An Interview On
Lafayette College

Background

Interview Date:October 2018

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Black
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: I grew up in Georgia, but I went to a boarding school in Connecticut with a graduating class of about 200 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Civil and Environmental Engineering
Minor: Chinese Language
Extracurricular Activities: National Society of Black Engineers, Club Rugby, and I go to events through cultural clubs that pertain to my identifiers, like Association of Black Collegians and Queer People of Color (QPOC)

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Queer People of Color has been a really big thing for me just in the sense of having a community just for people of color who have various sexual orientations because I think that is something that is hard to integrate within a predominately White institution. Also, the National Society of Black Engineers, because there are so few people of color in STEM majors, especially engineering, it’s hard to find your place and know what you want to do. If you’re struggling, it’s easy to quit because there’s not really anyone that looks like you, which is something that’s difficult to deal with, so those clubs help you find a family and a support system within a place of loneliness.

Academic Experience

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
For my major, it’s a lot of problem sets and then many of those classes also have separate labs that have different workloads. For some labs, you do a lot of group work and are outside doing hands-on things, or you could be writing mini-essays and reflections. In the classroom, you might be doing more conceptual learning and there are a lot of problem sets with my major. With my minor specific classes, it’s more interactive. In my experience, in my minor’s classes you have a lot of people in different majors so you have a lot of people with different backgrounds.

Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
I think something that’s done poorly is realizing that there are a lot of students here who are maybe getting the chance to be the first person in their family to go to college and there are a lot of people of different cultural backgrounds. STEM and engineering are departments don’t have a lot of people of color, and a lot of professors don’t realize that, although these courses are very rigorous, that people of color have a lot of other things going on that their white counterparts might not. So, if you see a student is not doing well don’t automatically assume that they don’t have a good work ethic or they’re not the fit for the major, maybe instead reach out or better understand their situation before pushing a person to the side. With engineering, I’ve noticed that you can do well, but if you’re not doing well it’s very easy to give up because I’ve been so discouraged. I think there could be a better community that [supports engineering and STEM students].

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think it’s very collaborative. It makes life easier when you have some people who you can do homework with or work on projects with. It’s good to get to know people within your major and outside of your major.

How accessible have your professors been?
They’re usually very accessible. During the first week of class they will lay out their office hours and they make sure to ask, “if any of these times don’t work, what can I do to push my schedule around?” or they are happy to make appointments. That’s really helpful.

Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice so far?
I studied abroad in high school and my host mom happened to be an environmental engineer. She explained to me all the work she does and I found that to be really interesting. It seemed like something I wanted to do because my end goal, which is a broad goal, is just helping people help the community and the environment.

Were there systems in place that helped you transition academically as a first-generation student?
Yes, but I wouldn’t say they were that prevalent. There were a couple of events to get to know the first-generation students and things of that nature. It was honestly difficult to know who to reach out to and what to do. I think it’s a good idea to reach out to other first-gen students at a college you’re looking at or looking at the website to find resources in the process because my process was a little hectic.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Easton Hall on a floor of all first-year women. I lived in a triple with two roommates. We all matched together really well, it was a really good time.

Sophomore: South College dorm living with one of the people I lived with freshman year.

How was transitioning from your hometown in Georgia or your school in Connecticut to Easton, PA?
The town my high school was in also had a small town feel like Easton. It wasn’t a big change for me and I think that made it a bit of an easier transition. Sometimes I want to be able to do things more and feel that the small-town feel is constricting.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
So far, it’s been very good. I know that I’m in good hands. I always see public safety patrolling around, especially late at night, so that’s nice. I think I have a good sense of safety here.

What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I don’t have one yet [laughs], at least not around here.

Pros and Cons of being in Easton, PA?
Pros: (1) I like how the college is close to the town center of Easton. There are a lot of shops and places you can walk to.
(2) I like how conveniently small the campus is.

Cons: The small-town vibe can feel constricting at times.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Lafayette?
I usually just hang out with friends. We sometimes go watch movies. There’s kind of a party scene, but not really. That’s more there if you join a fraternity or sorority but I didn’t feel that I had time to do that. I also like to take time to myself too because the workload can be a lot so I think that’s important.

What kind of stuff do you and your friends like to do together?
We go see movies. The other day we went mini golfing and played laser tag, that was pretty nice. Sometimes we cook and make dinner for each other.

