University of California at Los Angeles
BackgroundInterview Date:December 2018
Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Half Asian and Half White
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Private school in Singapore with a graduating class of about 300 people. Most students went to school in the UK or Australia.
First Generation College Student: No
Minors: Computer Science and Accounting
Extracurricular Activities: Not really anything. I used to be in Greek life but I’m not anymore.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
Right now, because I’m doing the upper division classes it’s a lot of projects and group work every week. For those classes, the grades are less focused on the homework. For the classes that are more homework focused, there are assignments every other week.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
The lecturers in the department are very homogenous. They are more or less the same. I know that at some schools you’re supposed to take certain professors for certain classes, but, from my experience, all the professors here are the same. Their teaching styles are very similar, they’re knowledgeable about the course, and they’re not very engaging. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing, I don’t know, it’s just something to get used to. [In terms of demographics, about 64% of the Economics department faculty is White and about 80% is male.]
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly collaborative or competitive?
I don’t think it’s especially competitive or collaborative. It’s competitive, but it could be a lot more intense. It’s not super collaborative in Economics, but then again, I haven’t taken many group project courses for Economics yet, I’ve only done them for Accounting. In Accounting it’s very collaborative.
What is your favorite class you’ve taken for your major?
Economics 101 – Game Theory and Utility.
What is your least favorite class you’ve taken for your major?
Economics 103 – Econometrics. Basically no one had any idea what was going on. It was pretty chaotic. I don’t think the professor did a very good job of explaining the concepts. We had to do programming, but because none of us had a background in programming we were all pretty lost.
How accessible have your professors been?
Not accessible at all. I go find the T.A.’s when I need help. The T.A.’s have been a lot more helpful and they convey the material more eloquently than the professors. I love the T.A.’s.
How do you like the quarter system?
It’s tough. If you miss a class you’re a lot farther behind. It’s a lot more unforgiving, but you learn a lot more as well. In general, I prefer the semester system, but the quarter system is not bad as well.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I think I chose it because of my natural inclination to economics and finance. I’m happy with my choice.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Sunset Village in a triple suite with a private room.
Sophomore: Saxon Residential Suite in a triple. We had a shared bathroom and a shared living room.
Junior: I have an apartment on Midvale Avenue with one roommate and two other apartment-mates, so four of us in a two-bedroom apartment.
How was transitioning from Singapore to Los Angeles, CA?
Singapore is very urban with skyscrapers and public transportation, but when I first arrived here the buildings being so short made me feel more homesick. It may sound stupid, but that is the case for me.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It’s been very, very safe around the Westwood area. There is the nagging thought that the USA is not the safest country, so I’m more on my guard.
What is your off-campus restaurant?
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
Santa Monica or Venice Beach
Pros and cons of being located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles?
(1) It’s very safe and self-contained. [See Westwood crime map.]
(2) You have everything you need in [the neighborhood], which I like.
(1) It’s very boring. There’s not much happening in Westwood besides partying. It’s a typical university town.
(2) Maybe because I’m from Asia, but it’s very hard to get around to different places without a car. If I want to go to Hollywood or Santa Monica I have to take an Uber there.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in?
Right now, I just drink with a small group of friends. I do go out once in a while, but I’ve been cutting down this year. The main thing I like to do is go out to eat because the food in Westwood is all the same. I used to go to parties a lot more, but now I like to party during breaks and work hard during the quarter. When I was younger I would go to fraternity parties or organize my own dorm parties.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
I think I’m having more fun now that I’m not in Greek life. I think [Greek life’s purpose is] more so to help you meet people, especially when you’re a freshman. Coming from Singapore, I just wanted a place to belong. Now that I have a close group of friends that I didn’t meet through Greek life, I have realized I don’t need it.
How happy are you with the nightlife options at UCLA? Is there anything you would change if you could?
There’s not much I would change, it just is what it is. Because the drinking age is 21, there’s not much going to bars and clubs like there is back home. What we have is a good alternative because we aren’t all of age.
How was transitioning from Singapore to L.A. in terms of nightlife?
It was easy because I served in the military for two years back home, so when I got here I was already 21 and could buy alcohol and do whatever I wanted to do. The parties are different and I think Greek life can be a little exclusive and pretentious.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I had two random roommates my freshman year and we got really close. One of them is still my best friend at UCLA. We went out and met new people together. Whenever we threw dorm parties we’d invite mutual friends over and we’d meet people.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s pretty good, I enjoy it.
To what extent do international students mix with domestic students?
I think it’s true for a lot of international students that they stick to their own group. There are clubs, like the Singaporean Students Association, but I chose not to do that. It would have been very easy to feel comfortable when I arrived and to join that group of friends who I knew. That was really tempting, but that’s not why I came here. I came to meet new people.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think they mix pretty well. From my experience, I feel sexual orientations don’t mix as well. People from different races mix pretty well, in my group at least. In Greek life I don’t think that’s the case, maybe you have a token Asian dude or Black dude. I was in an Asian frat and they were very cliquey and everyone was the same ethnicity. That was something I didn’t like about Greek life.
Was there anything about UCLA or American university that surprised you when you arrived on campus?
No, not really.
Do you think people are happy with their choice of UCLA by senior year? Do you think people leave loving UCLA?
I think people leave loving UCLA, but not as much as the media or people portray it to be. I like UCLA, but I’m not crazy about it, it is what it is. I think a lot of people share that mentality with me. You’re proud that you went to UCLA. I think the people who love UCLA a lot are the sports fans that really enjoy the sports culture. For me, and I think most people, I like UCLA, but love is a pretty strong word.
How strong is the Asian community or Singaporean community on campus?
I have no idea, I don’t really mix with them [laughs].
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Not really because I did everything on my own. I didn’t really rely on the alumni freshman and sophomore year, the jobs were off my own connections and applications. This year looks like it will be the same.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful was it?
I have not gone.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
I’ve learned Excel over the summer session through an online course. I took a class in C++ this past quarter and next quarter I will take another class in C++ and Python.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about UCLA before entering as a freshman?
It requires a very high level of independence and discipline to excel in this system. You’re in charge of finding things for yourself at UCLA, nobody’s going to find something for you. You have to want to do it, and then only will the resources open up to you.
Reasons to attend UCLA:
1) It has international prestige, which is very important. A UCLA degree makes you very employable, even back in Asia.
2) I enjoy the social life. It taught me a lot, made me more confident and a better conversationalist, and I think that will add a lot of value when I go back home.
3) Academic rigor. You learn a lot from the professors, assuming you choose the right ones. I’ve had some really amazing professors and T.A.’s.
Reasons to not attend UCLA:
1) The bad professors are really terrible. I might as well just study on my own.
2) If you don’t have a car, it can be really unbearable. I am lucky to make friends who have cars and drive around. Public transportation is pretty bad.
3) I don’t really like Los Angeles in general. I like UCLA and I like Westwood, but I don’t really like L.A. as a place. I would never live here.