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I knew exactly how cold it would get because I wasn’t ready for it. When I came during my freshman year, I had one jacket, and that wasn’t good enough.
What is something a prospective international student may want to know that we haven’t touched on yet?
The food is different. I think dining hall food in general is going to be disappointing compared to where you come from. You just have to get used to it after a while.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
We have a huge plot of land called the Arboretum and it’s really pretty. There are streams, forests, and a bunch of animals. It’s really relaxing and nice to take a walk in.
Reasons to attend Carleton:
1) It’s a very collaborative environment. You’ll never feel pressured to be better than someone else.
2) The professors are amazing. Everyone is there to help you and they care about you the most.
3) The community at Carleton is very supportive, and if you ever need help there’s probably a resource for you. There’s the Writing Center, Career Center, and Math Center. There are so many things.
Reasons to not attend Carleton:
1) If you can’t stand the cold then it’s a deal breaker.
2) The food, but then again, every college has bad food.