An Interview On
Duke University

Background

Interview Date:December 2018

Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: White
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: International school in Singapore with an American curriculum. The graduating class had 300 students. About 80% of students went to university in the U.S.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Computer Science
Minor: Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Extracurricular Activities: Greek life, Catalyst Computer Science Club, and Club Rugby.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
All of them have hugely. Rugby was the first club I joined which exposed me to a ton of diverse and interesting people. I got introduced to my Greek organization through the Rugby members. Catalyst has provided me more professional development experience and has exposed me to a lot of driven and interesting people. These have all helped me grow and develop myself.

Academic Experience

Can you describe the weekly coursework for Computer Science?
There are two different types of Computer Science courses. One type has weekly problem set-based work. Then there are project-based classes where we had four projects over the whole semester, along with two tests. Each project took a few weeks to complete.

Is there anything you feel the Computer Science Department does especially well or poorly?
It’s one of the most popular majors now. [10% of Duke undergraduates majored in Computer and Information Sciences.] With the high growth and interest, the department has struggled to handle the increasing demand. This makes it hard for professors to run classes or form relationships with the students. It seems like these are just growing pains but professors are very accomplished, and you are able to be surrounded by very smart people.

How would you describe the learning environment? Is it particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s not very competitive. At a school like this where people are individually focused, no one will do things to compare, like asking you what you got on the test, and people don’t care about another person’s GPA. It’s common to form study groups to work through the class.

What is your favorite class you have taken in your major?
My favorite class is Computer Science 310 – Operating Systems. The topic was super cool, and you get to build a low-level operating system.

What is your least favorite class you have taken in your major?
My least favorite class was Computer Science 230 – Discrete Math. The professor didn’t teach well, and it was overall disorganized.

Why did you pick Computer Science? Are you happy with your choice?
I’m happy with my choice. Honestly, I picked it because I didn’t know what else to do, but I stayed because I enjoy the creativity that goes along with it. It’s a very diverse field with pretty promising career options in the future.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived during college?
Freshman: Brown Hall with 1 roommate

Sophomore: Greek life housing with 3 roommates

Junior: Greek life housing with 3 roommates

Senior: Off-campus house with 6 roommates

How was transitioning from Singapore to Durham, NC?
I haven’t felt any struggle. It’s a pretty expansive campus and you don’t have to leave much. I wasn’t hindered by not having a car because the bus system is fine.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It’s pretty good, I’ve only heard of one or two events but those are anomalies.

What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
Pizzeria Toro.

What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
The campus is big enough where it doesn’t get claustrophobic. The place I’ll go if I’m stressed is the Duke Garden, it’s a beautiful garden with ponds.

Pros and Cons of being located in Durham, NC?
Pros:
1) The food is great.
2) Cost of living is comfortable.
3) The weather is unbelievable. It’s snowy and cold just enough, but the rest of the year it’s blue skies.

Con: None

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in?
The social formula here is a routine, which is basically a [small party] before an event. People typically go out on Wednesday and Saturday to a bar called Shooters’. On Thursday and Friday, people go to other bars where it’s a better atmosphere for talking. We also have Greek parties or functions with sororities.

How did your weekends differ from freshman year to when you are more established socially on campus?
In the beginning, I was close with two other guys so we would hang out in our dorm room and then go out just us three. As you get to know more people the friend group gets bigger. Freshmen get invited to some Greek events, so we also went to those.

What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
It’s pretty big. Everyone has their organization which determines what events they go to.
Duke has something called Selective Living Groups, which is basically Greek life without being a [national] organization. You do the same stuff as Greek life, but some are more focused on other things, like professionalism. [About 40% of women and 30% of men are involved in Greek life.]

How happy are you with the nightlife at Duke? Is there anything you would change?
I’m happy with it and have had an enjoyable time. I think because there is Greek life at a school this size [6,994], you see the same people a lot. This can make it feel small, but it’s not a big deal.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
I knew my roommate but met other guys at orientation, in my dorm, and through mutual friends. Rugby was a big one during my freshman year. After your freshman year, you have your group a bit established, but I branched out and met new people through the Catalyst Computer Science Club.

How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s really enjoyable. I’d say the negative consensus is sometimes it can get a bit small. The rush process for Greek organizations are selective, so some have not had as great of an experience as I have. What I like most about Duke and the social scene is how community-driven it is. You can find this in so many different ways by taking your own social initiative.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
My fraternity is pretty diverse regarding sexual orientation and race, but there is not as much mixing as there could be. A lot of different organizations might have a selection bias, and if you are a person of color you could be turned off because Greek life is predominantly White. Everyone I’ve met is progressive and open-minded about these topics, but unfortunately, the national reputation of our organizations provides a negative context [to some].

Do people generally seem happy with their college choice by senior year? Do people love your school?
100%. The school spirit here is unreal, and I don’t know of anybody that has transferred. [Duke has a 97% retention rate.]

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
The summer going into Junior year I had my first internship. I found this opportunity through the Duke Innovation Entrepreneurship Certification. I emailed an alumnus who started a company in San Francisco, where I then got an internship and was able to learn a lot. It played a factor in getting my job now. The Duke network is pretty significant.

What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I don’t think it’s helpful at all. The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certification is where I got my value. The advising in the career office was pretty generic, and I didn’t get much from it. They put on fine events, such as hosting fairs where companies come and take resumes or do interviews for students. Duke as a school is excellent because of the name, but the actual career advising is not where you get the value.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Duke before you entered as a freshman?
Nothing. It’s all about how to grapple the academic rigor, but that process in itself is valuable.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Check out the food scene, or maybe stop by the library and see what it’s like to actually work and be a Duke student.

Reasons to attend Duke:
1) There is an insane network, and you’ll meet very interesting people.
2) The academic experience. Everyone is so academically curious which allows you to grow by becoming really interested in stuff you may not have otherwise been interested in. it helps you learn outside the classroom through osmosis.
3) It’s fun. There is a good social network and a good balance between academics and social life. Without it, I would be drowning from the work.

Reasons to not attend Duke:
None

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