BackgroundInterview Date:September 2019
Gender Identity: Genderqueer
Race/Ethnicity: Polynesian and Hispanic
Sexual Orientation: Lesbian
Graduation Year: 2020 – transferred in to start her junior year
High School Experience: Public school on the south side of Chicago, IL with a graduating class of about 600 students. There was a culture of going to college
First-Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Creative Writing
Extracurricular Activities: I am in Flawless Brown and Emerson’s Black Organization with Natural Interest (EBONI), which are both sanctuaries for women and people of color. They’re for networking and is a safe place for us to go on campus.
What impact have those clubs had on your experience?
I actually love them. I’m not as involved in them this semester because I’m busier with my classes, but I do love them. They make it easier to be around people who have similar cultures and similar upbringings.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
We have a lot of reading and our courses are very writing-intensive. I’m reading, on average, 50-100 pages per week and we have regular weekly writing assignments. Weekly, I have to write about 10-20 pages, but when I have my big projects due that goes up to around 50 pages per week. Those would be my specific stories that are due for the class, like, for fiction classes I would have literature papers that are 10-12 pages.
Is there anything you feel either of your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
I think they push story-based content and try to push you creatively as far as you can go and get you to think outside of the box. They really focus on storytelling, which I do love and is why I chose Emerson. As far as improvement, I think their focus on mechanics could be better. They could focus more on structuring your writing itself.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s definitely competitive. It is collaborative to the point where I have people in the classes who I consider partners and co-writers and those relationships are fantastic. But, generally, I would consider it to be more competitive. We have writing workshops where I feel that competitive vibe because at times I think people have jealousy or feel the need to nit-pick other people’s stories.
How accessible are your professors?
Very accessible because the classes are pretty small. I have professors who I don’t choose to go build personal relationships with and those tend to be my literature professors. My creative writing professors are who I’ll go out and try to have as much one-on-one time with. It’s always been pretty easy to work with them during office hours and schedule meetings with them. I’ve even had professors offer to have phone meetings with me.
What was your favorite class you took for your major?
My fiction writing classes. Right now, I’m in the third level, which is Advanced Fiction Writing. Each semester that I’ve taken a fiction class it’s always been my favorite just because you’re allowed to write about whatever you want and whatever genre that suits your writing. I love the different professors and the different perspectives and pointers they can give. I have learned something different from each professor. I also love the environment of sharing my story with other people and seeing how they react to it.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student? Were there any systems in place to help you adapt?
It’s been pretty good. Emerson has a lot of students who are very go-getting, fast on the ball, and know what they want, so I’ve had a lot of help from my peers. Help from the faculty has also been very good. I was confused about everything coming into college, so I went to get help from as many people as I could. My overall experience has been very good.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I’m very happy with my choice. Originally, I was majoring in [Writing, Literature, and Publishing] but I switched over to Creative Writing because publishing and writing was too structured. I knew that would be the best major if I wanted a job, but I just wasn’t happy doing that because I felt like I didn’t have any free will. Switching over was a good decision because I’m in classes that I love and open my eye to more opportunities to what I could do with a creative writing degree. At first, I was unsure if I wanted to do that because I didn’t think I’d be able to get a job, but the professors here show you what you can use your degree to do. I’m very pleased with it.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on and around campus?
Junior: Piano Row, which is right across from Boston Common, in a suite with three other people.
Senior: Paramount in a six-person suite.
How was transitioning from Chicago to Boston in terms of location?
It was a comfortable change. One of the reasons why I chose Emerson is I still wanted to be in the city for undergrad. Boston is not as big or fast-paced as Chicago, but it’s a comfortable medium where I still feel like I’m in the city and have an exciting vibe. However, it still has a nice contrast where it is studious and I can get away and focus on my studies. I like that happy medium of it.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
Overall, I cannot complain for the reason that I’m from the southside of Chicago. I have friends who get scared around certain parts of Boston and Boston Common, but personally, I can’t complain. I feel safer here in Boston than I do in Chicago.
Pros and cons of being in the Boylston area of Boston, MA?
