BackgroundInterview Date:August 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Graduation Year: 2018
Sexual Orientation: Straight
High School Experience: Private high school in Baltimore, MD with a graduating class of about 100 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: Asian Studies and Visual Arts Double Major
Minor: None, but I concentrated in Digital Arts
Extracurricular Activities: Sorority, admissions tour guide, and a job working for the accommodative services.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
My sorority was probably the biggest thing because of a pretty dominant part of the general culture of Union social life is Greek life.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your majors?
Because of the term system at Union we have three terms of three courses each term. Union’s purpose for that is so that we have more time to do extracurriculars. Because I was a Visual Arts major a lot of my courses were longer, so it was pretty time-consuming. I had three-hour classes and then a lot of work outside of that. I would say it was a pretty hefty course load because of my major.
Is there anything that you feel either of your majors’ departments do especially well or especially poorly?
Not necessarily. I think the only thing I would say about being a Visual Arts major at a term system school is that you didn’t have enough time. I concentrated in Digital Arts, so I focused on the Adobe Programs, which are pretty hefty, so I often found that the term wasn’t enough time to learn the programs in full. I think the semester system would have given students more time to learn the programs.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
Overall, I think it was fairly competitive. Kids were striving to do the best they could. In terms of collaboration, because it’s a liberal arts school there were many different classroom environments. I experienced a lot of discussion-based classes where they set up the classroom around a table. Those environments made it seem more collaborative.
What was your favorite class in your majors?
Probably my Introduction to Digital Art class was my favorite because at that point there was a lot of flexibility in terms of what we were doing, so you could kind of do anything. It really opens the box for getting a feel for what your style is.
What was your least favorite class in your majors?
For my Asian Studies major we were required to take some sort of Asian language, so my least favorite class was taking Chinese.
Why did you choose your combination of majors? And are you happy with your choice?
The Asian Studies major happened organically in that I didn’t realize I had an interest in Asian culture and I just started taking a bunch of classes and ended up fulfilling that major until my last requirement was Chinese, so I thought I would continue with it and finish the major. In terms of my Visual Arts major, I’ve always had an interest in the creative side of things and Studio Art is not my thing. I also thought it could help me with jobs in the future because it’s a pretty relevant skill now. I am happy with my choices. I don’t know what else I would have done.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Richmond with one roommate. That was co-ed but single-sex by floor.
Sophomore: College Park Hall with one roommate. That was probably my least favorite living situation.
Junior: Most kids who are in Greek life live in their Greek house, so that’s where I lived.
Senior: Off-campus with five roommates.
What was your favorite living situation?
Living off campus.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I’ve never had any issues. I think a lot of people have heard some not so great things about Schenectady. The general rule, which applies to a lot of places, is that you wouldn’t go anywhere alone at night. I certainly wouldn’t walk into town at night by myself. In terms of on campus, I’ve never felt unsafe. I suppose we’ve had a few incidents, but only so many that I could count them on one hand. Some students have experienced some weird things living off campus, but on campus you’re totally fine.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
Bomber’s Burrito Bar
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I think mine is Target [laughs]. People went off campus some, but Schenectady is still developing. It doesn’t have that culture where there are fun coffee shops around to do homework. It doesn’t have that fun college town vibe. If you went off campus it was to go to the grocery store, Target, or get food.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
Greek culture is quite big at Union. I don’t think many prospective students know that because I was one of those kids who didn’t know it. I thought it was a thing you could participate in if you wanted to and it wasn’t that big. It turns out if you are interested in being social and going out on the weekend joining Greek life is something you have to do. The most active nights for nightlife are typically Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. We would have mixers with a fraternity from 9 to 11 and then after 11 it opens up to the rest of the student body.
Can you describe a typical night going out freshman year?
Because you can’t join Greek life until sophomore year, every freshman is in the same boat in that if you are interested in going out to a party, you can only go out at 11. We’d go out at 11 and then hear which fraternity was open because sororities can’t have parties.
What have been some of your favorite times at Union?
Two of the bigger events at Union happen in the spring the spring term: Spring Fest and Alumni Weekend. Spring Fest is when Union brings in a band. My personal favorite time is Alumni Weekend. I think it’s so fun because it speaks to the culture of Union because once you graduate people are still quite dedicated to Union.
How happy were you with the nightlife at Union? If you could change anything, what would you change?
I think to a certain extent I’d change how dominant Greek culture is at Union. I think we can move beyond that at this point. It’s restricting for people who aren’t interested in that. I had no interest in joining Greek life going in, but then realized it was something I had to join if I wanted to have an active social life.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I’m still friends with a lot of the people I met on my freshman hall, but most of my friends I met through my sorority.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Union?
There’s a drinking culture that dominates the social life. I also think that if you weren’t interested there were other social events, but none were that prominent. Then again, I have one perspective.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientation mix socially?
I think it felt a little divided at times. I was part of one of the more diverse sororities. There’s an option to live in theme houses at Union, and one of them is the Multicultural House, so the way that sets up can give people a place to find each other with similar identities, but also separates them in a way. Union could be a bit more mixed. I don’t want to give the impression that there isn’t crossover because there is, I just think there could be more. [About 72% of students are White.]
Do you think people are generally happy with their choice for Union by senior year? Do you think people leave loving Union?
I think what’s strange is that I talked to so many seniors who say they didn’t like Union at first and thought they were going to transfer. For whatever reason, freshman year can be very tough. But, by senior year there is a lot of comradery and kids end up really loving Union. I think that speaks to how excited kids are to come back by alumni weekend.
Has the alumni network helps you find internships or jobs?
Yes. The career center is really helpful. They send out weekly emails to seniors to let you know updates to the different resources they have. There is HireU which is just for Union students, and most of the internships and jobs there are from Union alumni. It’s a really great resource for students.
To what extent have you used the career office? How helpful have they been?
I’ve gone to the career center multiple times to work on my resume.
Did you learn any computer programs that will be especially helpful for you professionally or for your course work?
I’ve learned Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects, and Lightroom.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Union before you entered as a freshman?
How dominant Greek life is and that it’s such a scene.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The dining hall, try to check that out.
Reasons to attend Union:
1) The student spirit and school spirt students have. People are proud to wear the school sweatshirt around and have a lot of camaraderie.
2) We have really, really great professors. I don’t think I had a professor I didn’t like.
3) We have really good resources. I think the career center is really helpful, and we have great resources for students who have dyslexia or need extra time on their tests.
Reasons to not attend Union:
1) If you’re interested in having a classic college social life and going to parties but you’re not interested in Greek life, don’t go to Union.
2) If you want a robust college town.