University of California at Los Angeles
BackgroundInterview Date:March 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Biracial: Half Persian and Half White
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2022
High School Experience: Public school in Orange County, California with a graduating class of about 1,000 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First-Generation College Student: No
Extracurricular Activities: I am on the board of the Undergraduate Mathematics Student Association (UMSA), which is the school’s main math club that is sponsored by the department. I am also in Iranian Student Group. We have culture shows and parties anytime there is an Iranian holiday.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
The Iranian Student Group held a fashion show to support the Persian-American Cancer Institute and I was one of the models. That was a really new thing for me to do and was a big thing for my first year here. Also, UMSA helped me know what I’m going to be doing here my next four years because there are mentors who help you lay out your four-year plan, look into possible double majors, and that kind of stuff.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
For a Mathematics class, it’s about three hours a week of lecture and then one hour for discussion. Then for homework, there is one homework problem set due per week at the end of the week. They take about four or five hours total, so I’ll spend about an hour or two every day working on it. We then have usually two midterms and a final that make up the biggest chunk of your grade.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
At UCLA specifically, there is a really good variety of professors. We have a professor here, Terence Tao, who is considered one of the best mathematicians in the world. He’s a tenured professor at UCLA, which is really cool because you can take a class with him. There are a lot of other really good professors.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly collaborative or competitive?
It’s a mix of both. There are a lot of people who are competitive but people are pretty good about helping you with problems, working with you, and studying together in groups.
How accessible are your professors?
So far, the professors I’ve had are really accessible. My professor this quarter for Mathematics had office hours three days a week and if you couldn’t make them he’d still schedule appointments with you. He’d also get back to your emails instantly. I had a similar situation with a professor last quarter, so I think they’re pretty accessible and are open to answering any questions you have.
How do you like the quarter system? How has it impacted your academic experience so far?
There are pros and cons to it. Some people say it moves too fast but if you’re in a class that you’re bored of then it’s a good thing because you can get out of it quicker. Also, you are in three finals seasons in the quarter system, so there is more testing, but the tests themselves are on a smaller amount of material. I think it balances itself out.
How was transitioning academically as a freshman? Were there any resources or systems in place that helped you adjust?
Undergraduate Mathematics Student Association (UMSA) helped me a lot because you are paired with an upperclassman mentor who is a Math major and they help teach the freshmen what being a Math major is in the quarter system is like. That club is specifically for the Math department, but I’m sure other departments have a similar club. There is also the Undergraduate Writing Center which helps you with your clubs.
Why did you pick your major?
I’ve always liked mathematics since I was a kid. Out of all the stuff I did in high school, that interested me the most. I figured if I were to major in it, I’d do something in the future that I like.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Cedar in De Neve Plaza with two other roommates. We have our own bathroom in the room. There are also other living situations with shared bathrooms for the whole hall and suites where you share a bathroom between a couple of rooms.
How was transitioning from Orange County to the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA?
It wasn’t too much of a culture shock because it’s only about an hour away. It’s not like I was moving to a completely new area and I can go home on the weekends if I want to.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It’s super safe. We have a security guard at the entrance of the building and then each hall you have to swipe into and then you have to enter a code to get into your room. I think it’s safe.
Pros and cons of being located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles?
(1) It’s very diverse. Within a 10-minute walking radius you can get like every culture’s food you could think of.
(2) Being in such a highly-populated area, there are lots of different resources for you. Like, there’s a museum nearby and there’s the Persian Square a couple of minutes away that’s pretty cool. If you can’t find something on campus, it’s probably not that far away.
(3) You have everything you need in [the neighborhood], which I like.
(1) The fraternities and sororities are on the Westwood streets and they party pretty late, so if you have a dorm near there and are trying to sleep they are pretty loud.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in?
I’m not personally a party person. I don’t really go to the frat parties or any of those types of things. The main thing I do is go to Diddy Riese, which is a famous cookie place down the street from UCLA, and a lot of people go there late at night or walk around the area down there. There are also lots of museums that I like to go to and I like to go to the Westwood Village movie theater.
What nights of the week do you tend to do those things?
At least for all the STEM majors I know, homework is usually due on Fridays in class, so Thursday’s not a very good night to go out. I tend to do things on Monday or Tuesday or during the weekends.
