BackgroundInterview Date:February 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: South Asian
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: International Baccalaureate (IB) High school in Bangalore, India with a graduating class of about 120 students. There was a culture of going to college in the U.S.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Chemistry with a Biochemistry Concentration
Extracurricular Activities: Mayuri (South Asian fusion dance team), member of the South Asian Society, and a peer tutor for chemistry.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
All of them are important to me, which is why I actually do them. I can’t think of any specific one that’s had a huge impact on me. Participating in clubs helps to make friends at big colleges, but because Haverford is so small, you know everyone in your graduating class pretty well. I think it’s common for people to make friends through Customs, which is a year-long orientation program for first-year students, where you live with the same group of people and are with them your entire orientation week.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for Chemistry?
All of the chemistry courses I’ve taken so far, and will take, have weekly problem sets and exams. General and Organic Chemistry both have labs. In the future, there will be a course with an intensive 8 hours of lab every week.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
I really like the faculty in my major’s department. I was initially trying to decide between majoring in Biology or Chemistry, but I’m leaning more toward Chemistry because of the faculty. They are really nice and supportive. Whenever you need help, they are willing to talk to you, which is something I really like. They are very accessible when they are teaching.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think Haverford in general has a very collaborative environment. We have an honor code, and an academic honor code which actually allows us to have take-home exams, and all of the exams are unproctored. If it’s an in-class exam, the professor just hands out the test and then leaves. We have finals week, and we can pick when we want to do each exam. There are designated rooms, but nobody is supervising them. You just take the exam and then return it to the registrar. I don’t think the environment is competitive.
How accessible are your professors?
In the Chemistry Department, very. I think in other departments some specific teachers may not be the best, but overall I think professors are very accessible and friendly. They all have office hours, and if you email them to set up a meeting, they are more than happy to.
How was transitioning from your high school in Bangalore to Haverford academically? Were there any systems in place to help you adjust?
Academically we are different, but not as different as it would be if I had an Indian syllabus. Since IB used an international syllabus, it was more similar to the education system here, than it is back in India. I think this bridged part of the gap for me. Once I was here, there were support centers for the STEM, intensive chemistry, and math classes. [This could be] TA sessions every week, which are open to everyone. This is very helpful if I need any help. We have peer tutoring, which you can set up an appointment for. The academic transition wasn’t very hard.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
When I came to college I was pretty decided at that point. I was very [into biology and chemistry], and pretty sure I was going to pick one of them. I liked the Chemistry Department more than Biology, which is why I ended up picking Chemistry. I’m really happy with it.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Barclay Hall in a double.
Sophomore: Gummere Hall in a single.
How was transitioning from Bangalore to Haverford in terms of location?
The weather is extremely different in Bangalore. Even in the peak winters it’s above 30 degrees Celsius, which is pretty hot. Coming here I think it starts getting cold toward the end of fall, and it’s snowing right now which is different. When I’m in Haverford I don’t leave the campus much, but when I do go out, the traffic and people are very different.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
The campus itself is very safe. We always have campus safety officers, especially at night when they are driving around making sure everything is alright. We all have campus safety’s number on our phone, and if we call them, they are very quick to respond. I haven’t had any safety issues, and in fact, I think most of us leave our doors unlocked and nothing has ever gotten stolen.
Pros and cons of being located in Haverford, PA:
1) Having the consortium is really nice. Because it’s a small school, the courses offered tend to be smaller, but you still have variety because you can take classes at Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr, which is very common. [The Tri-College Consortium is made up of Swarthmore College, Bryn Mawr College, and Haverford College.]
1) It’s pretty isolated from other major cities, so when I go out I have to walk at least 5 or 10 minutes to find a train station, and there aren’t many things to do around.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
Sometimes I’d go out to Philly, it’s very accessible from Haverford. It’s a 5-minute walk to the train station, then a 20-minute train. We may go out to dinner in Philly, but a lot of times we just stay on campus and spend time with friends. We may sometimes go to parties at Haverford.
