BackgroundInterview Date:November 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Homosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: A pretty huge public school in China with a graduating class of about 1,000 students. I was in a program with about 150 students where we took SAT classes and some of the classes were taught in English. For my program, there was a culture of going to college in the U.S., but most of the students in my school went to colleges in China.
First Generation College Student: No, but I’m the first student to go to a college in the U.S.
Majors: Double major in Economics and Statistical & Data Sciences
Extracurricular Activities: Currently, the club I’m most dedicated to is called Smithies in Statistical and Data Science, which is a club for people interested in Statistical and Data Science.
What impact has Smithies in Statistical and Data Science had on your experience?
The club means a lot to me because I really like the program. We promote student involvement in the data science industry and we invite alumni and experts in the data science industry to share their experiences. We also have tea with faculty members and help them promote their classes.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your majors?
For Economics we mostly have problem sets and exams to prepare for. For Statistical & Data Sciences, I’m also taking classes in the Math and Computer Science departments. For Computer Science classes, we have labs and programming homework. Statistics classes have both labs and problem sets.
Is there anything you feel either of majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
What I like about the Economics department is that it’s a pretty flexible program. If you’re interested in a specific topic, for example, environmental economics, you can take classes from the Environmental Science & Policy department and have it count towards your major. Also, if you’re interested in Political Science, you can take Government classes. I like that the program is flexible and our faculty members have pretty diverse interest so you can find someone who shares the same interests as you.
The Statistical & Data Sciences is similar in that we take a lot of classes from other departments. It’s a newer department, which I also think can be a disadvantage because our department doesn’t have too many classes. I appreciate that it exposed me to Computer Science because I probably wouldn’t have taken a class in that if I wasn’t a Statistical & Data Sciences major.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think that as I got older it has become more collaborative. For first-year and sophomore students, a lot of them feel peer pressure and that people are trying to prove that they’re smarter or more hardworking. As a junior, everyone is more focused on what they want to do, so there is less competition and people grow more respectful of other people’s achievements.
What is your favorite class you’ve taken for your majors?
Introduction to Statistics, which was a requirement for both of my majors. That was my first statistics class and it really inspired me to think about things from a different perspective. I think that learning statistics makes a lot of sense to me and helps me explain things better and understand things more clearly.
What is your least favorite class you’ve taken for your majors?
Data Structures, which is a more advanced Computer Science class. I think it’s a good class and I like the instructor, but it’s just really, really challenging for me. I do not think I am extremely talented in programming, so I’ve had a lot of late nights trying to finish the homework for the class.
How was transitioning from your high school in China to Smith academically? Were there any systems in place to help you adjust?
Not specifically academically, but in terms of the environment, everything was extremely different. Because a lot of my classes in my high school were taught in English and I had a decent foundation from preparing for the SAT and things like that, I did not feel that the classes were extremely difficult to start with. But, when I took my first semester of classes, I was not always able to speak up in class and I was not always comfortable doing a presentation or writing a paper because of the language barrier. What helped me a lot at Smith is we have a lot of academic resources, for example, we have the Writing Center, and the professors will help you brainstorm ideas for the content of the paper. I think all the faculty members here are really encouraging and the students are really nice. Even though I was not able to talk a lot in class in the beginning of the semester, I spoke more and more in class and that really built up my confidence.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Chapin House with one roommate.
Sophomore: Chapin House with one roommate.
Junior: Chapin House in a single.
Chapin House is a mixed house with students from all four classes and all kinds of people.
How did you like that housing situation?
I really appreciated it my first year. The older students were really welcoming. They did a lot of things to welcome first-year students and try to help us form a community. My fellow first-year students were really great people. My house was predominantly White and had a very small portion of people of color and international students, but all the other first years I talked to were pretty outgoing and really friendly. I made a lot of friends from my first year in my house and I spent a lot of time there. I felt really comfortable hanging out in the common area. We studied there and hung out there.
My second year, making friends was easier. I started out having a huge friend group from freshman year, but over time the huge friend group breaks down into smaller groups. My first year I really relied on the house community and I did most of my things and spent most of my time there. Now it’s less of a place I call home, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I feel pretty comfortable there, but I’ve made friends outside of the house. I think for the first year it was a really great help to transition to the environment.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I think it’s pretty safe. There have been incidents of people feeling scared, but I haven’t personally felt that. I feel safe walking on campus or leaving my laptop in the library and stuff like that.
Pros and Cons of being in Northampton, MA?
