BackgroundInterview Date:January 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Middle Eastern
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Private school in Boulder, CO with a graduating class of about 50 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Global Studies with a concentration in International Relations
Extracurricular Activities: I [have leadership positions] in The Women of Color Association and the Hillel Chapter on Colby’s campus. I am also part of the Feminist Alliance and I mentor girls through the Hardy Girls Healthy Women program.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
They all have been very valuable and added to the experience, but I wouldn’t say any of them have had an impact on my Colby experience as an individual group.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
Because I’m doing Global Studies at a liberal arts college the coursework is pretty widespread. I take courses in the History department, Government department, Anthropology department, Sociology department, etc. A lot of them are humanities or social sciences courses so there is a lot of reading, discussion, and essays. I had problem sets for macro and microeconomics, though.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
I like the way the major is structured around five core courses and a variety of different subjects to get a really well-rounded introduction to Global Studies and then you have the flexibility to choose which area you want to concentrate in, which is what I’m doing.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
In the classroom setting, students definitely have the desire to come together and work together on projects or essays and share notes. But, at the end of the day, there is a competitive vibe on campus for people to strive to do well and do well in terms of doing better than others.
How accessible are your professors?
One of the best parts about Colby is that I have a lot of close relationships with my professors. They are so willing to meet and I feel very comfortable about speaking to them about anything or asking for letters of recommendation. Colby has a great program where you can take your professor to lunch at the school’s expense. There definitely is a vibe where office hours are very available and a lot of students use them regularly.
Do you feel people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
It depends on the classroom. Most people are interested in hearing other’s perspectives and when they do hear someone else’s approach, they think about, analyze it, and then go from there.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I immigrated to the U.S. and have a pretty international background so I’ve grown up tracking political affairs both where I’m from and where I live. Global Studies made sense as I got older and identified issues and things that I was analyzing that I wanted to change. So, in order to do so, I thought I should study the world and how it works so I can then go do something about it. I’m very happy with my choice.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student? Were there any systems in place to help you adapt?
There’s a first-generation student orientation for freshmen, so I was able to move in a day earlier than everyone else which was really nice because move-in day was pretty stressful. Then I had the option of having an upperclassman mentor who I could meet with if I had questions, but I didn’t partake in it. I definitely had a bunch of options at my disposal.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Marriner Hall with two roommates.
Sophomore: Coburn Hall in a double.
Junior: Abroad for both semesters.
How was transitioning from your hometown in Boulder, CO to Waterville, ME?
Waterville, Maine is cold and rural and I don’t think I’m suited for that climate. But, Colby’s campus is really welcoming and is a happy bubble, so I really like the campus. Waterville, Maine is a place I don’t see myself after Colby.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
On campus, there is the Blue Light System and security patrols campus throughout the day. Waterville is generally a pretty safe area. It’s pretty safe, but the only thing I would look out for are nightlife activities can be questionable depending on how drunk people are, but usually there is security around the building in case something happens.
Pros and cons of being located in Waterville, ME:
Pros: 1) Because it’s so rural, the campus is pretty isolated and you get that happy bubble feel where everybody is on campus and together. We have that same foundation of Waterville experiences to relate to.
Cons: 1) It’s freezing and snowy from the end of October to May.
2) It’s pretty rural so there are not a lot of options for things to do around the area.
3) The closest city is Portland, which about an hour and fifteen minutes away. If you don’t have a car on campus you’re pretty trapped on campus.
4) The people in Waterville are very conservative and there are some neo-nazi vibes.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
On Friday nights and on the weekends, I like to go out with friends to parties in the Alfond or Downtown apartments or different dorm parties. A lot of times the hosts are team members hosting the party because they’ll be friends, get an apartment, and then that apartment is unofficially their team’s apartment. Also, sometimes clubs will have parties because board members of a club live in an apartment or just a certain number apartment is having something.
There are a lot of events on campus in the coffeehouse on campus on the weekends, like concerts, and those are fun to go to. There are also a lot of little concerts that student programming puts on throughout the semester. Then during the day it’s fun to get off campus because my friends have cars. We will sometimes drive to Boston for the weekend or go to Portland. On Sundays, there is a fair amount of homework to do.
What nights of the week do you regularly go out?
Wednesday is the school pub night at the pub on campus, Thursday is bar night at the bar in downtown Waterville, and then Friday and Saturday there are parties in the apartments on campus.
What is the impact of sports teams on nightlife?
The majority of the nightlife revolves around the sports teams.
What is an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
There is a lot of non-alcoholic programming on campus and the school has recently put a lot of emphasis on providing options for students who don’t like to drink like paint nights or a movie marathon. I’ve never gone to those because if I’m not going to go out I’ll just hang out with my friends in an apartment. There are also student performances at the coffeehouse every week and a lot of club events every week.