What nights of the week do you regularly do things? Are there regular places you go or things you do on certain nights?
Usually Friday and Saturday. The parties I go to are usually just hosted by my friends. Sometimes the big ones are hosted by affinity groups, like the South Asian Society, or the Black Students’ League, and sometimes by sports teams. It’s really a mix.
Where do the parties tend to be hosted?
Most of them are in basements of dorms, or the common rooms.
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
There are a couple of music and dance concerts that happen that I’ll occasionally go to.
How happy have you been with the weekend options at Haverford? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I don’t know what I would change. Maybe being located in a city where going out to a restaurant would take less time to travel.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Through Customs, which is the group of people you live with during your first year.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Haverford?
I would say you can usually find what you want to find. It’s a fact that most people go from being very introverted to being very extroverted, and involved in everything. You just have to look and you’ll find people. In terms of partying and stuff, I don’t think Haverford is up there or anything. It has a good amount of parties, but they’re not huge or anything.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think it’s specific to the person. I’ve seen people who want to interact more with people of their own race, and there are some people who want a mix. Overall, since it’s a small school, you meet a lot of people. Most of the time people socialize with different groups. [About 43% of Haverford’s student body are people of color.]
To what extent do you feel international students mix with domestic students?
Very much. [About 14% of students are international.]
How would you describe the South Asian community on campus? How strong is it?
Haverford doesn’t have a very big South Asian community. I think over the years it has been growing, so a couple of years down the line there will be a bigger community than there is now. In terms of how close we are, we all know each other and talk to each other. It’s not like all the south Asian people are hanging out together all the time.
How would you describe the student body?
Intellectual, collaborative, nerdy, and quirky.
Were there parts of Haverford, or American college as a whole, that surprised you?
The experience itself was very different. Specifically, about Haverford, the amount of open discussion they have. I think students are very active and engaged in a lot of different things, and always want to have open conversations about things like race, sex, gender, sexuality, and that’s something I wasn’t used to.
How do you like the size of Haverford in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How does it influence your social experience? [Haverford has about 1,353 students.]
I think it was a very good fit for me. I tend to like smaller places where when I’m walking from one building to another, I’ll look around and see people I know. I feel like I can smile and have a friendly conversation with them, and that’s something I really like.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I haven’t tried. The past and coming summer I’ll be working on campus with a professor doing research.
How easy was it for you to get involved in research?
Really easy. I had to send a few professors an email letting them know I was interested, and asking if they had any openings. I set up meetings with two or three of them and picked the lab I liked the most. I think it’s really easy to get involved if you reach out in the fall semester.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
In a lot of my labs we use Excel and PowerPoint, but not computer languages.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Haverford before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew how engaged the students here are, [both politically and on the topic of social justice], how open to conversations they are, and how liberal the campus is.
What is something a prospective international student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
In general, the entire experience for international students is different. While acculturating into American culture and taking classes here, one thing that was especially different for me in India was that usually teachers would teach you, then you’d go back and read the chapter. Here, it’s the exact opposite, so you’d do your reading for that chapter, and then they would teach you. I found this really strange in the beginning, but now I’m used to it and think it makes sense. The system of education is very different, especially for South Asian countries.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The Coop, which is sort of like a café.
Reasons to attend Haverford:
1) It’s a small school with only undergraduate students. It’s a great place to go to, especially if you want to do something like research. As a freshman, I was doing my own independent research, and I think that’s a very valuable thing to have.
2) You get to know the professors really well, because the classes tend to be smaller. They have more time to meet with students individually. [Haverford has a 9:1 student-faculty ratio.]
3) Because the campus is really small, I don’t have to walk much. Even in between classes if I have 20 minutes, I can come back to my room and stay there for a bit.
4) The campus is very green. We are in an arboretum, so we really care about how pretty the campus is, which makes it nice to be on.
Reasons to not attend Haverford:
1) I think you have to be a good fit, and if you don’t like seeing the same people over and over again, or want to play varsity athletics, Haverford is probably not the right place.