An Interview On
Smith College

Background

Interview Date:December 2018

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Multiracial – I identify as Black but I’m also Latino and Asian-American
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Small all-girls Catholic school in outskirts of New York City with about 130 people in the graduating class. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: Government and Women’s & Gender Studies double major
Minor: None
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in an acapella group, I do musical theater on campus, I did the Bridge Pre-Orientation Program, and I’m on my House Council

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
My acapella group was the first place I found a community on campus. Doing musical theater has also been a place where I’ve found a lot of my friends and is a place where I’m very comfortable. Bridge is just an orientation program, but some of those people also helped shape my year last year.

Academic Experience

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your majors?
For both of my majors, it’s mainly essays and readings. I do a lot of long readings every night and, depending on the class, there are papers frequently or every now and then.

Is there anything you think either of your majors do especially well or poorly?
I’m not sure about the Government department. For the Women’s & Gender Studies department, they’re very good at trying to get the majors to know each other, they do a lot of mixers, events to show you what people do after college with their degree, and invite some really interesting people to talk. I also think the professors are really good.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s not competitive at all. I think it’s a lot of collaboration and very much a supportive environment. Smith does have a stress culture sometimes, but it’s a lot of encouraging each other and taking care of each other because if you’re stressed you deserve some time to take to yourself. We remind each other to not overdo it and that grades aren’t everything, even though it feels like it.

Do you think people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
I’m not sure, it’s hard to tell. I think yes, but I also think that in the Government department and the Women’s & Gender Studies department you are supposed to have multiple schools of thought and look at everything from a broad perspective, but it eventually trickles down to social justice in the Women’s & Gender Studies department and in the Government department it trickles down to your personal opinion and most people share the same or similar opinions.

Do you think professors do a good job of supporting lesser known or represented schools of thought in the classroom?
So far in my experience, yes.

How accessible have your professors been?
Very accessible. Another good thing about Smith is that the professors encourage us to come to office hours and [openly advertise them]. People are very willing to talk to you. I also think the professors are very accommodating in terms of disability services and needs. If you need something you can ask for it and they’ll be willing to either help you, give you what you need, or find a compromise that will help you work through it.

Why did you choose your combination of majors? Are you happy with your choice?
I think I’m happy with my choice, I just declared. I came in knowing I wanted to be a Government major because I’ve always been interested in social justice and political structures. Finding the Women & Gender Studies major and taking the intro class really helped me decide that I wanted to do that rather than take classes in different departments. It’s a really broad major and there is a lot of overlap with Government. I found a lot of things that I like about it and things that I want to do with it. I like the broadness of both majors and the fact that they overlap with each other into things that I’m interested in.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Chapin House on Green Street with one roommate in a double.

Sophomore: I lived in the same room with the same roommate as freshman year.

How do you like the house system at Smith?
I like it a lot. Even though it’s weird in comparison to most other schools and talking about it to people who don’t have it seems strange, it’s really cool to have a house community and know there’s a place for you to go back to. My favorite thing about it is it’s not super pushy. You can live in a house and not be super engaged in the house and that’s fine, people will still be willing to talk to you. But, you can also live in the house with all your friends for four years and be super engaged all the time and have that be your place. So, it’s okay for your house not to be your place, but people are still willing to invite you in.

How was transitioning from your hometown outside of New York City to Northampton, MA?
I’m from a city that’s a mix between suburban and urban, and I transitioned pretty well honestly. I don’t go into town super often, but I do like when I go down there and get to see cool things that they put out in the town. There are holiday festivals and Northampton Pride is amazing. The restaurants are also really good and there are a lot of nice places to study. It’s warm and cozy and it doesn’t feel like an expansion of Smith’s campus, but because Smith is so close to downtown Northampton it’s pretty easy to get up and go if you want to.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I’ve had a pretty safe experience. Smith has the Blue Light System and there’s a good amount of them. It’s a good place and walking home at night is fine. It’s a really safe campus and a comfortable place.

Pros and Cons of located in Northampton, MA?
Pros:
1) The town is very welcoming. Walking downtown I feel pretty comfortable. I go into town alone every now and then.
2) It’s a cool town to explore and there are lots of stores and restaurants.

Cons:
1) It’s more of a hassle to get to larger stores if you don’t have a car because you have to take the bus. If I want to go to Walmart I have to take the bus, and you have to plan your time to do it. It’d be nice to have cheaper stores be more accessible on foot.
2) The stores aren’t the cheapest stores.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Smith?
I usually do things with my friends. Even though I don’t go out further and do large, widespread parties, I usually hang out with small groups and do things. Smith does not have much of a party culture, but for people who do want to engage in a large party culture, there are plenty of schools around who do have bigger parties that people can engage in. When there is a party at Smith, people show up and it is fun. Downtown there isn’t much to do for college students unless you’re 21.

What nights of the week do you like to go out and do things? What kind of things on Smith’s campus do you like to go to?
Fridays are the main days, but sometimes Saturdays depending on the week or what’s going on. Sometimes houses throw parties and those are Smith facilitated and sometimes people throw individual parties that are fun, they can be larger or smaller. Sometimes I really do just go out with my friends and watch a movie and then go to a party or vice versa.