(1) It’s very convenient in the sense that all of my classes are close together.
(2) I have easy access to the outside world if I ever need to get away.
My complaints are really small, I love Boston.
(1) The campus is tiny so you see everybody all the time. It feels congested because you bump into everybody all the time. But, that can also work as a pro because all of my professor’s office hours are so close. At times, I wish I could get away from the campus a little more, but the city helps with that.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Emerson?
I love going to concerts. I’m 21, so I go to bars with friends. I like to go dancing a lot in clubs too. Machine is a place I like to go dancing. I go out on Thursday and Friday because I don’t have Friday classes and then Saturday and Sunday I like to get back on track with my classes.
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
I like going to the Allston and going to explore the nature in Cape Cod. There’s an AMC theater right near campus and I also love going to the museums around Boston.
If at all, how has identifying as genderqueer and LGBT influenced your nightlife experience? Is there much of an LGBTQ+ nightlife scene at Emerson?
Emerson in general is very open and accepting of LGBT and gender-fluid people. Identifying as LGBT has mostly influenced my peers really. There is a group called EAGLE whose events I’ve taken part in. I’ve also been to a few – not necessarily dorm parties – but large group hang-outs in dorms with mostly Queer people.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Emerson? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m pretty content with the weekend options. Emerson is not much of a party school – the party schools are definitely the other schools in Boston. But, I think it’s a very friendly school so the people who come here find their group and niche. You look past the fact that it’s not a party school because you’re bound to find what you can do on the weekend with your group.
To what extent do you interact with the other Boston schools socially?
When I first came here I went to other school’s parties more so than the Emerson parties because I was still finding my group of people at Emerson. Now I have my few friends who go to other schools and just because of those friends I’ll interact with those schools. Now, I don’t interact with those schools too often.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Originally, they started as roommates and then they became my closest friends. It’s funny because they’re roommates from the year before are now also my friends. I also have made friends through people in my building and my classes.
How was transitioning socially as a transfer student?
That was one of the main things I was concerned about, but I feel like I blended in so well. I didn’t even feel the change. I just started meeting people right away. I’ve also met a lot of other transfer students, one of my roommates right now is a transfer student. Emerson is very welcoming in that sense. They have so many events for people to meet people like Transfer Orientation, other mini-social events, and lots of clubs to join.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
It can be cliquey at times, but I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing because everybody has their own space where they can fit in. I feel like I hop around a lot and I know a lot of people who don’t really care for the clique scene. Because it’s an art school, so many people here are very outgoing and eager to meet and know other people, so I personally have had a great experience with meeting new people and talking to more people. I feel like it’s made me more outgoing than I already was.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Emerson is very accepting of other sexual orientations and different gender-identifying people. I’ve never noticed anything that’s been bad about that. As far as races, I think that’s still a work in progress and that’s why I’m part of Flawless Brown and EBONI. A lot of my friends who are in theater and film feel like they don’t have a space in the projects that are being done. For instance, they feel that the roles are for White people or blondes. They’ll audition, but it’s very obvious they’re not going to get the role so they’ll do a lot of their own productions. For me, I can see how I’m not somebody’s first pick to be paired with for peer review because I have different experiences than the person I’d be paired with or people don’t understand the experience that I might include in my short stories. I’ve never had anything directly said to me that’s been ignorant or made me feel uncomfortable, but it’s a work in progress. I also think that the students of color on campus are trying to make that bridge so it’s comfortable for everybody. [About 56% of students are Caucasian. See Emerson Power article, “The Nuances of Racism in Theatre School” and Boston Globe article, “Emerson College Students protest administration’s ‘surface level’ progress on ending racism.”]
How would you describe the Pacific Islander community? How strong is it?
I don’t know any Pacific Islanders on campus. It can be lonely at times. I presented the beginning of a short story in class the other day and all the characters were Polynesian and nobody understood any of it content-wise, like, certain slang words they thought were ridiculous. That was one of my first major isolating moments and made me wonder if I wanted to involve that culture in my creative writing because some people just weren’t getting it. [About 5% of students are Asian/Pacific Islander.]
