University of California at Los Angeles
BackgroundInterview Date:January 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: South Asian
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2022
High School Experience: Public school in Plano, Texas with a graduating class of 900 people. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Extracurricular Activities: CALPIRG, which is a student activist group.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
Over the past couple of weeks with CALPIRG, we’ve had an ongoing pledge drive where we try to get student support. When other students support our organization, they get a small $10 bill and we use that money to go lobby at our elected official’s office. Since I haven’t declared a major, I’m trying to be open to as many extracurricular opportunities as I can. There are lots of interesting people who share the same passions as I do. It’s nice to get to know people who share those same values and have friends to share those experiences with. In terms of a major, we have a really good Environmental Science major here. It’s good for me to dip my feet in the water for things aligning with activism.
What is your favorite class so far?
Introduction to Sociology. We have a really good professor, and she knows how to keep us engaged throughout the lecture.
What is your least favorite class so far?
Introduction to Linguistics.
Is there anything you feel UCLA does especially well or poorly academically?
So far, I haven’t had any poor experiences with professors specifically. All the professors here are open and can extend their office hours if you need them to. They’re really good at caring about their students instead of just teaching because it’s their job.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly collaborative or competitive?
There is obviously a little bit of competitiveness here, but it’s never right in your face because the collaborative aspect of it is overwhelming. None of my classes have a set number of A’s or something that sets the curve for everyone else. There are always study groups, or someone will post a Google Document discussion on the website. It’s very collaborative.
Do you feel that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
Yes. I don’t know how comfortable people are necessarily vocalizing their opinion if everybody else has a different one, but I think that might have to do with the fact that in a lot of first-year classes we’re getting used to the environment of being in a big school. For the most part, TAs and students do a good job at being open-minded and having different opinions and perspectives.
Are there systems in place that help you adapt academically as a freshman?
Setting a solid routine helped me out. Going from an 8-hour school day to maybe one class for 50 minutes a day is a big transition, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t take too much advantage of my free time throughout the week. We mainly have mid-terms, papers, and exams, and there isn’t as much daily work. Even if I don’t have class early in the morning, I try to get up and do some homework, then go to the gym.
How does the quarter system impact your coursework?
I really enjoy having the quarter system. If you have a class you enjoy, then you don’t have to divide your attention as much. Students typically take three or four classes, so it’s easier to balance their time and study. On the semester system, people are taking four or five classes which makes it harder to juggle. It’s also nice if you have a class you don’t like because it’ll be over in 10 weeks.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Dykstra Hall in a triple.
How was transitioning from outside of Dallas to Los Angeles, CA?
It was a really big change in terms of sharing a room, and then not having everyone I knew there with me. The housing is really nice here, and the campus isn’t too far from the city. We can walk to Westwood where the Target is. The campus feels like its own community, which is nice to have.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It has [very good] safety and we have access to lots of resources. They have things in place such as telephone alarms on the walkways. If you ever don’t want to walk around by yourself, there are numbers you can call for transportation services.
Pros and cons of being located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles?
1) For the most part, there is everything you’d need here. There is a Walmart, Target, restaurants, and there are desert places.
2) The public transportation isn’t hard to use.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in?
There are lots of things facilitated by our residential halls. Yesterday, since midterms are going on, they had a break with painting and coffee. Sometimes I’ll just watch movies with my roommates. The nightlife isn’t super big here, but you definitely have access to fraternities if that’s something you’re interested in. Different organizations will have Fund-ragers, which are fundraisers in more of a party environment. Since the Fund-ragers are fundraisers, you have to pay money to get in, so my friends and I tend to go to frats with a larger group because it’s easier for everybody.
What nights of the week do you regularly do things?
Usually Thursday and Friday.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
While Fund-ragers are present, I think frats are the most common things people go to.
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
There are lots of dance performances and acapella performances. Sometimes my friends and I will try to be touristy and that’s fun. If we want to venture farther than Westwood, we’ll go to downtown LA and have dinner there.
How happy are you with the nightlife options at UCLA? Is there anything you would change if you could?
If I could I’d make Saturday more of an option. The biggest days are Friday and sometimes Thursday, but those are tough because you’ll have class the next day. In my experience, Saturday nightlife isn’t super big.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Through my floor and my roommates. Our RAs were really good at having events at the beginning of the year when everyone was a little disoriented. We’ll still go out and get dinner and do stuff like that together.
How has the size of your school influenced your social experience?
In my opinion, it’s not super big. You see lots of familiar faces around campus from my classes, and it’s really diverse. I like the bigger class sizes because when you have a bigger group of people, there is a better chance you’ll find someone you relate to. It’s nice to meet people from different backgrounds and perspectives. Meeting more people gives you a better look at things that are outside your direct bubble. [UCLA’s undergraduate population is 31,002, and 70% of UCLA’s undergraduate classes have 30 or fewer students.]
How would you describe the overall social scene at UCLA?
It’s really easy to jump in and get involved. There are so many options for what you’re interested in. Whether it’s joining a club because it’s a passion, or it’s what you’re interested in as a career. There’s so much opportunity to join and meet individuals who care about similar things you do.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
There is a good mix of diversity in every group. It’s never super explicit in terms of what group of people you’re hanging out with. [UCLA is 3% African American, 28% Asian, 22% Hispanic, and 27% White.]
How would you describe the student body?
It’s nice because as a whole it’s so diverse. You get different characteristics of people, passions, and things valued by others. I came from a relatively big high school, so it wasn’t super overwhelming for me to go to a school with a large population size. It’s nice to have access to different things in terms of people and activities.
How strong is the South Asian community on campus?
There are specific South Asian organizations. There is an acapella group, a dance team, and other student associations. I haven’t gotten involved yet, but there are definitely ways to do so. There is a pretty large population, but I don’t know a lot of them as of now.
Have you used financial aid? If so, accommodating was the office to your needs? Were they responsive to your questions?
I have a couple of loans taken out. At the beginning of the year, I had a little trouble setting everything up, but it’s really easy to go talk to someone face to face. They will look at your account specifically and tell you what you need to do. It’s not problematic at all, and there are resources in place. [About 55% of all UCLA undergraduates receive some form of financial aid.]
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about UCLA before entering as a freshman?
I knew it was on the quarter system instead of a semester. I love it, but if I had a better idea of how fast the classes move, I would’ve been able to make my decision faster.
What is something somebody interested in civic engagement and political activism may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
The fact that there are so many ways to get involved. There are different things lining up with student passions, even if it’s activism for specific things. If you venture out and look for it, you’ll find it.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
They are good at taking you to the library and things like that, but there are a lot of study spaces on campus that are nice to sit at. We have lots of greenery and outdoorsy areas that are helpful in terms of finding alternative study areas.
Reasons to attend UCLA:
1) The quarter system. It’s helpful and I personally love it.
2) There are so many opportunities because there are so many people from different places. [Students come from all 50 states and over 100 foreign countries.]
3) The professors, and it’s generally a collaborative environment.
Reasons to not attend UCLA:
1) If you would prefer not having the quarter system. It’s very fast paced.