BackgroundInterview Date:April 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Middle Eastern, I’m from Lebanon
Graduation Year: 2018
High School Experience: Private school in Beirut, I went to the same school for 14 years, so leaving that and coming to Conn was definitely a big change for me. It was an international school, and you have to two systems, the English system and French system. I was in the French system, so I also had to transition with languages after high school. English is my third language.
Minors: Double minor in Art and Gender and Women’s Studies
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in the International Student Association, which is really important to me. I’m also in Amnesty International which is a club that’s all about international human rights. Then I’m also in CISLA [Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts] which requires you to do an internship abroad.
Is the International Student Association a club that helps students adapt?
Yes, exactly. If you’re an international student, you’re already part of the club. It comes with international orientation, which I really liked about Conn. We came before the domestic students and it was important to them that we were adjusted. Getting to know everybody that was in the same boat that I was and getting to know the campus before having Americans surrounding it was very helpful. On top of that, we each get an international student that is our adviser and mentor on campus and that was very effective.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
I have a lot, a lot of reading. Because of my Psychology major, I have to read case studies all the time. Also, because I’m an Arts minor I have to spend so many hours at the studio, like endless hours. I tell people my Arts minor has made me do more work than my major and other minor combined. So, I’m mostly at the studio painting and drawing. I also have a lot of essays and a lot of presentations. Conn is very big on public speaking.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
I think our Psychology department is really good. One of the reasons I picked Conn was because it had an equally good Psychology department and Art department, while most of the other schools I was looking at was one or the other.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it was particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think the learning environment is very healthy. I specifically looked at smaller schools so I wouldn’t just be a number and professors would know my name. I feel like because it’s a very nurturing environment it’s easier for me to learn. It’s not intimidating for me to ask a question. Because it’s on a smaller scale it’s easier to learn, you feel like you’re really interacting with the professor. I also think it’s a very healthy learning environment in terms of progressiveness, we’re more on the liberal side. I’ve always felt safe in the classroom.
Why did you choose Psychology?
I think it was just who I was as a kid. I had this fear of not being able to help people, and so I figured if I get a degree in psychology I could just tackle this fear and actually do something and be qualified to help. I went in knowing I wanted to study psychology and art but thought that was going to change. But, honestly, I was so satisfied with the departments that I stuck with it and added Gender & Women’s studies along the way.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Knowlton House which is the multicultural dorm. I specifically asked to live there just because I wanted to live with people that were worldly, spoke different languages and interested in opportunities outside of the U.S. I was in a quad with three other roommates, which was a lot. But we were civil, it wasn’t that bad. One of my roommates ended up being one of my best friends.
Sophomore: The good thing about Conn is at some point you just get a single room. My sophomore year I lived in Smith in Central Campus.
Junior: Windham for one semester and then went abroad for second semester
Senior: Harkness in a single.
What was your favorite living situation?
I would say Windham was my favorite because the coolest people, in my opinion, lived in Windham. And by coolest I don’t mean most popular, I mean just like people that were really interesting and outgoing and smart and just really cool people.
Can you describe the level of safety you have experienced on and around campus?
I don’t feel threatened easily because of where I come from, but generally, I’ve always felt the same on campus. New London has its sketchy corners but honestly, I’ve never felt unsafe, not for one second.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
I would say the Lazy Leopard is definitely my favorite restaurant, but I also love going to Red 36 in Mystic.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
Mystic, CT is definitely one if I can’t go too far, but I’ve also gone to New York City, Boston, and Rhode Island several times. So, if I get away from campus I try to actually try to get away and spend a weekend in a different city because it’s so easy.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I obviously like working pretty hard but I also like to party, so I try to be as social as I can. I go out on campus, but I mostly go to bars off-campus now that I’m 21. [I do the typical Thursday night bars in New London, Friday and or Saturday night on campus scene.] When I was younger, most of my going out was on campus, which are dorm parties. Sometimes I would go to the Ridges and Winchesters, but I never went to New London. Obviously, New London bars can be a lot of fun, but they’re not this wild experience. I didn’t feel like I was missing out when I couldn’t go.
What have been your favorite days or nights at Conn?
