An Interview On
Pitzer College

Background

Interview Date:Fall 2018

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Chinese
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: Private international school in Hong Kong with a graduating class of about 110 students.
First Generation College Student: My sister went to college in the USA, but other than that, yes.
Major: Environmental Analysis
Minor: Anthropology
Extracurricular Activities: I dance with Claremont Colleges’ Ballroom Dance Company (CCBDC). I taught for A Cleaner Tomorrow, which is an environmental education club, and we each environmental education and environmental science curriculum to sixth graders. I’m part of the Robert Redford Conservancy as a fellow, and we host events that are environmentally related and host guest speakers and have film screenings.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
I made a lot of friends through CCBDC, and I was able to make friends across the five colleges through it. We throw on a big show in the spring so you feel like you are part of something bigger. The Robert Redford Conservancy is more formal because there is a space for it north of the colleges so students can go there for classes and also just hang out. There’s a board where you can network and make connections, and the director is really great at fostering a space where students can create events. Also, the Conservancy does a good job of inviting speakers from further places outside of California.

Academic Experience

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
It’s mainly readings. It’s definitely more training your critical thinking skills compared to the other science majors. A lot of the themes and concepts that you talk about can be repetitive in some classes, but you talk about them in different case studies around the world. It’s very interdisciplinary.

Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
Right now, they’re short on long-term staff, but I think they support the students as well as they can. They know they’re short on staff and are trying to hire more long term professors. That’s the biggest shortfall I see in the department.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s definitely not competitive in that people don’t compare themselves against one another and, in general, it’s a pretty supportive space. People like to study together.

Favorite class in your major?
Global Environmental History was a really good class. It was my hardest class as well. I took that at Pomona College. We had to read a book a week, but I learned a lot about different environmental histories around the world.

Least favorite class in your major?
I don’t know.

How accessible have your professors been?
Very accessible. They have office hours that you can go to, and if you can’t make them you can just email them and they are willing to meet up with you.

Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice so far?
I’m very happy with my choice. It’s a very interdisciplinary major. It’s not like I’m just studying environmental stuff, I’m also studying history, science, psychology, and anthropology. It borrows a lot of theories and frameworks from other disciplines to see how it analyzes environmental cases.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: All the freshmen live in four connected dorms. I lived in East Sanborn with one roommate with a connecting bathroom with two suitemates.
Sophomore: East Hall with one roommate with a connecting bathroom with two suitemates.
Junior & Senior: In an off-campus apartment with two other people. It’s a five-minute walk to Harvey Mudd and a maybe 10 to 15-minute walk to Pitzer. If you bike it’s like five-minutes. It’s still close to campus, but it’s nice to be away.

How was transitioning from Hong Kong to Claremont, CA?
It was definitely tough at first because of culture shock. School-wise, I don’t think it was especially hard to transition, the classes weren’t too difficult. It was just a different form of studying that I enjoyed more because I had a lot more control over what I was studying and could take the classes I wanted to study.

Pros and Cons of being located in Claremont, CA?
Pros: (1) The weather is always great. I feel like that affects my mood a lot with studying and feeling motivated.
(2) You have access to nature and it’s really easy to be outdoors. I really enjoy that because I try to get outside on the weekends.
(3) You’re close to L.A. It’s about an hour by train to Central L.A. If you want to get out of the Claremont bubble, you can, and there are things to do because the train connects you to everything.

Cons: (1) L.A. can be a little far.
(2) If you don’t have a car, the public transportation isn’t great here.
(3) There isn’t much to do in Claremont so it can turn into a bubble.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in?
There are 5C parties which have college security there, and those happen pretty much every week, if not every other week. Those are nice to go to because there’s security there, so you know there won’t be people there from outside of the colleges, so it’s a safe space to enjoy music with your friends. That’s the main party scene. Other than that, some suites throw parties and other events that are not as massive. Other than parties, there are club events too. I’ve started swing dancing and there’s a small club that does it there, sometimes we go to L.A. for events too. I also like to go hiking with the Pitzer Outdoor Adventures Club, people use that a lot more than I do though.

How was transitioning from Hong Kong to Pitzer in terms of nightlife?
It’s really different. Some people prefer clubbing and some people prefer house parties. I don’t like big parties that much, I more so just like hanging out with my friends in a room listening to music. I feel like I’ve experienced the clubbing scene and I don’t feel the need to go back to that. I do have some friends who want to go clubbing, and Claremont is definitely not great for that. I prefer hanging out with my friends in a small to medium-sized group instead of going to big parties, and we have been doing a lot more of that since freshman year.