What have been some of your favorite times or events at Smith?
I think Convocation is not my super favorite event, but this year there was a protest and I participated in that. After Convocation there is a carnival on Chapin lawn with food and carnival games and then usually after people disperse and have parties with their friends. That’s the day where there is the most activity party-wise. That’s one of my favorite days of the year. We also have bonding events that are really cute for the groups that I’m part of that are

How happy are you with the weekend activity options at Smith? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m pretty happy with it. I think my main problem is that Smith from an administrative sense does not like parties and parties are so easily shut down. When people do throw parties, it has to be quieter and it’s easy for them to get canceled by Res-Life. Smith makes it obvious that if there is an obvious party, Res-Life will shut it down, or if there’s a party in a house basement, campus police will shut it down.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
I met my closest friends through the Bridge Pre-Orientation Program, which is a pre-orientation program for students of color that takes place the week before classes start. In the program you have groups, and even though my friends weren’t in my group, I made my friends through that. I just happened to run into people consistently from Bridge who I already knew, so those are my closest friends. Musical theater and theater productions are another way I found my closest friends.

How would you describe the overall social scene?
I think people are really welcoming and really encouraging. I personally try to be a really friendly person and I just find a lot of willing people who are willing to meet new people and accept you into whatever conversation or group they’re in. People are super open-minded here, and I think that’s been good for my personal life.

What impact has Smith being an all-female school had on your experience?
I don’t think it really has had an impact. For me, going to a traditionally women’s college is not much of a difference especially because I’m very much used to being surrounded by mainly women.

How has being a person who identifies as LGBT influenced your social experience?
That’s also something that hasn’t highly influenced my experience because there is such a large queer scene on Smith’s campus. There is a lot of people who identify as queer on Smith’s campus, so it’s not abnormal for me. That’s been a definite change for me because I went to a Catholic high school before, so it was abnormal there and I wasn’t out there. The main differences are that I’m in a community where there are a lot of people who identify as queer and queerness aren’t hidden on Smith’s campus and it’s a welcomed thing.

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think they do lightly. People do mix, but also people meet their friends and branch off into mainly White friend groups and mainly Queer friend groups. It’s a pretty even mix of people having friends of different identities than them and not. With students of color, there is a divide between students of colors’ friend groups and White students’ friend groups.

How would you describe the student body?
I think Smith students are very ambitious, but also chill. There is a stress culture, but people are like, “Yes, you’re stressed, but also take care of yourself.” Even if everyone’s freaking out and stressing out, somebody will tell you to go to bed early because taking care of yourself is important. So, even though there is a stress culture and people are always thinking about internships and stuff, there’s also that laid back aspect of people trying to take care of themselves. We aren’t a work hard play hard school in the sense that people party hard, we’re a work hard and then also remember to take care of yourself school. It’s very much a comfort-based school.

How do you like going to a school the size of Smith? [Smith has an undergraduate enrollment of about 2,600 students.]
I love it. I was mainly looking at small liberal arts schools because I came from a smaller high school and I like having things be close together and being able to recognize people’s faces even if I don’t know them. I like it because there’s an obvious community of Smith and going to Smith.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Not yet, but as a sophomore who just finished her first semester, I’m starting to begin that process now. I know plenty of people who have engaged with alumni and I’m starting to engage with alumni and I feel like that might help me.

What have you used the career office for? How helpful were they?
I used them to create my first resume and helped me narrow down my resume on one page. They also helped me with finding internships. Most people use the online databases, but I’ve been using the resources that they told me about on my own rather than going through the resources with them. They helped me prepare, but I did most of the search process myself.

Have you learned any computer programs that will be helpful to you professionally?
No, not through my coursework.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Smith before entering as a freshman?
I don’t think there is anything I wish I knew because Smith is a school I did a lot of research on. I did the Women of Distinction Program, which is an overnight visit program for students of color, so doing that I met people who gave me information that a lot of other students didn’t have. The student I visited with told me about Bridge and a lot of other things I knew beforehand. I still talk to her now.

Was there anything that the student you visited told you that made you want to come to Smith?
She told me about the Bridge Program and having a community. Also, she told me about the culture of self-care and how people will be there for others and how it’s a welcoming school. I met her friends and got to see her friends and meet all these people who were very friendly to me as a senior in high school.

What is something a prospective student of color may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
Definitely the fact that it is a predominantly White school. If you do Bridge, not every single student of color does Bridge because it’s an optional program, but if you were to do that program it’s all students of color for a week. When everyone else comes onto campus you realize that difference of it being a predominantly White space. In class, you might be the only student of color, especially in the small 12-person classes. In the 30-person classes, you may be one of three students of color. [About 18% of the student population are underrepresented minorities.]

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
There are a lot of little hidden nooks and crannies, like there is a pathway from the pond to the quad which is a really beautiful trail. Then also every house is different, so trying to get a feeling for the house community will difficult because there are so many houses. There are a lot of different cool things that are hidden that you don’t get to see just walking through campus.

Reasons to attend Smith:
1) For me, it was mainly the community. I felt so immediately welcome on campus.
2) The professors, at least in the Women & Gender Studies and Government departments, are amazing. They’re welcoming and they care. I love that I am able to establish a relationship with professors because you have small classes. In larger classes the professor knew everybody’s name, and, even if I don’t speak up much in class, I know if I email them they will respond and they will know my face, so I can go up to them after class and ask them a question regarding my email.
3) The campus. It’s nice to be able to walk easily around campus and everything’s pretty close together. It’s beautiful in the fall and it’s just a nice little place to live, even though I’m not a big fan of the cold.
4) Financial aid is pretty good. As an international student, I was blown away by the amount of financial aid they gave me.

Reasons to not attend Smith:
1) Even though the stress culture is balanced out by the culture of self-care, there still is a stress culture and things seem to escalate when midterms hit and they don’t seem to de-escalate until after finals. Being put in the mentality of rigorous work is difficult, but also you want to be challenged.
2) It’s not a great community for everyone. It’s welcoming for everyone and I personally love it, but there are sometimes social divides between students. It’s not always there, but when it’s present it’s obvious.
3) It seems like there isn’t much to do on the weekends.

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

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