Now that I’m a senior, my favorite outings have been the events planned for seniors. I’m out with my class and there has been a sense of community and feeling that we’re all leaving and graduating. Also, sophomore year all the CISLA students went on this trip to the U.N headquarters in New York City. That was definitely a highlight. A lot of class trips have been really wonderful, I think Conn is really good with that. We go beyond Connecticut, we go to Boston and New York City pretty easily.
How was it transitioning to the American college nightlife as an international student?
It was definitely different. I mean I grew up in a city and my social life [at home] was on a bigger scale. Here it’s on a smaller scale because you just hang out with the same people and you see the same people all the time. It’s good in a way because you’re not out of your comfort zone, but at the same time, you can meet people. It’s been a little anticlimactic which is weird because you think that high school would be less exciting.
How happy are you with the nightlife at Conn? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I guess bringing back everything to be more on the main campus. Now, everything is across the street [at the Ridges or Winchesters] or in New London. I feel like we could use spaces on the main campus and really make those happen.
How did you meet your closest friends?
CISLA definitely helped me make really good friends just because I was surrounded with people that appreciated opportunities outside of the US. I think my Knowlton House also helped me a lot and my classes helped too.
How would you describe the social scene at Connecticut College?
I would say it’s very cliquey, very repetitive, but fun. I don’t want to sound very negative, I do have fun on this campus.
To what extent do you feel international students mix with domestic students?
I would say it’s like half and half. A lot of them mix thoroughly and others just don’t. You really have to make the most of it. It’s your decision. In the beginning, I definitely knew had more international friends than American friends. But as I assimilated more and more now I have more American friends. I don’t want to make any generalizations, but there are certain races and ethnicities that stick together and others that are not as clustered. It depends on how similar your cultures are.
Were there any parts of Connecticut College or American college overall that surprised you?
Yeah, definitely. I would say the drinking culture. The legal age in Lebanon is 18 so it’s not as big of a deal. But we don’t get plastered and go to the hospital which is something that happens very often. I think this whole rebellious thing that comes with drinking and getting really drunk surprised me because it’s not something that exists in countries where the drinking age is 18. Honestly, it was very much like the movies and I was surprised about cliquey and high school-y Conn was. That was kind of a shock for me. It’s very homogenous in the way people dress and the way people talk and where people go on vacation. So, it’s really not diverse, that was a shock for me. [About 71% of students at Connecticut College are White and 11% are international students. Socioeconomically, 45% of students comes from the top 5%.]
Do you think people are happy with their choice of Conn by the time they graduate?
I think so, yeah. I think people are very happy and very kind and very inclusive to people that come here, and I think that’s just a reflection of how well-established students become in this institution.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Honestly, not really because I’m not looking to stay in the U.S. I’m trying to move to different European cities so networking in the U.S. generally has not been very helpful. It’s helped a lot of my friends that are looking into staying in Boston or New York City. That’s how most of them are getting their connections. They talk to alumni who are very responsive and agree to help them with like informal or formal interviews.
How helpful has the career office been in terms of finding jobs in Europe?
They’ve been very helpful in preparing for that stage. They helped me with my CV and everything. Last time I met with them they were very honest and said that you’re not going to find a job before you graduate if you’re looking in moving to another country and the jobs you’re looking for don’t really have the money to fly you out, so you just have to wait until you graduate.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Conn College before entering as a freshman?
I should definitely take a history class, it’s not all about my CV, and that I should have majored in Art.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The Arboretum, people mention it but they don’t take people there. If they shadowed a botany class that happened to have a class in the Arboretum that would be really, really nice. A lot of students don’t really shadow classes, that would be really nice for them.
What is something that an international student should know that we haven’t touched on?
Because of where Conn is located, it benefits international students because a lot of American students are worldly and accepting of different cultures. Don’t be intimidated and don’t be overwhelmed.
Reasons to attend Connecticut College:
(1) The campus.
(2) The nurturing environment.
(3) The kindness of the people here.
Reasons to not attend Connecticut College:
(1) It’s very homogenous and not very diverse. [About 71% of students at Connecticut College are White and 11% are international students.]
(2) The food on campus is not very good.
(3) it’s too small for some people. [There are about 1,800 students.]
Honestly, I like this school a lot.