BackgroundInterview Date:February 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: A private school outside of Memphis, TN with a graduating class of about 250 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Majors: Music and Political Science double major. I am on the pre-law track.
Extracurricular Activities: With music, I participate in a few of the ensembles and take some lessons. I play club ultimate frisbee and I [have a leadership role] Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature (TISL). I also teach music lessons.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
TISL has had a really big impact. It’s a great way to meet people and make solid friends, especially in the Political Science department.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your majors?
For my Music major, I have to do an hour and a half or two hours of practicing my instrument per day, about six hours a week for ensemble rehearsals, and then I have four courses a semester, which is now usually two Music courses and two Political Science.
Is there anything you feel either of your majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
I do wish that the Music department had a stronger instrumental program, but, besides that, I love the faculty in both the Music and Political Science departments.
How would you describe the learning environment? Is it particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s really collaborative in Music especially, and Political Science is also a collaborative environment.
Do you feel people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
It depends on what kind of course it is. If it’s a course that focuses on more sensitive material, people don’t voice their opinions because nobody wants to touch on the touchy subjects. Generally, nobody will be mad at you because you believe something. I think it also depends on the professor, most present both sides of the argument. If you bring up a side of an argument they’ll elaborate on it for you, but sometimes you can tell by the readings what they personally favor. If you ask them to represent a side or say something about it, they will do it.
What has been your favorite class in both of your majors?
Music: African-American Music, it’s so much fun and I’ve learned so much about types of music, especially music from Memphis, that I feel I should know.
Political Science: Media and Politics, it’s really enlightening about news media and we read a lot of academic sources.
How accessible have your professors been in both departments?
I’ve never had any problem making a meeting or getting a hold of a professor.
Why did you pick your majors? Are you happy with your choices?
I started as a Biology major and was getting C’s, so I switched to Political Science. I’ve also been playing [my instrument] for 12 years so I had to do a music major [to continue playing at the level I wanted to]. I’m so glad I’m majoring in both of those.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student? Were there any resources that helped you adapt?
My family was pretty strict on my grades in high school and always expected to go to college, so transitioning wasn’t too hard for me. There are a lot of tutors available and when you’re a freshman the upperclassmen will tell you about different opportunities. They’ll tell you to meet with your professor or about good study tools. There’s a learning curve and you will learn how to do it by your second year.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived during college?
Freshman: Robinson Hall with three roommates
Sophomore: Spann Place Townhouses with five other roommates
How was transitioning from the suburbs of Memphis to living in the city?
I still go home every weekend because my family is still very attached. It’s a very different culture in Midtown Memphis than in a suburban area. It’s also more dangerous here generally. I didn’t have any trouble transitioning.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
On campus, it’s pretty safe. You’re not going to get robbed or anything on campus. Off-campus you definitely should not be going anywhere alone at night and during the day you should still be aware. I say that because I’m from here and I know a lot of the things that are happening around here, although nothing’s ever happened to me. The neighborhoods off-campus aren’t super safe. [Although Memphis is one of the most dangerous cities in America, The Hein Park and Rhodes View neighborhoods surrounding Rhodes’ campus are low-crime neighborhoods.]
What are the pros and cons of being located in Memphis, TN?
1) It’s in the city, so you have different things to do.
2) We’re not in downtown, but you can easily drive or Uber cheaply to places downtown.
3) Memphis is a pretty great city because there are a lot of opportunities for young people.
4) It’s really cheap to live here. [Average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Memphis is about $890 as of January 1, 2019.]
5) Even though it’s Southern and a lot of people don’t like southern states, people in the city are really welcoming if you’re nice to them.
1) I’m from Memphis so, for me, being in Memphis is a con because I didn’t want to stay in Memphis.
2) The areas around campus aren’t extremely safe.
3) There’s not much to walk to around campus.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Rhodes?
I usually hang out with my friends. I’ll go to a party or a bar here and there, but I don’t go to parties every weekend like I used to. If I go to a party, it’s a house party hosted by a friend. I don’t go to too many frat parties. When my friends and I hang out we will get food and watch a movie. I just turned 21, so I will have some drinks with my friends and we will sometimes go to the bars on Beale Street which is fun.
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
Memphis always has concerts going on, so I’ll go to those, or I will go to Overton Square and get some food. Also, staying in and watching a scary movie is one of my favorite things to do.