How happy have you been with the weekend options at Colby? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m not particularly happy with the nightlife at Colby. It’s pretty much the same thing every night, which is a lot of drunk, sweaty people squished into an apartment with very mediocre music. It’s typically the same playlist every night. Getting off campus and going to the bars downtown or sometimes there are themed parties that take place or dorm parties where it’s a little smaller but you know the people and you can control the playlist that I like more.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Very randomly. I met each person differently. One of them I knew of before arriving on campus and officially met on campus. Another I met through a friend of a friend during the first week of school. In general, it’s a lot of meeting people through friends of friends. You make some friends and then the next week you go hang out with them the next week and make friends with their friends.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s definitely friend group based. Most of the activities you’ll participate in are based on what you and your friends do. Maybe a friend of a friend in your group is having something and will invite your friend group, so all the activities are spread by word of mouth. The campus is so small and isolated that even if you don’t know of something going on you can just go there because it’s not exclusive at all.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
There are a lot of straight, White, upper-class people at Colby. About 20% of the study body is in the top 1%, so basically, anyone who looks different or acts different doesn’t necessarily feel welcome to that team aesthetic. Otherwise, there are a lot of spaces on campus for people of any sort of orientation or background.
How would you describe the student body?
The student body gets a really bad rap for being very White and not diverse. Especially since I’ve been on campus, the incoming class has been more and more diverse and I think you can see that which is really nice. There are a lot of Questbridge and Posse scholars on campus, so Colby is making a very large effort to admit students from different backgrounds, so I think that culture is starting to change. [The population of Colby is over 70% White.]
As a Middle Eastern person, how accepted have you felt on campus and in the surrounding area?
I’m fortunate to be White-passing, so some people will assume I’m White and I think I’ve definitely benefitted from that privilege. Because of that, I think it’s hard for me to speak on this, but I will say that when it’s clear I’m not American and not White I’m still welcome.
How strong is the Middle Eastern community on campus?
It’s nonexistent. There’s a community for people who are LGBTQ, women of color, men of color, and so forth, so there are things to get involved in. But, there is not much that is specifically for Middle Eastern people.
How do you like the size of Colby in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that influenced your experience? [There are about 2,000 students.]
I love it. That’s why I chose Colby. I really wanted to go to a small school so I would have access to professors that I have now and I really enjoy. I’m a fan of it, but it’s not for everyone.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Not necessarily, but I’m getting into that right now.
What have you used the career center for? How helpful have they been?
I use the career center a lot. There is a specific advisor who I matched with based on what areas she specializes in and what areas I want to go into. She’s been really helpful since the beginning of freshman year. She knows me really well, knows what track I want to be on, she tells me about all of these different opportunities and even when I was abroad we had several Skype meetings so that she could still help me through a couple of different applications. It’s definitely been beneficial.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
Have you used financial aid? If so, how accommodating has the office been to your needs?
Financial aid has been great. That was one of the factors that helped me decide where to go. I was accepted in 2016 but wanted to take a gap year and they kept my scholarship and financial aid package for me for when I got back.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Colby before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew more about the culture on campus so I could have a better understanding of what I was getting into. It’s something I’ve learned over the years and is something I’ve adapted to, and it’s working well for me. There is some turn off because of the way that student entitlement pervades on campus. It’s definitely very northeastern and wealthy. You know that statistically about the school, but the way it affects the way students behave and approach things is not necessarily clear before getting on campus.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The weather in Maine is generally not ideal. The student may take a tour of campus when it’s grey and cloudy and that might affect their visit. I think they should go to some of the really nice study spaces. One of the great things about Colby is you can go pretty much anywhere on campus and the buildings are pretty much unlocked for students at all hours, so, if the library isn’t a good spot for you, you can find a comfortable space that you might not see on the tour.
What is something a prospective first-generation student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
If they come from a lower-income background, they need to prepare themselves for the wealth they will see on campus because it’s probably different from anything they’ve ever experienced. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just different and they might have to adjust to that.
Reasons to attend Colby:
1) The relationships you can have with your professors is amazing.
2) The quality of the career center.
3) The amount of individual attention you can get because it’s a small institution is really beneficial.
4) Student financial aid will work with you and I’ve had a really good experience with them personally.
5) The community itself is very tight-knit and administrators respond to issues very quickly. You can have a say in what happens on campus if there’s something that you see that you don’t like. As long as you’re willing to, you can change it.
Reasons to not attend Colby:
1) It’s definitely a small school so you get used to seeing the same people on a regular basis and get to know a lot of people very quickly. If someone’s looking for a bigger school where they’re constantly meeting new people, I would say Colby is not a good fit for that.
2) The location. I’m not the biggest fan of the conservative freezing tundra of Maine, but that’s just me personally. You just have to be prepared for that.
3) There is a sense of privilege and entitlement on campus, but I think that’s changing and you can find a lot of spaces where you can get away from that.