BackgroundInterview Date:April 2018
Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: My parents are Turkish and Kurdish but I grew up in London
Graduation Year: 2018
High School Experience: Public school in London with about 160 students in the graduating class.
Major: Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology
Extracurricular Activities: I’m on SGA [Student Government Association], I’m on The Look Fashion Magazine, the International Students Association. I also work at Coffee Grounds, a coffee shop on campus, and the Academic Resource Center
Which extracurricular activity had the biggest impact on your experience?
Working at the Academic Resource Center. It really helped transition to American academics, like taking notes and taking exams and the whole life. Back home, we are tested at the end of the year, rather than throughout the semester, so being there helped me get into the mindset of every assignment being important and counting towards your final grade. It also gave me an employment opportunity without which I would not be able to live at Conn because I was able to have spending money. They’ve also allowed me to meet with deans and other students, so I had the most exposure to Conn through that.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
Generally, I have problem sets for homework, labs to do, reading, and I have to go in during my free time to check on my experiments and make sure they’re being done properly. For my Chemistry class, we had recitation which met at 8AM I’d have to go into an extra class session and hand in my homework, ask questions, and do extra problems. It’s weirdly not listed when you sign up for the course. You’re just told that you have to go on the first day of class.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
I think, not so much in Chemistry, but there are some professors that talk more about social justice in science and talk more about the history of science and how science isn’t perfect and sort of has blood on its hands. I think that’s really cool to learn about the history of science and the social implications because my friends back home don’t learn that. I think it’s cool that we learn more about science than just the science itself. They also really emphasize lab reporting and your lab skills, so they kind of mold you into a future scientist. It’s great exposure.
How would you describe the learning department? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think it’s for the most part very collaborative. Everybody helps each other succeed for the most part. We all work on problem sets together and study together. We are all trying to help each other to do the best we can. In all of my science classes we’d always study together in groups and help each other. I also think that comes with having smaller class sizes because you feel much more intimate with your professor and your class.
Are you happy with your major choice?
Yeah, I don’t think I would pick any other major if I could.
How was transitioning from your school in London to Connecticut College academically?
I think my first semester was easier than most because the British education system forces you to specialize early on, so I knew I wanted to get into sciences and was more comfortable in those early courses. But in terms of taking other classes in other departments, I hadn’t had much experience in that for a couple of years. When I had to do my [general education courses] and explore other departments I had to write essays, which I hadn’t done for a while in high school.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Double in Morrison in North Campus
Sophomore: Single in Wright in North Campus
Junior: Single in Branford in Central Campus
Senior: Larrabee in a single in Central Campus
What was your favorite living situation?
I would say my room now is my favorite because I have a corner room on the fourth floor so it’s secluded from everyone. There’s roof access and you can see a dope view. It’s nice because like a lot of my closest friends live in the Ridges or the Winchesters so I’m always down there, but at the end of the night or if there’s a night I don’t want to go out or just hang out with a friend or two I have my own space, and I don’t have to worry about
Can you describe the level of safety you have experienced on and around campus?
For the most part, I feel pretty safe. I think there have been times when there’s been tension around campus about racial issues and stuff like that. There’s been a few racial comments and xenophobic comments with internationals, but that was at a heated time. In general, I feel pretty safe walking around campus and walking late at night.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
I would say the Lazy Leopard.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
The Arboretum, but that’s technically on campus. Off-campus, I love going to Boston. I also love going to Yale, one of my closest friends went to Yale. She’s also British and, she also had no idea what was going on, but we like to go to the Harvard-Yale football game and stuff like that.
Pros and cons of being in New London, CT?
Pros: (1) I would say the geographic location. You have the secluded campus feel but you’re also close to gigantic cities like Boston and New York.
(2) You’re by the water and on a hill, which is amazing.
(3) The size of it. It benefitted me because I needed a nurturing environment. [The population of New London is about 27,000.]
Cons: Connecticut is a very residential state, so the fact that you have to go all the way to Boston or New York to find a city. New London is a very chill residential area.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
Now that I’m a senior, I go to campus bar. Before, I would just hang out with friends and then do the cliché Thursday night bar scene. Friday is a more intimate hang out with friends, and then Saturday I would either go to [Crozier-Williams Student Center] to go to the Cro dances or go to the Ridges or Winchesters.
Can you describe a typical night freshman year?