How happy were you with the weekend options at Rhodes? Is there anything you would change?
I don’t feel like Rhodes has a ton of school-sponsored activities, but I also don’t look into them that much. I know the improv shows are really fun to go to on weekend nights. I also don’t know if I would go to the school-sponsored events if I knew what they had. [See Rhodes campus events here.]
How did you meet your closest friends?
Through music. My best friend plays the same instrument as me, which is kind of weird [laughs]. In general, the classes I take and the clubs I do is how I met my closest friends.
How did being a first-generation college student affect your social transition?
It didn’t really affect it. I had a lot of friends in high school, and this is a similar size school as my high school, so it wasn’t that difficult to have social interaction and make new friends.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Rhodes?
It’s pretty easy to make friends. I feel that it’s a little harder when you’re not in a Greek organization because they have a big group of people who will be your friend. I think it’s harder when you’re not in a Greek organization because so many people are in Greek organizations. About half of my friends are in fraternities and sororities, so you can mix with them. Everybody’s nice and welcoming. [About 50% of students at Rhodes are part of Greek life.]
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I don’t see any barriers. I think everybody mixes with everybody. In general, I haven’t noticed any trends of groups not mixing with other groups.
How would you describe the student body?
I think it’s pretty diverse. I meet people from all over the country. Most people are here to learn and will go after the things they want. People are driven, which I like. [About 28% of students come from Tennessee.]
Do you ever feel that you are more so a resident of Memphis than a student at Rhodes?
That’s a tough one because when I’m on campus I feel like a Rhodes resident even though my house is so close to campus. When I’m representing Rhodes in Memphis I feel like I’m more a resident of Memphis, but that’s also because I’m from here.
Do people generally seem happy with their college choice of Rhodes by their senior year? Do you think people leave loving Rhodes?
I think so, especially after they graduate I always see people coming back. Whenever I talk to Rhodes alumni they say, “I went to Rhodes and loved it, it was so great.” I don’t know many seniors who wish they went somewhere else.
How do you like the size of Rhodes? How has it influenced your social experience? [Rhodes has about 2,000 students.]
I think it’s a good size for me. I wouldn’t want to be in a huge school where I wouldn’t be able to get to know people as well individually. I also love the small classes because it’s easier for me to learn in a small group. It’s also easier to make relationships with your professors.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
Career services have helped me out in particular. They got me an internship with a law firm that was really helpful. The faculty also have a ton of connections. I get paid to teach music lessons and one of my Music professors helped set me up with that. I’ve used them to look for internships and have used the Babysitter List.
Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that have been or will be especially helpful professionally?
I took computer science my first semester and didn’t retain any of it, so no.
Have you used financial aid? If so, accommodating was the office to your needs? Were they responsive to your questions?
Financial aid has been really amazing to me. I had some family circumstances that they were very accommodating with. The Music department has also helped me out a lot [by helping me work as a music teacher].
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Rhodes before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I knew that you should go talk to your professors. You should make it a requirement for yourself to make a relationship with them because if they know you they’ll trust you when you say you’re sick and you’re not there or if you have to turn an assignment in late they’ll be more understanding. I also wish I knew to be more outgoing to make friends here because a lot of people here are outgoing, so that attitude is helpful here.
What is something a prospective pre-law should know that we haven’t touched on?
My faculty advisor helped me get a summer internship at the district attorney’s office. Even if you don’t intern there, go to the district attorney’s office in Memphis because it loves Rhodes students and you can sit and watch and learn so much. That will also tell you if you want to be a lawyer or not. Also go to the events in the Political Science department, even if they seem silly, because you’ll learn a lot and they bring in good speakers.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I think speaking to students is really helpful because online and during the tour all you see if the pretty buildings. It’s good to see how students interact and how welcoming they are. I think speaking to another student will show how welcoming students are and that they really do want prospective students to come.
Reasons to attend Rhodes:
1) The small classes. I love it. I could not learn in a massive lecture hall.
2) The professors care a lot about you.
3) There are so many opportunities both inside and outside of Memphis. [See research opportunities here.]
Reasons to not attend Rhodes:
1) It’s far away for a lot of people.
2) It is a lot of work. It’s really rewarding if you put in the effort and get good grades. You do have to go to class and participate as much as you can.