What are some of your favorite things to do on campus?
The basketball games are pretty cool because the Pauley Pavilion has a really great atmosphere. For me personally, the Iranian Student Group puts on some cool events, like, we had the most famous Iranian comedian here and thousands of people came to watch it. Especially during my first year, I was shocked to see the amount of money we could raise for a good cause. There are also little socials that the Undergraduate Mathematics Student Association (UMSA) puts on because it’s nice to see people with the same interests as you and talk about what you like doing for a few hours.
How happy are you with the weekend options at UCLA? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m pretty satisfied with my weekends at UCLA. I don’t think there’s really anything I would change.
How did you meet your closest friends?
It’s funny because the two roommates I have I went to middle school and high school with. Around 10-12 people from my high school go to UCLA so I see them a lot. As far as other friends, for most of our Math classes there are group chats for the class, so I’ve made quite a few friends just from talking to people in those group chats or hanging out with them to study for midterms and all that type of stuff.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s pretty good. I personally can’t speak for everyone because it’s a big school, but I think it’s cool. There are tons of places to go outside of campus, so it’s not hard to find something to do with your friends. Being in Los Angeles is nice because it’s not hard to find something you want to do.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
They mix a lot. Just walking around campus you see different types of people talking to each other and being friends. I wouldn’t say it’s like each race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation is closed off. Friend groups are super diverse.
How would you describe the student body?
Mostly everybody I’ve met, especially in the STEM majors, is pretty career-oriented and very studious but also knows how to balance that with a social life. I think it’s a really good balance of knowing how to get your work done and get good grades but also have fun and relax when you need to.
How would you describe the Persian community on campus? How strong is it?
It’s the strongest of any campus I’ve heard of. Los Angeles has the highest concentration of Iranians outside of Iran. There’s also the Persian Square in Westwood which has Persian restaurants, stores, and that kind of stuff not even a mile away from campus. There are also tons of groups for Persians here. I’d say that this is the best campus to go to if you’re really connected to your Persian roots and culture.
How do you like the size of UCLA in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that impacted your experience?
Most lectures that I’ve had have about 200-300 students in them, which a lot of people probably wouldn’t like. But, if you go out of your way to try to find friend groups and study groups in your class, it’s not really that bad. Especially when you consider the professors are very caring and accessible, it’s not as hard to get help as it may seem.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
I’m taking a class next fall that covers R and then I will have to take classes that cover C++ and Python, but I haven’t learned any yet.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how easy is the office to work with?
I think they’re pretty accommodating. It was pretty easy for me to get the financial aid that I thought I deserved. They’re pretty open about calling them and emailing them, so I’d say it has been pretty easy.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about UCLA before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew how hard it is to get into certain classes. A lot of times you might need something for your major, but a bunch of other majors need the exact same class, so it’s almost impossible to get into certain classes. I know some people get backed up trying to graduate because they can’t get into a class they need. If you’re in a major like Biology or an engineering major, that’s something to consider. [See Daily Bruin article, “Enrollment system creates crisis for students unable to take necessary classes.”]
What’s something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Go outside of campus and explore Westwood Boulevard because that’ll be a big part of the social life. Explore the immediate surrounding areas because that’s a big part of living on campus.
Reasons to attend UCLA:
1) The prestige in general of UCLA. There are a lot of smart people here and you can meet a lot of smart professors.
2) The diversity. You see different types of people everywhere, which is a really cool part of going here. [About 12% of students are international, 28% are Asian, 22% are Hispanic, and 27% of students are White.]
3) The classes are really challenging, which can be a con, but it teaches you a lot more and I think is beneficial in the long run.
4) There are a lot of resources here, especially for STEM majors. There are a ton of clubs and academic fraternities that can be really useful.
Reasons to not attend UCLA:
1) If you want to have really small classes. There can be classes that have around 300 people. [70% of undergraduate classes have 30 or fewer students.]
2) The sheer number of students can be pretty overwhelming and makes the campus feel overcrowded.
3) UCLA doesn’t take AP credit as well as other UC schools. If you have a lot of AP credit and are hoping to come in as a sophomore and skip a bunch of classes, that’s probably not going to happen here.