Freshman year I was more low-key because I had a lot of 8AMs that most first years don’t have, it was only the chemistry students. I would be doing homework and I had a Thursday night class which was annoying because I would come back and all of my friends would be getting ready to go out but I wouldn’t have the energy to go out. That relaxed at the beginning of my junior year when I didn’t have any night labs anymore and I didn’t have 8AM classes so that allowed me to go out more frequently. But freshman year specifically, I didn’t have a nightlife until Friday night.
How happy are you with the nightlife at Conn? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I think I got more comfortable as the years went on. Freshman and sophomore year, I didn’t know many upperclassmen so when I went to the Ridges and Winchesters it was very weird to me because I was entering peoples’ homes without knowing anyone that lived there, so I always refrained from that. I didn’t want to go to someone’s house and [potentially] be thrown out because I didn’t know anybody that lived there, that would be really embarrassing, but my friends didn’t really care about that. I think as I knew more upperclassmen who lived in that region I got more comfortable and would just go into their houses because I knew I was welcome.
How did you meet your closest friends?
My closest friends right now I met in my building freshman year and I still maintain friends with them. Others I’ve met through clubs and organizations.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I feel that there is a divide between different sexual orientations and different races, but I think it also depends on the person because I haven’t had much of a problem integrating myself with white Americans. I think it helps that I grew up in England so the culture is not identical, but very similar. I think I had that privilege of being comfortable in English, so for me, it wasn’t hard integrating with Americans and having friends of different races. I think it changes when you look at students from Asia, Africa, or Latin America. [About 71% of students at Connecticut College are White.]
To what extent do you feel international students mix with domestic students?
I think there’s definitely a divide. When there’s a large population of students from one country, like Conn usually gets lots of Chinese students and Vietnamese students, from day one at orientation they form a group of friends because they’re from the same country and some are from the same high school so they are comfortable with each other. I think those of us who are the only ones from a country you’re forced to make friends with other international people or Americans because you don’t have that comfort of home. So I think people from that come from the same country come together more.
Were there any parts of Connecticut College or American college overall that surprised you?
During the first weeks when I was walking to class, everybody said hi to each other and that really weirded me out. I was like, “how does everybody know each other?” But I figured out that, even if you see a person once a month, you still say hi to them. People are very friendly in that sense, so that was surprising. Also, the whole red Solo cup thing. I thought that was just in movies, but when I went to my first American party everybody had a red Solo cup.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
It’s helped me narrow my search. Alumni have helped me look at the right places and efficiently apply for jobs. I haven’t specifically landed a job or internship because of an alum, but they have been an influencing factor.
Have you learned any computer programs that will be helpful professionally?
I think Excel, Adobe InDesign, and Photoshop. I’ve become good with Excel through classes, but Adobe [InDesign] and Photoshop have been through clubs and organizations. I’ve become more proficient in those which has been important for the internships and jobs I’ve applied to, they really like that.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Conn College before entering as a freshman?
Save some of my fun and interesting classes for senior year. That’s something I should have planned better because right now I’m taking courses that are just requirements to finish my major. Especially during senior spring, it can be really disheartening to not want to go to class or not really care about my studies because I don’t care about the subject matter.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The Arboretum. They talk about it [on the tour] and most prospective students come during the week. I think if they came on a Saturday afternoon it would be nice because a lot of people go to hang out or go for a walk because I think a lot of prospective students don’t see it utilized.
Reasons to attend Connecticut College:
(1) It’s a small school so you get really intimate with people and it’s really nice to get to know people on a first name basis.
(2) Small class sizes. I think that is really useful, especially for me in the science classes. You are actually on a first name basis with your professors. I now I can refer to my deans by their first name.
(3) Academic rigor. I think Conn professors push you to the edge, which at the time is stressful but you appreciate how much they push you.
Reasons to not attend Connecticut College:
(1) It’s not a huge party school.
(2) It’s not that diverse. It’s predominantly white. [About 71% of students at Connecticut College are White.]
(3) There are not many employment opportunities for internationals. That’s a huge problem they don’t really tell you about that. I’m on financial aid and when I got my financial aid package it had an amount and it had employment opportunities to get a job on campus. But, most of the jobs on campus are Work Study, which international students aren’t eligible for. It’s really stressful because it’s hard to find job for the few international students that do need to find jobs. It’s been getting better because another student and I have been working with the administration to create more non-Work Study jobs for internationals. My first couple of months were rough trying to find a job.