How do you like the size of Emerson in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that impacted your experience? [Emerson has about 3,700 undergraduate students.]
I love the size when it comes to the classrooms because it’s very intimate and, because I’m a Creative Writing major, that’s the type of intimacy I need. The fact that my biggest class right now is 15 people and my smallest class is 7 people is perfect. I feel like I know everybody, which helps with networking, and it only took our professors about a week to get to know us and our writing voice. As far as social life, it can get annoying. The campus is really small and I see the same people all the time and see people I might not want to see. I had to learn to be more careful with my interactions and choices because you see the same people every day. It doesn’t matter if you change your schedule, you’ll bump into the same people. Even if you don’t know their name, you know their face.
How would you describe the LGBTQ+ community? How strong is it?
It’s very, very strong. Emerson takes that community very seriously. I feel like at Emerson the LGBTQ community isn’t even considered a minority group. It’s a priority to have a safe place for those students. The professors care about your pronouns and care if you have a name change. There’s zero tolerance for anything negative towards that community, so it’s a very safe and comfortable place to express yourself in that sense.
Do you think people are generally happy with their choice of Emerson by senior year? Do you think people leave loving Emerson?
I think it’s one of those things where it’s half and half. I love it in the sense that I’m doing what I love and I love my professors. But, there’s definitely an art school vibe where start to get annoyed with certain pretentious attitudes. I think it’s more of a social thing that tends to trip up people. But, everybody I know pretty much loves what they’re doing academically, so I’d generally say, yes, people are happy when they leave.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I haven’t looked for jobs yet specifically because I want to do a master’s, but alumni networking has helped me find a direction. There was a speaker who came to one of my fiction classes last semester and he told us about some of the schools that are best for MFA’s in creative writing and can help you with your manuscript, which is something I’m looking for. They’ve helped me make the next academic step.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I haven’t used it.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages through your coursework that will be especially helpful to you professionally?
No. I use the most basic form of technology [laughs].
Have you used financial aid? If so, how easy is the office to work with?
They’re really great. I know a lot about the financial aid office because I have gone there many times. Currently, I’m appealing my award letter and every time I’ve been there they’ve been very helpful. They always try to direct you on the right way to pay your tuition. I really feel like they want you to go here and want to make sure you can continue on with your education. I have a soft spot for financial aid because I feel that they’ve been very helpful with me since I’ve come here.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Emerson before you entered as a transfer?
I wish I would have known how small it is. If you know one person, you’re going to meet somebody else who knows that person. I wish I would have known how everybody knows everything about everybody and how things travel fast. I also wish I would have taken more advantage of Boston my junior year because it’s so easy to get stuck in the Emerson bubble instead of going out and exploring new areas.
What’s something a prospective transfer student may want to know that we haven’t touched on yet?
Take advantage of all the help you can get because, as a transfer student, your time is shrunken down. Don’t be afraid to get help from help everybody and anybody. Also, take advantage of the professors because Emerson has some professors with great credentials and experience. I take advantage of my fiction professors because they’ve had stories published and have connections with other authors.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
There’s a new building called Little Building that’s a cool, new spot. Also, go eat at Figs because it’s right across the Common.
Reasons to attend Emerson:
1) If you are really concerned about your career, Emerson is the perfect school because finding a career and finding your true passion is what matters here. There are so many people who already know what they want who can influence you and other people who aren’t as sure, but everybody is pretty go-getting in terms of that.
2) The professors here are so great and the classrooms are so intimate. You have the attention that you need, especially for the arts majors.
3) The location is great. There are so many things to do in Boston and so many ways you can take advantage of it to help your career and also your mental state.
Reasons to not attend Emerson:
1) If you’re not creative or open to making your creative side vulnerable or open to critique, this is not the school for you because you’re constantly being critiqued on your creativity, how you’re thinking, and how your art is being portrayed. It can be very intimate, but it’s part of wanting to be better. If you’re not into exposing yourself like that, this is not the school for you. You have to be open to opening up your art to people constantly.