BackgroundInterview Date:June 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Public school in Virginia with a graduating class of about 650 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First-Generation College Student: No
Major: Russian Language and Literature
Extracurricular Activities: I play club squash and am a member of Beer Nation, which is a beer drinking club.
Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
Beer Nation has led to me making quite a few good friends. Playing squash is just fun and a good way to unwind after class.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
For the language courses, we have class every day and you have homework every night but it’s a pretty light load of vocabulary and grammar worksheets. For the literature classes, those tend to have a heavier workload. You read about a book a week or every two weeks and either have essays or, at minimum, a midterm and final.
Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
They pay great attention to the Russian majors and really care that you’re getting the best education you possibly can from them. They care that you’re enjoying your classes and have a vested interest in your life. On the flipside of that, they sometimes care about the Russian majors more than other students, but I think that’s something that could be said about any department at Reed, in my experience.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It depends on the class. I think the humanities classes tend to be more competitive than collaborative. My experiences in lab science classes have been more collaborative than competitive, and I think that’s partially because in labs you’re always working in groups so it’s in your greatest interest to collaborate with everybody. In the classroom setting for a literature course or religion course, people are always trying to outsmart one another or come up with the best idea. You’re also working by yourself on the reading and papers, coming up with your own ideas, so everyone’s bringing their own thoughts to the table. If you want to dictate where the conversation goes or if somebody says something you don’t like, it can foster a more competitive environment.
How accessible are your professors?
In my experience, they’ve always been very accessible. They all have office hours where you can go talk to them. If you email them, they’re always happy to set up meetings outside of their office hours.
Do you feel that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
It depends on the class. I’ve been in some classes where that is welcome and where a lot of people from different majors are in a class and people are bringing in a religious versus mathematics education to the same text and it works really well. I’ve also been in classroom environments where people totally reject someone who doesn’t have the same background knowledge that they do and isn’t as well read in whatever field the assigned reading is a part of. It depends on the people who are in the class.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I’m very happy with my choice. I chose my major because Russian language classes were always my favorite. I wanted to learn a specific concrete skill that I can point to and apply to the rest of my life if I want to, so I thought learning the Russian language was a way that I could do that and have that skill.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on and around campus?
Freshman: MacNaughton with one roommate
Sophomore: Off-campus house about five blocks from campus with three other people.
What has been your favorite living situation?
Definitely living off-campus. Living on campus can be pretty intense. Reed’s a really small school and is very insular as well because people don’t leave campus very much and everybody knows each other. Living my day to day life on campus felt like I was never seeing new people and everybody knew what was going on with me and it started to be a little too much.
How was transitioning from Virginia to Portland, OR?
Adjusting to the rain and the darkness that goes on in Portland in the winter was pretty big. People are a lot less friendly I found, people don’t look up when they’re walking and don’t smile or wave at people in the street.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
Living in Portland never felt dangerous for me. There is a significant homeless population who does come up and ask you for money and help, but I’ve never felt uncomfortable or in danger. I know that makes some people very uncomfortable but it’s never seemed like an actual problem to me.
Pros and cons of being in Portland, OR?
Pros: (1) It’s a gorgeous part of the country. You get to see some of the most beautiful nature in the Pacific Northwest.
(2) There is a lot of good food and there is easy access to a bunch of different cuisines.
Cons: (1) It’s pretty hard to get around the city. The bus system is kind of slow, the rail system is really small, and Portland is really sprawled out. Especially when it’s raining all the time, waiting for the buses is a chore.
(2) There’s not a lot of diversity in the city. It’s a city of mostly middle to upper-income White people. [The median household income in Portland is $66,187 and about 70% of residents are White.]
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
I normally go out Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. There are parties at Reed that I sometimes go to. I personally prefer to go out downtown and go to bars or concerts. There is a really big DIY space concert scene in Portland that is worth taking advantage of. A lot of the events are 21+ which is a hindrance for the first year of school. There are also parties on campus and off-campus because a lot of people live off-campus at Reed but in the general vicinity of campus.
What are some of your favorite on campus events?
I really like putting on Beer Gardens with Beer Nation. Those are all on campus. There are also dances in the student center, and depending on who is playing those can be really fun. Also, when it’s sunny out people will go to the huge front lawn and hang out there.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Reed? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I guess the parties are always a little small for my taste. It’s a really small school, so there will be 30 to 50 people at a party, which constantly feels underattended. The club scene is occupied by older people as well, so there are a lot of 30-35 year old’s at pretty much every club you go to, so you don’t have a lot of places for different age groups and interests because it’s a small place. Socially, I would want a more diverse club and party life.
How did you meet your closest friends?
A couple of them I met during orientation week. She was an international student and all the international students do orientation together so she introduced me to her friends that she had made during that, and a few of us ended up really hitting it off and becoming close friends. I met my other friends because one was a couple of years older and went to my high school, so I hung out with him and all of his friends and we ended up hitting it off.
How would you describe the social scene?
It’s intense. It’s a lot of people in everyone else’s business. If you can’t take that insular community and can’t handle how tightly woven it is, it’s really difficult to navigate. It’s very easy to get wrapped in that side of it, but it’s also very easy to get outside of it if you decide to. Once I made the friends that I knew I wanted, we all moved away together, and then we were able to make the social scene whatever we wanted it to be. You then can weave your own web of people and made it a lot more enjoyable for me. [Reed has about 1,400 students.]
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Not always a ton People of non-White races mix a lot more than White people mix with people of color. Not in a negative way, there is a really large support network for students of color that people take advantage of and end up making their friends from. It’s not that they don’t have White friends as a rule. I know there is a huge effort with the clubs on campus to create an open and inviting space for people of all ethnicities and sexual orientations. As far as sexual orientation, that matters almost not at all. Everyone hangs out with each other in that way.
How is being a straight White male at a school with such a strong LGBTQ+ population?
It’s fine. I think as long as you’re aware of what you are and don’t try to take advantage of it, it’s not a problem. It hasn’t had much of a factor.
How would you describe the student body?
Intellectually focused. I think a lot of people who go to Reed were a little held back socially in high school and are releasing a lot of things here.
How do you like the size of Reed in terms of undergraduate enrollment?
It’s way too small for me [laughs]. The size is less important to me than the relationships with my professors to the point that I can go to a small school so I can get a lot out of my education. Socially, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in kind of an uncomfortable way.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I’ve never taken full advantage of the alumni network. I’ve gotten job offers from alumni that I didn’t end up taking because I had better opportunities. It’s definitely a readily available option for students and is highly encouraged.
Have you used the career office at all? If so, how helpful have they been?
I’ve never used them. They’re very eager to help though.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
I’ve never taken a class that taught any of that at Reed.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Reed before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew how many people didn’t do the readings.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
A lot of hanging out takes place privately indoors, so you won’t see the social scene at Reed and how good the friendships you make can be. Seeing how the friend groups form and what they look like is a lot harder to see at Reed.
Reasons to attend Reed College:
1) You will be really well looked after by your professors and will learn a lot if you want to.
2) You get access to incredible resources. In terms of access to media, Reed can help you find some rare and cool stuff.
3) You will meet a lot of great people. You’ll meet a lot of intense and kind of over the top people, but there will also be a lot of really cool people who are doing really cool things and thinking about really cool things.
Reasons to not attend Reed College:
1) If you can’t take six months of darkness in Portland, don’t go. [On average, Portland has about 164 days of precipitation a year.]
2) If you can’t take most of your school getting depressed for six months because of some sort of seasonal affective disorder, don’t go.
3) If academia is not your thing and you don’t want to be hearing about theory all the time, it’s not the place for you.