An Interview On
University of Chicago

Background

Interview Date:December 2018

Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Black
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Private school in Connecticut with a graduating class of about 200 students.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Computer Science
Minor: Media Arts and Design
Extracurricular Activities: The Organization of Black Students and Fire Escape Films.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Fire Escape Films has been fun. We make student-produced films with a student-run budget, but it’s pretty cool and we get to go all over the place.

Academic Experience

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
I’m taking the intro course right now. We have a lot of labs and homework projects where we have to code functions based on a loosely based problem.

Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or especially poorly?
They do a good job of applying everything you learn in class pretty quickly after in the homework and the labs. Everything just takes a lot of time.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
In Computer Science, people are pretty relaxed. People will help you out with whatever you need and there’s a lot of collaboration. For UChicago in general, it’s only collaborative if you’re friends with the person or it’s a group project. If you want help, you can usually reach out and get it, but it’s not necessarily offered to you. I think that’s because people don’t really ask for help all the time and tend to rely on themselves before others because they’re pretty academically skilled.

How accessible are your professors?
They’re pretty accessible. They are happy when people drop by. They’re always happy when students show interest.

Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
It was something I was pretty interested in during high school. I thought I’d try it out because it was the most interesting thing to me, but I would have done Media Arts and Design if it was a major, but it won’t be by the time I graduate.

How do you like the quarter system?
I don’t think it’s really impacted my academic experience. Socially, all my other friends are always out of school when I’m in school and our vacations don’t match up, which is pretty annoying.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: International House in a single, which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend because it’s 15-minutes away from everything and Chicago is freezing. The dorm itself is pretty cool and is really relaxed. The dorms are pretty big and most of them are singles.

Sophomore: Renee Granville-Grossman in a single.

How was transitioning from Connecticut to Chicago in terms of location?
I’m pretty used to being away from home after boarding school, so there was really no transition. Hyde Park is a bit different because I wasn’t used to being in an area with a lot of Black people around. UChicago itself is pretty big and sheltered from Hyde Park, so it wasn’t really any transition. It was just nice to be in a new area next to the city.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
People talk about danger and stuff, but if you’re smart about where and when you go places, and how many people you go with, you shouldn’t have any problems.

Pros and cons of being located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, IL?
Pros:
1) For a Black student, it’s pretty great to be in an area where it’s a majority of Black people. I find it calming. It’s nice to go out and see so many people of the same skin tone.
2) Hyde Park has nice parks and has some nice history.

Cons:
1) The food situation is bad. All the chains and stuff are long walks away. After a year of eating dining hall food, I need something close by.
2) There have been shootings and assaults every couple of months, so you have to be aware of that. It’s never affected me so it’s hard to connect it to my life.
3) Being somewhat close to Chicago and also somewhat not. It takes about 45-minutes to get into the city which can be ridiculously annoying.

Social Opportunities

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you participate in at UChicago?
I’m not really a frat dude so I don’t go to any of those parties. I’ll go to the Organization of Black Students parties when they do pop up on Friday or Saturday because they’re pretty fun. I’ll also go to the city now and again. Everything I do decreases a lot when it’s cold because I really hate the cold and having to go places with the wind-chill has significantly decreased my movement. I suggest bringing a nice collection of winter clothes.

Can you describe a typical night going out freshman year when you were less socially established?
I was pretty social at the beginning of my freshman year because I wanted to go to all the parties during orientation week. It was difficult figuring out where I was because I had to learn all the street numbers. Freshman guys have to pay and sometimes girls can get in for free. Specifically during orientation week, all the parties are for freshmen so it’s not a problem. After that, if you really want to get in you have to get there early. It’s not too biased, but it is definitely easier if you show up with three girls.

How happy are you with the weekend options? Is there anything you would change?
It’s not very good. I would not really recommend it. There are Wednesday bar nights all the time and besides that, there are frat parties, but those aren’t my vibe. I don’t think it’s a good nightlife at all.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
I just talked to a bunch of people during the first week and then saw them later and bonded later on.

How would you describe the social scene?
It’s interesting. Depending on who you’re with, it’ll be normal. There is also a strange collection of weird people. Depending on who you are, that can be great, but otherwise, it can be a little disconcerting at times. People circulate around the library where they’re doing work or the dining hall. It’s not necessarily where fun comes to die and you can find cool people, but some people do get frustrated about how anti-social people can be. It’s a nerdy school in general, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
People naturally tend to go into groups that are of their same race and ethnicity, but that’s just something that is fairly natural. That does happen, but you can also go hang out with whoever you want. There is a decent amount of mixing because dorm life is pretty big for some people and then you end up with a wild collection of friends. My friends are mostly Black and have a mix of Asian and White people.

How would you describe the Black community at UChicago? How strong is it?
If you reach out and are involved with the Organization of Black Students, you’ll find a good community. There are only so many Black people on campus, which is something that people complain about. A lot of the Black people will know each other because it’s easy to distinguish each other. [About 5% of students are Black.]

How do you like the size of UChicago in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that impacted your experience? [There are about 6,600 students.]
It’s pretty good. It’s a big campus and the number of students is actually pretty small considering how big the campus is.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
No, but I haven’t really made use of it because I got an internship on campus my first year.

What have you used the career office for? How helpful were they?
My academic advisor is amazing. She told me two people to email and both of them offered me internships in the field I wanted right off the bat. She was really knowledgeable about what you want to do and how to find different internships. They’ll also pressure you in a good way to get that done.

Have you learned any computer programs or languages through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
Right now, we just finished learning Racket, which is a language that nobody uses outside of UChicago because it’s a UChicago based program. That will be useless. Although they say we will learn valuable skills in the future. I have learned general programming skills, but I doubt Racket is ever going to come up in my life again.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about UChicago before entering as a freshman?
It’s all about scheduling your time here. Schedule your time so you won’t get too distracted. If you’re going to go out, maybe get some work done or plan around that. Also, make sure to explore the city as much as possible. You don’t want to get stuck on campus too much because, especially during the winter, it can get sad and depressing because it’s cold and it looks bad outside.

What is something a prospective Black student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
You are coming to a place that does not have a lot of Black students and there is not a ton of outreach towards Black students. You’re coming here for the schooling, not to be made super comfortable or be surrounded by other Black people. You will have to deal with people of privileged backgrounds that say things they don’t know about, but stick to your gut and keep going.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
That’s hard because certain things are much better to do when it’s warmer. I think you should go and bike around the Point and up towards Chicago. That’s always a lot of fun for me. There isn’t a specific place that I really love in Chicago, but things start to open up the warmer it is and the little places on the water are always beautiful.

Reasons to attend UChicago:
1) Chicago as a city is pretty amazing. A lot of the architecture is stunning. It’s also nice to be involved in a pretty big and popular city that has a lot more people of color. [About 36% of the population of Chicago is Black.]
2) The academics are really strong. After you leave, you’ve got some clout which is good for job hunting.

Reasons to not attend UChicago:
1) It can be sad to see some of the segregation and disparity in some areas of the city.
2) The combination of the cold and the work will beat you down. You will go through periods where you wonder why you’re there and feel sad when you look outside and want to transfer. It is definitely not an easy time.

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