Pros: (1) As a Smith student, I feel pretty comfortable in the town because Smith is a pretty big part of the town. If I go somewhere and say I’m a student from Smith, they embrace that. I think that’s a really nice thing.
(2) I really like the environment. There are a lot of really cute stores and there are some really nice cafes that are really popular. We have a lot of good options to go out.
Cons: (1) The stores get boring and they are overpriced. There are not as many options as there would be in a city.
(2) The city gets boring over time because it’s a pretty small town.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Smith?
Honestly, I’m having a really, really busy semester academically so I haven’t had much time for weekend activities or nightlife. It’s mostly just lowkey nights with my friends where we watch a movie or have a small gathering. When I’m not this busy, I go to parties, but probably not at Smith because Smith parties are not that great. People go to parties at UMass and Amherst more. People will also typically gather in one person’s room and drink and hang out. I didn’t really enjoy the UMass frat parties too much and I don’t go that often. I enjoy it more when I’m with a small group of people who are all my close friends and we can chill.
How happy are you with the weekend activities at Smith? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m happy with it. I think if I were in a city I would have more pressure to go out, but I don’t actually want to go out that much. I appreciate that it’s not an extreme partying environment, but I know a lot of students don’t like that.
What have been your favorite times at Smith?
One was this past summer when I worked on campus in a research lab. The campus was pretty empty, there were only a few students still working on campus. The people in my lab ended up becoming really good friends and I really liked working there. We also had a really great professor as our advisor. I really enjoyed it because I was on campus but I was not extremely busy with my classes, so I could watch movies with my friends after work and I had free time during the weekends. I really appreciated being there not necessarily as a full-time student. I also have liked making progress in my classes here. Even though I might be really busy and tired, I feel pretty fulfilled. I also really like having people who I really care about and a strong support system. I feel really appreciative to be in that environment.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I have some close friends who are from the Chapin House. They’re still my neighbors and we still spend time together. I met one of my closest friends working in the lab over the summer. I have met friends through different kinds of opportunities. I also worked as an orientation leader and became friends with a lot of the other leaders.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
I think that it’s generally very welcoming. Everyone is really, really friendly and nice and people are not judgmental.
To what extent do you think international students mix with domestic students?
I think it really depends on the personalities. For example, I personally feel that there’s not a huge disconnection between me and other domestic students. Based on the people I meet, I think there are a lot of different kinds of domestic students. There are some who I have cultural differences with who I don’t end up being great friends with, and there are other students who are less of that. I connect with people with a more diverse background and understanding of me being from a completely different country.
For other international students, I think it depends on what kind of personality they have. I think I’m a pretty outgoing person and connect with Western culture, but people from other countries can be more conservative and much loser with other international students or students from their own country. A lot of people from China are also friends with people from China and I think that’s a great thing because they’re really, really close. I also have a lot of friends from China here and I think they’re really great people.
How strong is the LGBT community at Smith?
It’s really strong. I love the community. I’m very comfortable being out. In an environment where I am meeting new people, I don’t really think too much about it. Everyone I meet, regardless of what their sexual orientations and identities are, don’t take that as a huge thing. Everyone is really supportive. I think it’s a great environment for being an LGBT student.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Smith before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I didn’t put pressure on myself to make a lot of friends because at the beginning of freshman year everyone feared being left out. I’m really happy with my friends and my social situation right now, but my first year I was really worried if people would like me or if people would judge me because of my language barrier or cultural differences. I wish I knew that I shouldn’t feel that way.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I’m not sure if this is an important point, but I do think that the LGBT culture at Smith is pretty distinguished. I work as a campus tour guide and I get a lot of questions about that from students and parents who are curious about it. There is a strong culture of LGBT people here, but I think it might be different than what people expect. People ask, “Are you 90% gay?” but it’s really not. I think sometimes the gay community at Smith still surprises me [because it is so strong].
Reasons to attend Smith:
1) It has a great reputation and alumni network.
2) Academically, it’s a really great environment. The faculty members are extraordinary and really approachable. It’s a really academically stimulating environment. I, like a lot of students, didn’t expect to be a STEM student when I started, but people are encouraged to take classes outside of their comfort zone and people end up finding their real passion.
3) The LGBT environment is great.
4) The feminist environment empowers women to become leaders and stand up for themselves.
Reasons to not attend Smith:
1) People complain about there not enough parties. This is definitely not a party school.
2) It’s not in a huge city so it gets boring.
3) It’s really cold here.