University of Colorado at Boulder
BackgroundInterview Date:January 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Public school in the greater Seattle, WA area with a graduating class of about 400 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: Double major in Computer Science and Women’s & Gender Studies
Extracurricular Activities: I played Ultimate Frisbee my freshman year. I was a tour guide my sophomore year. Now I just work full time.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Ultimate Frisbee did because at Boulder people take it super seriously. That was a link to the college world because I’m in a state that I didn’t go to high school in and was super unfamiliar with, but having a sense of belonging through a sport was a perfect way to build a community away from home. That heavily impacted my enjoyment because I loved playing and therefore I loved the school because it was all connected.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your majors?
They’re completely different majors. Essentially, Women’s & Gender Studies is a lot of reading, I read about 2-3 hours about 3-4 times a week. They are intensive readings and you have to analyze the text you’re given. For Computer Science there is usually a quiz every two or three weeks, a problem set due every week, and sometimes additional coursework, like projects, once every two months.
Is there anything you feel either of your majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
I think the Women’s & Gender Studies department does a really good job at inclusivity. The problem is that Boulder prides itself on its diversity, but I think that’s really inclusivity. They support diversity but if you step on campus you will see that it’s really not that diverse. The department of Ethnic Studies and Women’s & Gender Studies, which partner a lot, are really good at making a welcoming, inclusive environment for people of all backgrounds, but in practicality the department [doesn’t represent that]. In terms of Computer science, the professors knowledgeable and we have a great center in our engineering center for Computer Science.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It can be competitive, but, for the most part, it’s really collaborative and supportive. All projects I do are group based and they encourage people to work together.
It’s competitive in Computer Science because it’s one of the most popular majors at CU. [In 2016, it was the 7th most popular major for undergraduates.] The lectures are pretty big. In the Physics lectures, which you have to take as a Computer Science major, there can be 300-400 students in a lecture and that class will have two T. A’s, so it will be tough to meet with the professor. People also just want to do the best that they can. I still think the learning environment is great because with almost every project we have the professor gives lecture time to the students to work on projects.
What has been your favorite class for both of your majors?
Computer Science: An upper-division class called Algorithms, which was an analysis of complex algorithms and taught us how to solve complex problems. I loved the course because the professor was amazing and the subject matter interested me.
Women’s & Gender Studies: The Study of Sexuality, Race, and Class through Pop Culture, which is taught by my favorite professor who I’ve ever had. We dove into pop culture texts, TV shows, movies, and all kinds of art and analyzed class dynamics and race dynamics.
What has been your least favorite class for both of your majors?
Computer Science: A lower-division class called Computer Systems. I didn’t think the professor knew what he was talking about. It was the only professor I’ve had at CU who didn’t seem like he knew what he was doing, so I don’t think it’s a problem with CU it was just a problem with that class.
Women’s & Gender Studies: I kind of like all my WGS classes, but I’d say one I’m taking right now which is called Feminist Theories. I like the subject matter, but the reason I don’t like it is the class is taught by a straight White male and it’s weird to hear about issues from people who don’t experience them. He can understand the problems, but he has never experienced them so it feels like I’m learning the topic through a lens.
How is being a Women’s and Gender Studies major as a straight White male?
That’s actually what I’m doing my senior thesis on because in every class there are maybe three males and one of them is White, which is me. I’m a very talkative person and usually speak up in class, but for these classes, I step back for most of the time because, while the classes welcome my opinion, I know that my opinions don’t always lend a hand to what we’re talking about. I usually sit back and listen and it’s been incredibly educational. My philosophy is that I shouldn’t have to be in this major because the world shouldn’t need this category, but unfortunately, that’s the world we live in.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: I had an absolutely amazing experience freshman year. I lived in Williams Village, which is southeast of the main campus, with one roommate. You can take a bus to get to main campus which runs every 30 minutes, but they get crowded in the winter because everyone is piling in. It was a great little community because it’s away from school. No one wants to live there when you get assigned because it’s off campus, but it ended up being the best thing for me.
Sophomore & Junior: I lived off campus in an apartment. I lived with two people my sophomore year and I have one roommate this year.
How was transitioning from living outside of Seattle to Boulder, CO?
It wasn’t that bad. Seattle’s a pretty liberal place and so is Boulder. Weather is the only thing that is pretty different because it gets a lot hotter in the summer and colder in the winter.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It’s through the roof safe. Boulder is such an isolated little bubble that at this point three years in I’m going crazy because the biggest crime here is bike theft.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
The movie theater. I love movies.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
For a restaurant, Pasta Jay’s. There are tons of little shops around because Boulder is funky and experimental, so you can always find something amazing.
