An Interview On
Occidental College

Background

Interview Date:February 2019

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: East Asian
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Private school in the San Francisco Bay Area with a graduating class of about 60 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Biology
Minor: None
Extracurricular Activities: I’m part of a few Asian clubs like the Korean American Student Association (KASA) and the Chinese Culture Club. I also work for the Vantuna Research Group (VRG).

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Working in the VRG has helped me find my interest in Biology because I’m gaining more experience in what it’s like to do data entry and other simple tasks. It’s close to what I’m doing with my teacher.

How easy was it to get involved in the research you do?
Not too hard, I didn’t need any prior experience to join. I got involved by going to the first meeting and emailing the director.

Academic Experience

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your Biology major?
For my Molecular Biology class, there are only three problem sets for the semester. The labs aren’t too difficult, we just meet once a week for three hours and sometimes it doesn’t take the whole time. For my Ecology class, we take a lot of field trips during the semester, so it’s more time consuming, but still manageable. In my classes right now, the assignments are probably 40% based on labs, 30% tests, and the rest is homework.

What has been your favorite class so far?
My Marine Biology class is really fun. We had a lot of dissections during our lab, and that helped me learn hands-on. There wasn’t too much homework, which makes it manageable. It got me interested in possibly doing Marine Biology as a career.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I feel like it’s mostly collaborative, especially during my Marine Biology class. We would get into groups to do the dissections. Test taking might be a little more competitive because the professor sometimes says the average score, so if you’re below the average it might force you to work harder. People don’t really compete against each other, and there are lots of resources that can give you worksheets and practice tests.

How accessible are the professors in your department?
Most of them are pretty accessible. Some of them live further away so they might have fewer office hours than others. They always answer emails pretty fast.

Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I chose Biology because it provides a lot of possibilities after college, and I’m generally interested in science. So far, I’m fairly happy with it.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Bell Young with two roommates.

Sophomore: Newcomb with one roommate.

What is your favorite living situation so far?
Overall, my living situation in Bell Young was pretty good, but the triple was a little small. Now living in Newcomb, there’s a lot more space because it’s a double.

How was transitioning from the Bay Area to the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA?
There are definitely a lot more things to do in L.A. There’s always a new place to go see, like a museum. It was also an easy transition because Oxy is a small campus just like my high school. It’s still bigger than the 60 people who graduated with me, but it feels like a community.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel safe for the most part. Campus safety is always driving around, and there are lights everywhere.

Pros and cons of being located in the Eagle Rock Neighborhood of Los Angeles?
Pros:
1) Eagle Rock is a pretty small and nice community. There are a lot of nice shops and places within walking distance.
Cons:
1) Sometimes it might feel a little unsafe to walk around in those areas at night.

Social Opportunities

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
There are a lot of RA events that happen. I’ll mostly just go out to eat with friends or I’m studying in my room.

Are there certain campus events that you look forward to?
There’s a popular baking event, along with other events which seem pretty fun.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Occidental? Is there anything you would change about them if you could?
I think there are plenty of things happening at Oxy, and it’s just a personal choice to sometimes stay inside.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
Mostly through clubs like the Korean American Student Association, and maybe classes too.

How would you describe the overall social scene?
Overall, it’s pretty welcoming, and everyone has the chance to get to know other people over the semester. It’s pretty inclusive, and I don’t see hierarchies or competitions for popularity.

To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
For the most part, people are pretty well-rounded and integrated into the Oxy community. There might be times where it’s a little cliquish, like international students hanging out with other international students more. I see a lot of diversity on the campus. [The student body is 14% Hispanic, 5% Black, 51% White, and 13% Asian.]

How would you describe the student body?
There’s a mix of all types of people at Oxy. It might depend on their major and speaking from my experience taking a bunch of Biology classes, there’s a STEM community because we see each other in classes. People might be a little divided based on their major, but at the end of the day, people will hang out with each other or learn from each other’s different experiences. I don’t see one type of person.

How do you like the size of Occidental in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How was transitioning to a school with [about 2,055] students?
I like the size a lot. That’s one of the things that drew me to Oxy. It has a small campus so you can feel like a community instead of being lost on a big campus.

How would you describe the East Asian community on campus?
There’s definitely a strong presence of Korean Americans, which is the group I’m part of called KASA. I’m not Korean myself, I’m Chinese, and there’s a weaker presence for Chinese Americans here. I feel like I know a range of people, but I do hang out with more Asian Americans than other people.

Careers

What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I’ve been to a couple of seminars to get an internship through the career center. I know they have walk-in hours where they can check your resume if you want, I just haven’t gone there too much because I don’t think I can handle a job outside of my labs and classes.

Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that will be helpful professionally?
I’ve learned more about Excel through Biology and some Chemistry labs.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Occidental before entering as a freshman?
I was a little late deciding on my Biology major, so it would’ve been helpful if someone told me if I wanted to do Biology then I should figure that out during my freshman year.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Seeing what a club meeting is like. During the tour, they mostly go outside of the classes but never walk in or see the actual students interacting with each other. I think they would miss the community feel by just taking a tour.

Reasons to attend Occidental:
1) The campus size. You have more access to your professor’s office hours, it’s easier to know your classmates, and we have a smaller community which feels closer than it would be on a big campus.

Reasons to not attend Occidental:
1) The community is smaller so it might be more limited in the number of club activities we have.
2) The limited cafeteria selection. We only have one.

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

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