University of California at Los Angeles
BackgroundInterview Date:December 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Multiracial with a mixture of Black and Asian.
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Public school in Redondo Beach, CA with a graduating class of about 600 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First-Generation College Student: No
Extracurricular Activities: I am in the Biomedical Engineering Society and the National Society of Black Engineers.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
I’ve been involved a lot of the National Society of Black Engineers because I relate with all the struggles of people in that club. The population of Black students is not that big at UCLA, so they need all the help they can get. It’s also just a good club to be a part of because they do a lot of community service and they focus on academic excellence as well. [About 3% of undergraduates are African American.]
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
Bioengineering is a little unique because we have to take a certain amount of science classes and a certain amount of engineering courses. Compared to all the different engineering majors, it’s a little different and more segregated because we have to take Biology classes and others don’t. The Biology classes are a little different where we have multiple-choice tests and you have participation points for answering clicker questions. With the Engineering classes, they don’t care very much if you go to class or not. It’s all about test grades and being able to hold yourself up in a curved class.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
Right now, we’re still a growing department. It’s a little more focused towards the general aspects of bioengineering, which seems bizarre because you’d assume that it would be more focused on Biology, but our major can encompass any type of engineering.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly collaborative or competitive?
In the upper-level classes, it’s very collaborative because it’s a pretty small major, so after a while, you get to know the people in your classes and become friends with them. The competitiveness comes from the prerequisite classes that all the engineering majors have to take where they weed people out and they are graded so the class has a predetermined median. I think people think they’re harder than they are because of the number of people in the class and also first years don’t realize the resources you can seek out.
How accessible are your professors?
I think they’re very accessible. They have office hours weekly so if you need to reach out to them you could. They also offer individual office hours if you email them and try to make an appointment.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I chose Bioengineering because I was interested in going into medicine as well as thinking about engineering because I have family members who are in engineering so I thought it would be an interesting subject to go into. I did try to change my major but that was only because of the weed-out classes that were pretty tough and I was scared of what I was going to go into. But, this quarter I took my first upper-division elective and I loved it, so I think it’s definitely worth my hard work and sticking with it.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Delta Terrace in a quad. That experience was pretty cool. I roomed with a friend from high school but ended up making a lot of new friends from the dorm I lived in, so I would definitely recommend living on campus to anyone. Also, the food is delicious, there’s no doubt about it.
Sophomore: Suite in a double bedroom with a living room a shared bathroom that we shared with two other people. I wouldn’t recommend living in a suite to first years because you don’t get to interact with your neighbors much and that’s where I made all of my friends.
Junior: Apartment off-campus. It’s a little more independent and I actually really like it.
How was transitioning from Redondo Beach to the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA?
Redondo Beach is only 15 miles away so it wasn’t that hard of a transition. I could just go back home and do laundry or something if I wanted to. I actually being far enough away with traffic that I don’t go home all the time.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
Safety is a priority for UCLA. We have RA’s, we have campus police, and we also have guards at certain dorms that stay there after 9PM. If you’re out late at night you can call a service and they’ll come pick you up.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
The campus has basically everything. Freshman and sophomore year, I didn’t go off campus that much because you don’t need to. In Westwood, there are a lot of cool places to hang out and cheap restaurants that are good for the college budget. I don’t have any place in particular.
Pros and cons of being located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles?
(1) You’re in the middle of everything. There is tons of culture and you’ll never get bored because there is so much to do.
(1) The traffic is pretty bad.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in?
There are always parties if you’re into that, but I’m not that much of a partier. If we want to go out, sometimes we’ll go to the clubs in Hollywood which are pretty fun. My friends and I like to go out to Tatsu Ramen that’s open until 3AM, so after we hang out we sometimes go eat. Korean barbecue is also really popular out here, there’s a place called BCD that we like to go to. My friends and I like to eat a lot, and L.A. is a really good place to find different types of cuisine.
