BackgroundInterview Date:October 2018
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Public charter school in Fort Worth, Texas with a graduating class of about 70 students. There was a culture of going to college at my school. In other parts of [my neighborhood], you went to college only if you got good grades.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Environmental Science
Extracurricular Activities: Salsa Club, Minority Scientists & Engineers (MSE), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and Hispanic Society of Lafayette.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
All of them did. Salsa is a good way to destress from classes and I got to perform this year. The others are a good way to talk with other minorities who are in STEM majors.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
We have problem sets, labs, mostly exams but sometimes some papers depending on the class you’re in.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
I haven’t had any problems with the Environmental Science department. I really like the Geology department because they have get-togethers and meetings [to meet people in the department]. Environmental Science also has those meetings, but I haven’t been able to go to those as much.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
Some of the Environmental Science classes are very collaborative. For example, Introduction to the Environment was very hands on and you [worked with] your teacher. Others, like General Chemistry, can be very competitive because the coursework is difficult. Nobody really competes against one another.
What has been your favorite class you’ve taken for your major?
Introduction to the Environment
What has been your least favorite class you’ve taken for your major?
Gender and Environmentalism, just because it was a lot of reading.
How accessible have your professors been?
For the most part, I can meet with them. Sometimes they’ll have meetings and they won’t be available, but usually they’ll let you know. They’re always available during office hours.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I’m happy with my major right now. In high school, we had an AP environmental science course and it really left a mark on me. I really liked the subject. When I applied to Lafayette I saw they had the major and I heard that it was a good [interdisciplinary] major to explore what your interests are. I also like that I have the Geology minor because they’re both very interconnected.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student? Were there any resources in place to help you adjust?
Oh my gosh, it was quite difficult. It was very different from my high school. There was a sudden jump in coursework in my science and math classes. When I came I wasn’t aware of the resources, for example, you can go to the ATTIC. I didn’t realize those were available until midway through my first semester when my professor mentioned them.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Ruef Hall with one roommate
Sophomore: HOLA House, which is part of the Monroe Neighborhood. I have my own room with two other suitemates.
What has been your favorite living situation?
The house I live in now. It’s a little more expensive than living in the dorms, but I have my own room and it’s more like a house situation.
How was transitioning from Fort Worth, TX to the Easton, PA?
It’s a lot colder here than it is back home. Other than the cold, I like it here. I get to see the four seasons, which is something I don’t get to experience at home.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel pretty safe for the most part. I haven’t had a problem. Sometimes I walk back to my house late at night and I’ve never felt in danger.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I just go back to my house now. It’s technically off-campus living.
Pros and Cons of being in Easton, PA?
Pros: (1) It’s small, so there are a bunch of stores around you.
(2) [You can walk to stores from campus.]
Cons: (1) It’s pretty small, so basically everything is right here.
(2) I don’t see a bunch of color here. Back home I saw more Hispanics and other people of color, while here it is more White people. [About 55% of the population of Easton, PA is White and 23% is Hispanic.]
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Lafayette?
Sometimes I stay in and hang out with my friends and play video games. If I do go out, sometimes I go with my friends to parties at off-campus housing or on campus. Usually, there’s something going on at Portlock [Black Cultural Center] or I go to the fraternities when they have [open] charity events. I usually go to more public parties, but there are more exclusive parties also.
What nights of the week do you go to parties?
Friday or Saturday.
What is an alternative to going to a party that you like for a night out?
Sometimes there are events on campus. If I’m not trying to go to a party, I usually order a pizza and watch a movie with some friends.
What have been your favorite times at Lafayette?
Probably when it snowed and I got to go outside with some friends and mess around.
How happy are you with the weekend activities at Lafayette? Is there anything you would change if you could?
It’s been pretty good overall. That’s also because when I go out I go out with people I have genuine connections with. For me, it’s more about who I’m with than where I’m going.
How did you meet your closest friends?
We met through mutual friends. We had classes together so we’d hang out because of the class. Then they would have friends in other classes, so we’d hang out with their friends too. Eventually, we all became friends.
How did being a first-generation student impact your transition socially?
Socially, I’m not sure. No one really ever asked me if I’m a first-gen student. People probably assume, but no one has ever specifically asked me. As a first-gen you have extra pressure being here, especially being far from home. You just don’t want to mess it up.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
Overall, the environment is friendly. The population is majority White, but that’s not that surprising. [17% of domestic students are students of color.] There are groups for people of color, but sometimes I feel that those groups hang out with their cliques. International students will stay with international students, Hispanics hang out with Hispanics, and Blacks hang out with Blacks. I know there are people who go to bars off campus and if not that there is a fraternity thing or an off-campus party is usually going on if a person wants to drink. People of color tend to go to Portlock [Black Cultural Center], but there are not drinks there. It’s mostly dancing and getting to know people.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I have some gay friends on campus. For the most part, my friends are Hispanic but I also have friends who are Asian and White.
Do you think people are generally happy with their choice of Lafayette by senior year? Do you think people leave loving Lafayette?
I don’t know if they’re necessarily happy because I know some Hispanics come here and are [disappointed] that the overall population is White. It can be a transition from your high school, especially if your high school had a lot of people of color.
How was transitioning to a small school? [There are about 2,600 undergraduates at Lafayette.]
I actually like that because I get to build connections with my professors and kind of know everyone on campus. You see people around a lot and [everyone has a familiar face].
Have you used financial aid? If so, how accommodating was the office to your needs?
I do receive financial aid, and, in terms of how accommodating they are, they’re pretty decent. I wish I got more, but I can still afford to come here so that’s nice. I haven’t tried to appeal yet, but I am getting charged more now and I think that is because my older brother just graduated college, so I think they think that because we’re not paying for his education we can pay more.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Lafayette before you entered as a freshman?
The way I found out about Lafayette was through a program called Our Beloved Community. I loved the messages there about coming together and social justice. One of the things I wish they told me was that the school isn’t as diverse as that program was because coming here was a big culture shock to see not as many people [who look like me]. It was a very different environment than high school.
What is something a prospective Hispanic student may want to know that we haven’t touched on yet?
Sometimes the Hispanics here stay in their little cliques. I’m in the Hispanic Society of Lafayette, which is where a lot of Hispanics and other people meet up to talk about current events. One thing I noticed about that club is that it’s not as big as it could be, there are more Hispanics in the school. I believe some might not identify strongly as Hispanic or don’t know about it.
What is something a prospective first-generation student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
There definitely resources out there for academics. Most of the professors are pretty lenient. They’re not necessarily out to get you, there may be some, but most aren’t. There are weed out classes here, and those will be more challenging.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
They should check out Easton. It’s a nice little place to get away from campus. If you ever feel suffocated or want to go explore somewhere, it’s a nice little walk.
Reasons to attend Lafayette:
1) They gave me good financial aid. [Lafayette is ranked as one of the best liberal arts colleges for return on investment.]
2) People tend to graduate with good jobs and there are good career resources and great networking opportunities.
Reasons to not attend Lafayette:
1) If you don’t like a small school, it’s probably not for you.
2) If you identify a certain way, [there may not be a strong community for you] because it’s a small school.