How happy are you with the nightlife options at Pitzer? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m pretty happy with the options, it’s more so about me motivating myself to go do things. I can go do all these things, but sometimes I’m too tired from the week. I’m happy with the options I have.

What have been your favorite times at Pitzer?
When my friends and I go off-campus for weekend trips and to go camping. On campus, I’ve really enjoyed some of the events at the Robert Redford Conservancy because I learned and grew a lot, and feel really supported. I like to talk about my major and interests and grow academically and intellectually.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
Some of them are my freshman year suitemates and their good friends who I got to know through them. I also met people through the Robert Redford Conservancy and other clubs, like swing dancing.

How would you describe the overall social scene?
I feel like Pitzer doesn’t really have a central space where people can hang out. There’s the Grove House, which is one of the central spaces, but it’s not where everyone goes to hang out. A lot of people hang out in their rooms. In general, people are really chill and friendly. There are different friend groups that are pretty obvious, at least in my year, but it’s not like those friend groups ignore other people. Each person has friends outside of their groups. Other than the sports teams, I feel like it’s not super cliquey in the way that the cliques are malleable and people come in and out. People can move between cliques if they want to.

To what extent do international students mix with domestic students?
Quite a lot. My experience might be different than others because some international students do like to stick together, but I feel like a third of my close friends are international, while the rest are not. It depends on what clubs you’re a part of.

To what extent do you think people mix with people from the other Claremont Colleges?
I feel most people have most of their friends from their school, but I do know some people who have more friends in other schools because of the clubs they’re a part of and just who they like. There’s not really a separation between the schools. If you have friends from other schools and you are part of clubs that are 5C, then it’s a lot easier to make friends. People don’t really talk about it that much, it’s not like because I’m at Pitzer I can’t be friends with somebody at Scripps. There’s a lot of mixing in general.

Do you feel like more of a student of Pitzer or the Claremont Colleges overall?
Both, depending on what it is. I feel more connected to Pitzer than the other Claremont Colleges, but Pitzer wouldn’t be Pitzer without the other Claremont Colleges.

Do you think people are happy with their choice of Pitzer by the time they graduate? Do you think people leave loving Pitzer?
I feel that most of my friends are happy with their times at Pitzer, and, if they aren’t happy with it, they are making the most of it and are happy with what they’ve achieved. There are a few people who wish they transferred and it was too late just because they don’t enjoy the social scene as much.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Not as much right now. I haven’t tried to use it either though. It’s there, but I don’t think it’s as strong as some schools’ alumni networks.

What have you used the career office for? How helpful was it?
I got funding from them through their Pitzer internship fund. Especially with Environmental Analysis, I don’t think they’re as helpful with finding people careers in my major, I think they’re strong suit is on graduate school and fellowship applications. They do try hard, but I think it is one of Pitzer’s weaknesses.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

Something you wish you knew about Pitzer before entering as a freshman?
I wish I joined more clubs and pushed myself to continue with things that I maybe didn’t continue with. I also wish I knew that I don’t need to stay with one friend group if I don’t want to. Especially freshman year, I feel like people just stick to the same people because they feel comfortable with them. I also wish I took more classes that are outside of my major because there are still so many classes I want to take.

What is something a prospective international student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
It can be hard in classes where the classes are focused on the U.S, and you wonder why they’re not talking about your country. Obviously, you’re in a different country, and you’re going to be talking about that country more so than others in classes, but it is something I didn’t think about. I haven’t directly talked about Hong Kong in any of my classes. You have the choices to take classes more globally related and meet professors that are from the same part of the world as me. I’m taking a class on East Asia social movements, which will touch on social movements in Hong Kong and other East Asian countries, and I’m really excited about it because I’ve never read anything about home.

Reasons to attend Pitzer:
1) In general, the professors are really supportive, at least in my major. I feel like I can learn a lot from them because they’re really accessible and we have such a direct connection with them.
2) The Five College Consortium is great. It feels like I go to a small school but also a bigger school because of that. Each school has its own strengths and weaknesses, and you can access different resources throughout the five colleges. You also get to take classes from different backgrounds and different interests.
3) The location is great. It’s a beautiful place to be studying. I really didn’t want to go to a cold place because I feel like I would not be happy and just be really unmotivated.

Reasons to not attend Pitzer:
1) If you’re looking for a big party culture with sororities and fraternities, there is none of that at Pitzer.
2) The classes are very discussion based, so if that’s not your type of learning that’s a reason to not go to Pitzer.

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

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