An Interview On
University of Chicago

Background

Interview Date:December 2018

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Latina
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Private school in Fort Lauderdale, FL with a graduating class of about 200 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: Economics and Political Science double major
Minor: None
Extracurricular Activities: I’m an editor for The Gate, which is the political review on campus. I have been involved in that last year too. I’m also involved in Alpha Phi Omega, which is the community service on campus.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Both of them have. The Gate has given me an opportunity to stay informed about politics. It’s forced me to check the news and stay on top of that. It’s also helped me keep my writing skills in good shape. It’s also nice because it’s a close-knit group and we have meetings every week so I get to see them on a regular basis and talk about politics. It’s nice to have a group of people who are interested in what I’m interested in.

For Alpha Phi Omega, I decided to rush last spring. I did that because I missed doing community service, which I did a lot in high school. It’s a good opportunity to get off campus, give back to the community, and do something that’s totally apart from my everyday life. I also get to socialize with people who I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Academic Experience

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your majors?
This quarter I had my first Economics class and we didn’t have any problem sets and just had three midterms and a final, which is very unusual for that class. Usually for Economics classes, you have problem sets every week. I took a Political Science elective last spring to see if I liked it, and that was weird because I was one of two first-years in the class. We had a final and a ton of every day reading that we had to be prepared to discuss in class. This quarter I’m taking an introductory class which is a lecture with about 150 people and the workload is readings, going to lecture, and then essays.

Is there anything that you feel either of your majors’ departments do especially well or especially poorly?
At least for the core sequence I’m in for Economics, it was a bit of shock to get used to how they grade. They grade it so the average will end up being around a 50, which is strange because if you get an A, that’s an indication that you shouldn’t be in the and should be in more challenging sequence. It’s a little backward because if you’re meant to be in the class you shouldn’t do as well as you hope. The grades are then curved, but they don’t let us know what the curve is, you find out at the end of the quarter which is interesting.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
For Economics, it does tend to be a little more competitive because a lot of people in the major are seeking to finance and some other more competitive fields. In the college in general, it isn’t that centered on competition because the schoolwork is challenging enough on so people don’t want the added pressure of having to compete with fellow students. I felt that the core classes that I’ve taken the environment was much more collaborative and there wasn’t pressure to see how other people did.

How accessible are your professors?
Overall, they have been pretty accessible. I haven’t had a professor that didn’t offer office hours or didn’t want to meet with you if you emailed them. Where the discrepancy comes in with how they act when they’re meeting with you, and sometimes they have off days which is fine, but you do sometimes go into their office and they’re just really unhelpful, so it can be a gamble.

Why did you choose your combination of majors? Are you happy with your choice?
I am happy with my choice. I knew I wanted to major in Economics going in. I really like how it combines math and how people act. For Political Science, I eventually want to go into international development, so I thought combining those two fields would give me a good background.

How do you like the quarter system?
I like it because I really like having the opportunities to take more classes than I would in the semester system. Like, now that it’s the end of the quarter, I’m already looking forward to my classes next quarter.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Renee Granville-Grossman in a single.

Sophomore: Renee Granville-Grossman in one of the apartments with three other people. I share a bedroom with one other person.

How was transitioning from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Chicago in terms of location?
The weather is the big part because it’s so different in Florida, but I feel like you’re dressed well you’re fine. You just have to get used to it. I feel like a misconception is people wondering if they will be able to adjust, but I think you can adapt to anything. It wasn’t that bad.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I haven’t had any incidents besides regular catcalling on the street, which is typical. I don’t think I have ever been in a situation where I felt threatened at all. People think it’s a lot worse going in than it actually is.

What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
The Point, which is on the lake. Especially when the weather’s nice, it’s nice to go because there are bonfire pits and you run into a lot of people from campus.

Pros and cons of being located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, IL?
Pros:
1) There is a lot of culture. You see a lot of art, exhibits, and people who are into different things that you’ve never even heard of. It’s really interesting to live in a place where it overflows with that kind of cultural curiosity.
2) It’s cool that we have a lot of prominent figures who have lived here, are from here, and have their roots here. That also contributes to the vibe of the place.

Cons:
1) It’s easy to stay in Hyde Park and not go into other areas of Chicago. Everything we need is here and if you’re not conscious of it, it’s easy not to explore.