What kind of things did you like to do when you were a freshman and less socially established?
Freshman year we did the typical touristy things like going to Venice Beach or the Santa Monica Pier. We’d also go to events that UCLA would host with the RA’s. There’s a pool on campus that we’d go to or just hang out on the lawn. We did more of those types of things either on campus or places you can go for cheap using Uber because people don’t typically have cars freshman year.
How happy are you with the weekend options at UCLA? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m happy with it. I never get bored and if I do I can look something up and there is always something new.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Most of the friends I have now were the people I met at that awkward first meeting when we first moved into our dorm. We had to play ice breaker games and have weird get-togethers, but I guess it was all worth it because I wouldn’t have the friends that I have now.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
UCLA is a great school because you have people who care about their academics and can really study hard but also play hard. People still go out and have fun.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Our campus is pretty diverse, maybe less so in the engineering school, but we’re working on it. There are programs in place to help that. [In Fall 2018, about 14% of the Samueli School of Engineering undergraduate population was international, 10% were minorities, and 27% were women.]
How would you describe the student body?
It’s not super competitive where you want to hold back from helping someone else. People are really friendly here.
How do you like the size of UCLA in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that impacted your experience? [There are about 31,000 undergraduates.]
I think it’s a little large. But, since I’m in the engineering school, we’re separate from a lot of other people and our school is much smaller, so we don’t see that much of the big crowd. In the general education classes you’re going to have 200-300 people, but as you continue on our classes are even less than 20 people. I’m a junior and in the fall quarter, I was in a class with 21 people. It’s nice that you get the individual attention as you progress in your courses.
Do you think people are generally happy with their choice of UCLA by senior year? Do you think people leave loving UCLA?
Yeah, I definitely think that if you’re able to find a group that you fit in with and you’re not afraid to take some chances and go outside of your bubble, you will really thrive here.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Not directly, but I feel like the alumni network is very good at hosting events where you can talk to them and get contacts. Some of them have come to do resume critiques and practice interviews, so indirectly I think they have helped prepare me to be where I am.
To what extent have you used the career office? How helpful are they?
I’ve done resume critiques and practice interviews with them. I think that really helped me develop the right skills as well as help me make myself look presentable.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
The only computer-related thing that I’ve learned so far is C++ which I think is helpful to know. I’m going to take a biostatistics class where you learn R and I know that is pretty helpful in any engineering industry.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about UCLA before entering as a freshman?
I feel like when I got in I was really surprised by the schoolwork. I knew it was going to be hard but I didn’t know it was going to be that hard. When you get in you don’t acknowledge that everyone else who has gotten in is at the same caliber as you, so all the classes are going to be that much harder. I don’t want UCLA to sound bad, I just want to give people a heads up that it’s difficult. It’s difficult and that’s why it has such a great reputation.
What is something a prospective student of color may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
Just know that there are resources if you’re ever feeling like you don’t belong or are struggling and aren’t comfortable reaching out to people. We have societies and groups of people on campus that thrive based off of the connections they make in clubs for [specific groups].
What’s something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I would just tell them to try to talk to any students that are currently enrolled. I think it’s really important to talk to the students to see how they feel about the campus, fitting in, and their major. I would also make sure to look into your [prospective major’s] requirements because I did not know what I would have to do to graduate with a bioengineering degree as a prospective student.
Reasons to attend UCLA:
1) We’re awesome and better than USC [laughs].
2) We have great research, so if you want to go into research you can get into a lab, you just have to try and reach out.
3) We have awesome athletic teams.
4) We have awesome food [both on campus and off-campus]. UCLA dorm food is amazing, which is weird to say. We’re also in a cultural hub of L.A. so it’s a great place to experience many different cultures.
Reasons to not attend UCLA:
1) Maybe if you get homesick and are from the east coast or far away.
I don’t know. I don’t have any reasons I wouldn’t have come here.