BackgroundInterview Date:December 2018
Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Middle Eastern
Graduation Year: 2021
Sexual Orientation: Straight
High School Experience: Public high school in Palos Hills, Illinois with a graduating class of 625 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in Student Government, I’m participate in student entrepreneurship, I do volunteer work, and I do research as a work-study.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
Student government allowed me to express my opinions on various things such as first-generation students. It has allowed me to make sure these people are getting proper representation. I have passed several legislations on textbook affordability, which has caught the eye of the administration.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for Biology?
I am pre-med, and Biology has a lab course. Most of the curriculum is based on critical thinking, where you apply the learned information strategically. The labs are separate grades from the Biology classes.
Is there anything that you feel the Biology department does especially well or especially poorly?
The professors I work with do try and keep in mind the textbook prices to make it more affordable for students. We also get free coats and goggles for the labs. Some students do not understand the general pathway, and need some extra help. Sometimes the professors can be condescending toward those who drop their courses.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
The Biology department is very collaborative. We work in teams during class.
What has been your favorite class so far?
What has been your least favorite class so far?
How accessible have the professors in your department been?
They do have office hours, but I typically ignore them and seek help when I need to.
How has being on a quarter system impacted your course work?
There have been some stressors placed on me when competing with deadlines. The Chemistry Department has given us exams that were also given to the normal semester schools who have twice as much time with the materials.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student to Northwestern?
In 2011, Northwestern joined QuestBridge which helps low-income first-generation students. I am on a full scholarship through this program. When I needed winter clothes or a computer, Northwestern was able to help me.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived during college?
Freshman: Ayers with 2 roommates
Sophomore: Ayers with 2 roommates
How was transitioning from Palos Hills to Evanston, Illinois?
I’m from the suburbs, but I did have trouble utilizing some shops and stores. We have Walmart, and they have Target, but I utilize price match and coupons. I also had to get used to the wealthy and white population, because I am not either of these things.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I am male and Middle Eastern, so people are [sometimes more aware of me.]
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I do a lot of biking, usually not toward a particular destination. I’ll have a light on the bike and just go until I get tired.
Pros and cons of being in Evanston, Illinois?
1) Its next to a lake which is nice.
2) It’s pretty picturesque, and the sanitation is kept up with.
3) Everything looks good environmentally.
1) It’s an expensive town, so you have to spend money to have an enjoyable lifestyle.
2) Sometimes you are expected to take part in community activities that you don’t want to. Some local laws such as not allowing a certain number of people into apartments are annoying.
What kind of weekend activities nightlife do you like to participate in?
I don’t drink do any drugs because of my religion, so I usually enjoy going to the library. I also like to play basketball and exercise with my friends. If I do that, it’s usually Friday nights.
What are some of the activities you like to do on campus?
There is a Christian club here that offers family-friendly events. I don’t go because I feel as they [can be too focused on Christianity]. There will also be movie nights put on by the school which help students who are looking for sober nightlife.
How happy were you with the weekend options at Northwestern? If you could change anything, what would you change?
Yeah, it’s fine, I don’t care that much about the nightlife. In my preference, I don’t want drugs [around me], but sometimes you don’t have that option.
What have been your favorite times at Northwestern?
When I was working in student government, I thought it was cool to get the textbook affordability legislation I was working on passed. By passing this legislation as a first-year student, I have been very proud to have made a small impact.
How did you meet your closest friends?
We are all in a similar program. I’m in a low-income and first-generation program.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Northwestern?
Lots of groups form cliques, but people seem to be happy. Everyone has parties, and I don’t see a lot of people without friend groups. If we see someone alone, we’ll invite them to play basketball with us or form a study group with them during class. Despite this, there is a high rate of suicide.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientation mix socially?
They usually form their groups and seem to get upset at the general population. My roommate has a friend in a Black fraternity, who discusses all the animosity between the White fraternities and his group. [The Class of 2022 is 13.5% Hispanic, 23.5% Asian American, 10% Black or African American, and 56% White.]
How would you describe the student body?
There are lots of Asians and wealthy people here. [The median family income of a student from Northwestern University is $171,200.] People are nice, but the population is not well mixed regarding race. There is also a culture on campus where people tend to speak up for their opinions, but don’t actually have the power to do anything. Most people are in a STEM program and there don’t seem to be many music majors here.
How accepted have you felt as a Muslim student on campus?
There are about maybe 35 publicly Muslim students, and we do a good job of getting along with one another. It’s about finding what I can say that people will accept versus what I may say at home. I feel accepted, but not in terms of beliefs.
Do people generally seem happy with their college choice by senior year? Do people love your school?
I have friends who are pre-medical that have been unhappy because they had to switch out. I’ve also seen people extremely stressed in the library, but I think I’ll be just fine. It depends on the kid.
How has the size of your school influenced your social experience?
It doesn’t really make a difference to me. As a small school, you get a lot closer to the people around you. [There are about 8,300 undergraduates at Northwestern.]
Have you used financial aid? If so, accommodating was the office to your needs? Were they responsive to your questions?
My scholarship is through the SES (Student Enrichment Services). It’s an independent office, but is affiliated with Northwestern. They are very accommodating and have provided me resources such as textbooks and jackets.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
On a tour, it seems like they show you the best things. Being on a full scholarship, I was not too worried about what came with the school. I would look into the department you may be interested in, because I wasn’t aware of the cool projects we would be doing.
What is something a prospective Muslim student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
If you strongly identify with who you are as a Muslim, you may feel uncomfortable here. You have to be okay with being a minority and sometimes having people stare at you, and if not, you’ll be completely uncomfortable.
Reasons to attend Northwestern:
1) The school goes out of its way to maintain your happiness. You can reach out for mental health issues, and they will help you find resources.
2) If you like exciting students, nightlife, and social life, you can find that group here.
3) If you are looking for a community, Northwestern students always stick together.
Reasons to not attend Northwestern:
1) It’s expensive. They have good financial aid, but the living cost is still high.
2) You could miss home if you live far away.
3) If you are narrow minded, you will not be happy at this school.