Social Opportunities

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you participate in at UChicago?
As time has passed, I get tired more easily [laughs] so the idea of going to a frat party seems less and less appealing. Those were popular freshman year, but now I go to apartment parties and hang out with friends. A lot of what I do is going over to people’s places and chilling out and then maybe going over to a party. I tend to do that just on the weekends because I’m tired during the week, especially when it’s cold outside it seems less appealing.

Who generally hosts apartment parties?
Most of them are hosted by people I’m friends with or people that I have mutual friends with. Sometimes organizations will throw them, but I enjoy them slightly less just because it’s a group of people I don’t really have a connection to.

How happy are you with the weekend options? Is there anything you would change?
I am pretty happy with it, but that could also be because I’m used to it. I’m also not the type of person who wants to go out every day, so if you are that type of person it might be a little agonizing. I think it depends on what you like to do.

UChicago has a reputation for being the “school where fun goes to die,” do you think that’s true?
I remember people from home asking me that, and I think that depends on who you are. If that applies to academics, it’s definitely difficult and that puts a damper on things because there could be something going on that you want to go to but you have a problem set due the next day and there’s no way you can go. I also feel like if you only define by the parties you get to go to, I think that’s a narrow-minded conception of how to enjoy your time. Personally, the best memories are not parties that I’ve been to, they’re places I’ve been to with friends or neighborhoods we explored. Don’t get me wrong, I like the conventional sense of going out, but being here, you should be open to doing different things.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
She lived across the hall my first year and I met her on the first day of school. I met my other friends first quarter freshman year in class and then she introduced me to her other friends. A lot of it is about proximity.

How would you describe the social scene?
It really depends on who you’re friends with. For me, it’s very different from high school where everybody has defined groups. Here, it’s very open and you’re friends with individual people and sometimes everybody will gather and meet each other and it’s very flexible. I also know people who operate more in friend groups and are connected with other groups. There are different dynamics.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think it’s mixed because, in my experience, there is a lot of diversity and mixing, but it also depends on the organization you’re a part of and what you like to do. I also think it depends on luck because of who you live with freshman year. One this is there are some spaces and organizations, like multicultural clubs, you have more of an opportunity to meet people of other races, sexualities, and so forth. There are also people who don’t get involved in that and that can close you off to meeting people like that.

How would you describe the student body?
I don’t want to go into the realm of feeding into the stereotype that UChicago students are really weird and nerdy because it’s just not true. There is a vibe where you meet really cool people with similar interests that you really vibe with, but you’ll also meet people who are kind of weird and really neat, which is great because they’re living their best lives. So, the stereotype does have some truth to it so to ignore that would be misleading.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
So far, no. I’ve also only been on one internship search that I got through just applying.

What have you used the career office for? How helpful were they?
I used it for help on my resume and cover letters, which was really helpful when I went. I really liked my career adviser.

Have you learned any computer programs or languages through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
Not right now, no. But, I do think that I’m going to learn some at some point.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about UChicago before entering as a freshman?
To be okay with not doing as well as you’d like. The majority of students are overachievers and really like putting in the work to make sure something’s good and succeeding academically, but it’s not possible to do that all the time. Going in, that was a bit of a shock to me to learn that getting a 60 on a math test was normal and okay. I actually appreciate that a lot because I’ve learned to not put as much emphasis on how I’m doing grade-wise. I have learned to let that go and focus more on what I’m learning and what I’m getting out of the class.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
There’s a café called Sanctuary Café. It is so nice because they have a lot of good pastries and their coffee’s great. I would definitely recommend going there.

Reasons to attend UChicago:
1) The people. The people I’ve met here and have become friends with are so cool and I don’t think I would have met them otherwise. I’m really thankful to be able to meet the people that I’ve met.
2) The Core Curriculum has benefited my education a lot. I feel that if I had gone to another college I wouldn’t have read nearly as many fundamental works as I have. No matter what you’re majoring in, it’s helpful to know what Marx is about. It’s contributed to my growth as a person, not just a student.
3) The city. The atmosphere of Chicago and the places that you get to go to by being so close to them. Also, the opportunities for culture and art is crazy.

Reasons to not attend UChicago:
1) If you value the traditional social life and the idea of Greek life how it is at big state schools, it’s not the place for you.
2) If you know that you’re into Biology and that’s the only thing you like and want to do, having to deal with the Core Curriculum would be a drag. If you know that you’re not the kind of person to enjoy having to sit and read Lévi-Strauss or something for a few weeks, it’s something to consider.

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