How happy were you with the nightlife options at Lafayette? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I sometimes wish that there were more things going on, but I know that we have a small population so we can’t have too many things going on. Sometimes my schedule gets hectic and there are things happening at the same tie and you can’t go to both. Like, there was a game night down at the gym but there was also a skate night with a club that I’m a part of and I couldn’t go to both. Otherwise, I’m very content and I don’t really expect too much for the weekends in general.

Has identifying as LGBT influenced your weekend experience at all?
No, not really so far.

What have been your favorite times at Lafayette so far?
This year during my first or second weekend my friends brought food from home so we all had a big dinner together. Another time a friend of mine watched movies and ate ramen and did facemasks really late at night. Also, skate nights on campus are fun to go to and have a good time with friends. Those are hosted by clubs on campus.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
I had a different friend group during my freshman year that I would say was a little toxic. One of my roommates from freshman year’s friend groups sort of adopted me at the end of freshman year and we all grew to be really good friends this year. That has developed into something really awesome.

How would you describe the overall social scene?
I think it’s kind of mixed. Because of my major, I don’t get to interact with many people who look like me, so that causes me to feel that I don’t get to have tight-knit relationships with people who look like me. It’s nice that the person of color scene is very family-like in the sense that you might not know anyone yet, but you’re automatically accepted and there’s a nice support system. It makes you feel like you’re at home.

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
It depends. My friend group right now is mixed but not completely mixed. I’ve noticed that many friend groups are a single race, but there are some groups that are more diverse. I think it is a bit of a problem, especially when it comes to the sorority and fraternity scene which is typically not diverse at all. Sometimes when people become part of Greek life it isolates those people from the people who are not.

How strong is the LGBT community on campus?
For people of color, it has become a lot better. For me, I didn’t participate in much my freshman year but this year I’ve had more of a sense of community with the people of color who are also LGBTQ. Overall, I’m not really sure.

How has going to a school the size of Lafayette impacted the social experience for you?
It’s actually really nice. I like being able to get to know a lot of people and see familiar faces on campus. I also don’t think there are too many people or too little people, I think it’s about the perfect size. It helps you get to know more people too because of the small size.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Not yet, but I’ve been working on a couple of things. The alumni from clubs and people of color from STEM have been helpful, and [once the search really takes off I think that will also be really helpful].

What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I have been to a few of their events and those have been tremendously helpful in helping you out, especially if you don’t know where to start or what to do. They host a lot of workshops too. They don’t make them a scary thing either, they may seem intimidating, but they’re actually very helpful.

Have you learned any computer programs that will be helpful professionally?
I was already kind of well versed in Excel and in some courses I have been able to get better with them. I haven’t done any coding yet, but I’ve used AutoCAD a lot.

Financial Aid

Have you used financial aid? If so, how accommodating was the office to your needs?
It’s been very good. Last semester I couldn’t cover the entire cost after the financial aid I was given. They were really helpful in helping me figure that out and even took care of some of it. As long as you reach out, which can be intimidating or scary, they’re helpful.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Lafayette before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew how rigorous the engineering department was going to be. Not in the sense of not wanting to do it because it is so hard, but so I could prepare myself more in a way of study habits or time management and things like that. In high school, it might seem that you can get through your classes regardless of your study habits, but in college there is a change and you may have to change your way of doing things to do well.

What is something a prospective Black student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
If you’re going to be in STEM or engineering, know that it’s okay to be the only Black person in your class. It will get hard sometimes because you feel alone, but at the end of the day you’re still here and doing well and don’t let what the environment looks like dictate what you’re going to do.

What is something a prospective LGBTQ student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
Get involved in the clubs and communities in the LGBT community because there are a lot of issues that may not get touched on in other identifier groups, but having that community there can help you through a lot of things that may happen at college or at home.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
If possible, reach out to a professor or something that you would be majoring in or minoring in and getting a sense of how classes go. Sometimes you may not have the opportunity to sit in a class or get a sense of how things run because that [can be surprising].

Reasons to attend Lafayette:
1) The smaller size of the school allows you to take advantage of multiple opportunities that you may not get out of larger institutions.
2) The sense of community. Once you find who those people are, they end up being very beneficial in helping you enjoy your time more as a student.
3) The amount of extracurriculars and the ability to create clubs or special interest groups is really awesome here. If you have an idea and some time, that’s something you can make happen here.

Reasons to not attend Lafayette:
I don’t know. I think there are sometimes things you could say that are reasons why you may not want to come here, but I think the pros weigh out the cons.

Notice: Lafayette College is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Lafayette College.

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