Franklin & Marshall College
BackgroundInterview Date:October 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Public school in Vietnam with a graduating class of about 500 students. There was not a culture of going to college in the West at my school but there was in my city. I did my last year of high school in Virginia.
First-Generation College Student: No
Major: Undeclared, but I plan to major in Psychology
Extracurricular Activities: Club Council and Diversity Committee
Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
Probably the Club Council. During my freshman year I didn’t join any extracurricular activities on campus, so now it’s my first semester being involved on campus. Club Council was really welcoming. At first, it was really hard for me to find activities that I can fit into because sophomore year everybody already knows each other, but Club Council was really welcoming and they do fun activities I enjoy.
Have you taken many Psychology classes yet?
Psychology is a really popular major at F&M and Psychology 100 is a really popular class because all students are required to take a lab class and it’s the easiest lab class. It’s a really hard class to get into, so I’m taking Psychology 100 now but no others.
What has been your favorite class so far?
Probably an English class called Fiction of Adolescence. I chose that class because I like reading fiction, writing response papers, and discussing the books. In that class, I get to read interesting work, so I don’t procrastinate outside of class time.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s competitive because people here are very smart. For some classes, it’s hard to get an A because the professors have really high standards for freshmen. It can be hard to keep up with a class that is full of smart people. F&M has Connections courses which are supposed to improve your reading and writing skills. [You take a Connections course both semesters,] but the thing is the first one you don’t really get to pick the class, you just pick your top seven and the school puts you in one of those. I was in a class that dealt with the First Amendment and U.S. History, and, as an international student, I don’t know much about U.S. History. Most of the people in the class were Government majors or International Studies majors so it was really hard to keep up with them and the material.
How accessible have your professors been?
They are really open. I really like them. I wish I could have gone to more office hours my freshman year because you can talk to them about pretty much anything, even if it’s outside of the class. They are really willing to help you. I just met with a professor and she and I scheduled a half hour next week to just talk because she thinks my life is interesting. I was like, “Oh, ok awesome” [laughs].
How was transitioning from your high school in Vietnam to Franklin & Marshall?
We have a whole different education system, and it was quite shocking because when I came here no one taught me tips or skills to surviving college or how the classes here work. We have international student orientation during the first four days and because of the time change everyone’s tired and it isn’t that thorough. All the information was presented in sessions and everybody was half-asleep. At first, it was quite shocking to me and it took me to adapt to the environment both socially and academically.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Brooks College House with one roommate
Sophomore: Brooks College House in a single
How was transitioning from Vietnam to Lancaster, PA?
Because I spent my last year of high school in a suburban area of Virginia, it wasn’t that much of a culture shock to me. It’s pretty much the same. I think Lancaster’s a really interesting city. Many people think it’s boring but I like it.
Pros and cons of being in Lancaster, PA?
Pros: (1) I really like the historic aspects of the city. We have the oldest [continuously operating] theater in the United States and one of the oldest markets in the United States where there is locally produced food.
(2) If you’re a food lover, there are a lot of good restaurants and interesting restaurants. We have a Burmese restaurant, which is surprising.
Cons: (1) Many people find it boring because there’s not much to do. There are not many entertainment options, so you might be bored very quickly.
(2) It might be hard to find you an internship or job because it’s a small city with not many businesses.
(3) The weather here is really weird. It can be sunny one day and snow on the next.
What kind of weekend activities do you like to participate in?
I’m not a party person. I know there are a lot of parties going on around campus, especially during the weekend. I don’t participate in them, I just meet and hang out with my friends. We usually eat out or gather and talk about stuff.
What have been some of your favorite times at Franklin & Marshall?
I think my favorite time is during the beginning of the fall semester because we don’t have that much school work and we get more time to hang out, talk, and relax. It was really chill during the first few weeks of this semester.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Franklin & Marshall has a very small Vietnamese community, it’s like 20 people, so we’re really close. Everyone knows each other. We have smaller groups within the community too, which is what happened to me. I found some people that I can talk to about my home country and my experience here, and they’re facing the same thing, so because they have the same background I think it’s easy for me. Besides that, I don’t have any other international or domestic close friends. All my close friends are Vietnamese.
To what extent do you feel international students mix with domestic students?
It’s a predominantly White campus, so it’s hard for international students to mix, especially Asian international students. [About 57% of students are White and 15% are international students.] People just come to us for homework. It feels like the people here don’t try to get to know us. I know people who are similar will be more attracted to each other, but we have such a diverse campus, so I think people should open up more. That’s why most of my friends are Vietnamese.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Franklin & Marshall?
Everyone here is clumped together, so White people with White people, Black people with Black people, Asians with Asians. You will still see a group of friends that are fairly diverse, but it is not common. People don’t step out of their comfort zone to get to know more people. [On example of this is] we have a very large population of Chinese people, and it’s hard for them to blend in if they speak Chinese all the time together, so it’s hard for people to approach them and they clump together.
Were there any parts of Franklin & Marshall that surprised you when you arrived on campus?
Sororities and fraternities. I never knew they existed until I came here and it’s a big thing. It’s interesting to me, but not my thing. It’s interesting because you call each other sisters and brothers and are really close and do things for the community, but still party hard.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about F&M before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew that I would struggle here socially and that people here are so clumped together [with people of the same background]. I wish I knew that it would be hard for me to have friends who are not from the same background because I have a lot of friends in the USA right now at different colleges and they don’t report the same problems.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
One thing they will definitely miss is Ben’s Underground. It’s a student-run place where they sell unhealthy food, like fried chicken and milkshakes and that kind of thing. They have big TVs and a billiards table. It’s a really cool place, but because it’s only open at night it might hard for students to visit.
Reasons to attend F&M:
1) The professors here are nice. I really like them. Most of them are really open and willing to help students and some have a very deep knowledge of their profession. Because most of the classes are small they know your name and you can have a good connection with them.
2) The school really cares about student life. They care about student life a lot. Everyone wants you to have a good experience. For international students, we have a whole international student office to help us with our visa stuff.
3) F&M offers free counseling at the wellness center. We also have housing advisors who make sure we are living okay.