Pros and Cons of being in Boulder, CO?
Pros: (1) Amazing views of the mountains. It’s so easy to hike and it’s so beautiful.
(2) Everything is bike accessible. People try to be eco-friendly, so everything has a bike path.
(3) There are lots of really small stores in Boulder. [Boulder tries to preserve small businesses.] It’s cool because it doesn’t feel corporately run anywhere.
Cons: (1) There is no ocean nearby.
(2) The diversity aspect. It makes me really uncomfortable when I’m around a bunch of other White people. It’s weird and unsettling. [About 80% of residents in Boulder are White.]
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in?
Freshman year I went out and partied all the time. Just west of campus there is a neighborhood called The Hill, which is where all the fraternities and sororities are and where the parties happen. I realized sophomore year that that wasn’t really for me. Nothing bad happened to make me stop, but I knew that I didn’t want to do that for the rest of college. Sophomore year I toned it back a little and my roommates and I got more into hosting parties. This year I work so much on top of school that I don’t really do any of that anymore.
When you were going out a lot, what nights of the week would you go out?
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
Can you describe a typical night going out freshman year?
Probably around 9 or 10 o’clock you put on your best outfit and then you hop on a bus or take an Uber to The Hill. You walk around with your friends so you can find a party you can get in to, or sometimes you have friends in fraternities. I am not in a fraternity but I had a bunch of friends in fraternities and sororities, so you talk to your friends getting you on the list. You’d stay out until around 1AM. One good thing about Boulder is that people are really conscious about drinking and driving, so everyone Ubers.
How happy are you with the nightlife at Boulder?
I think it’s great. Freshman year I had the time of my life. I just don’t like how they can be structured. The fraternities have a set guy to girl ratio, and it sounds crazy to have a rule like that, but sometimes if you show up to a party with 10 girls they might just allow the girls in. I think it is kind of messed up because they will bring guys to parties sometimes for protection. Recently there was a fraternity shut down for drugging some girls, so that’s terrible. If we don’t have those problems in the future, I think the partying is great.
What have been your favorite times at Boulder?
There are countless times. I think it’s the little things, like coming back from class and everyone decides to go to the rec center to play volleyball. It’s hard to pick one because it’s the day to day activities when you realize the experience of being here is so fun.
How did you meet your closest friends?
My floor freshman year because it was super, super close. Most of us still talk. Half of my friends came from the Ultimate Frisbee team and the other half came from my dorm floor.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
Really good. Everyone’s really nice in Boulder. You’re able to talk to anyone or ask help from anyone.
How was transitioning to a school with [about 35,000] students?
I loved it. I don’t like the idea of walking down the street and probably knowing most of the people you see because I don’t think it’s realistic and know that won’t happen in the real world. I walk down the street and maybe I see one person I know because I know a lot of people after being there for three years. It’s such a big community and there are so many people who go there who have such different experiences. It wasn’t that much of a transition because I grew up in downtown Seattle, so I was used to being around a bunch of people.
How is going to a school in a state where recreational marijuana is legal?
I came from Seattle where it’s also legal. To put it bluntly, everyone smokes weed. I honestly don’t because it’s an expensive habit. Smoking is so accepted. There are shops [all around campus]. It’s so ingrained that I don’t really think about it too much. When you get on an airplane there are signs that say “you can’t have anything you got in Boulder” because it’s so open here people forget.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I haven’t tried to. I do all my job searching and resume building.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Boulder before entering as a freshman?
Everything I’ve learned here has been through my experiences. Nothing I have learned I could have learned without coming here and learning it myself. Maybe, somebody would have stressed the idea that there is no ocean because I do miss the ocean.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Everyone hikes here. I know a lot of prospective students go hiking the same day they visit, but I think that’s something that might sell people on the school. A lot of people go hiking to get away from campus and we have incredible hikes.
Reasons to attend CU Boulder:
I first off just want to say that I’m a huge advocate for saying here.
1) The wide range of degree options.
2) The buildings are really pretty.
3) The mountains are great.
4) The city is really cool and it’s about a 45-minute drive to Denver.
5) The weather is amazing, unless you like rain because we don’t get much rain. [On average there are 245 days of sun in Boulder, with the US average being 205.]
Reasons to not attend CU Boulder:
1) There are not many bars, so if you’re going out a lot it can get old.
2) After three years I’m starting to notice how isolated bubble Boulder is, which can be good, but now that I’m older it’s a little weird.