University of Georgia
BackgroundInterview Date:January 2019
Gender Identity: Non-Binary
Race/Ethnicity: Middle Eastern
Sexual Orientation: Queer
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Charter school focused on STEM in Lawrenceville, GA with a graduating class of about 100 students. It consisted mostly of students from lower income backgrounds. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Genetics – on the pre-med track
Extracurricular Activities: I do some political activism and do martial arts. I don’t do either through Georgia, I stumbled into them on accident. At Georgia, I am involved with the Lambda Alliance, IMPACT-UGA, and Students for Justice in Palestine. I try to be involved in diversity and multicultural events.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
The majority of my friends come from political activism. I also just had a really good experience doing martial arts. Activism has exposed me to a lot of issues at UGA and in Athens. By going out by myself and looking for these opportunities, I have found really good spots that helped me grow.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
If you’re pre-med or some sort of STEM major, it’s going to consist of mainly taking general course credits during the first two years, and then you’re going to have labs associated with some of those classes. You don’t usually get into the major classes until the beginning of your junior year. What’s really nice about Georgia is they accept research credit for lab credit. For STEM people and pre-med people who really like research, they can still get credit for it.
What are your major graded assignments?
The lower-level classes are mostly based on tests, but for upper-level classes, it will vary.
Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
I really love the Genetics department. You have to seek out opportunities on your own and look at all the opportunities they have, but they have a lot of really good research labs you can start early on. You just have to be persistent in reaching out to lab technicians. In terms of the pre-health advising office, I don’t think it’s that great. They have the basic stuff, like giving you a general outline of applying to medical school. But, when it comes to summer programs and when you get to applying to a school, they aren’t that helpful. I would recommend seeking outside information.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
In the general course requirements, it can get competitive, which can lead to negative emotions. I wouldn’t say that for the other schools at Georgia. [In the STEM programs], you just have to judge every person by themselves and see if they’re good or not. It’s competitive mostly because people are applying to medical school. You’re going to be exposed to a lot of people who are saying information that isn’t necessarily accurate and might not fit your path. A big part of it is learning how to differentiate that information.
For first-generation students and students of color, it can be harder to succeed in the pre-med environment because it is predominantly White and it can be hard to find the resources that we need. Because there is a tendency for students of color to be from lower-income backgrounds, they tend to not have been exposed to the same resources as the other White students, like tutoring in high school or summer camps for science.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation student? Were there any systems in place to help you adjust?
There is a tutoring hall that you can go to and that has helped me out a lot. There are also writing centers that can help if English is not your strength. I didn’t particularly struggle in transitioning because the education is very customizable to your interests.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I’m very happy with Genetics. It’s a really good major department and I highly recommend it. I just had a feeling I wanted to do it coming in, and I also had an internship in high school about Genetics that I liked.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Soule Hall. I know a lot of immigrants, particularly Brown families, feel nervous about sending their daughters off to college because of the stereotypes about American universities. I really liked that building, it was really nice [and is an all-female hall]. It was really easy to make friends.
Sophomore & Junior: I lived off campus. It’s a lot cheaper to live on campus, so if somebody comes from a low-income background, look into living off campus. I live in a townhome with three roommates.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
Both on campus and off campus during the day are pretty safe. I would just be cautious when it gets really late at night. Because I wear a hijab, I have been harassed a few times, but nothing bad has happened to me. I just advise people to be aware of their surroundings when they go out drinking downtown.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I really like the State Botanical Garden. I also like going to Eastside Athens because there is a lot of good ethnic food and ethnic spots.
Pros and cons of being located in Athens, GA?
Pros: (1) The cost of living is pretty low, which is really nice.
(2) It’s pretty quiet during the breaks [when students aren’t around]. If you get exhausted by city life, it’s a nice way to de-stress.
(3) If you have a car, you can access Atlanta, Duluth, and Lawrenceville.
(4) There are some nice events around town. You can find nice jazz and poetry events.
Cons: (1) It’s tough that it is a [90-minute] drive to Atlanta. It can make you feel really isolated.
(2) Accessibility is hard [if you don’t have a car]. There is a public bus system, but you have to plan out your trips and be smart about it.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
To be honest, I try to go to Atlanta or Duluth as much as possible because they have a lot more ethnic spots. As an LGBT person and a person of color, there are not a lot of nightlife spots for us because, usually, it’s the Greek life people who go downtown. For a person who wants to go downtown, I would recommend the gay bar, Church.
How has being a person who identifies as Queer impacted your nightlife experience?
It can be uncomfortable going out around the students in Greek life.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Georgia? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m not really happy with it just because there are not a lot of spots. I personally would like more ethnic spots or places where LGBT students could go. I’d like some more inclusive places.
What have been some of your favorite times at Georgia?
Some of my favorite times have been getting involved in community service organizations. I’m involved with IMPACT-UGA, which is a really good time. It’s like an alternative break program where you go to different cities in the United States and learn about the community and issues in society. During the process, you make so many friends, so it’s been really enjoyable. I’ve also made a lot of my friends through the LGBT Resource Center.
What else do you use the LBGT Resource Center for?
It’s a really nice place to hang out for LGBT students. It’s just a really good spot for support and making friends.
What is your favorite multicultural event that happens on campus?
I had a lot of fun at Pride Prom, which is like a prom for LGBT students held by the Lambda Alliance. I also like Palestinian Cultural Night.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Through events hosted by the Lambda Alliance, which is the LGBT organization.
How would you describe the social scene?
I like being involved with service organizations and activism organizations because you get to meet a lot more genuine and sincere people. I would say it’s a little bit separated because it’s a predominantly White institution, so for students of color it can be hard to make friends. But, if you go to these types of spaces and put yourself out there then it’ll be easier. It’s not inaccessible where everybody keeps to themselves, but you have to know where to look for friends.
To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
It’s not always LGBT friendly on campus, so I feel like a lot of LGBT students make friends in places where people are aware of their sexuality because it’s easier. In that sense, LGBT students tend to self-segregate. [See: Red and Black article about LGBT resource center vacancies and UGA’s response in the Red and Black.]
How accepted have you felt as a Muslim student on campus?
I would say 4 or 5 out of 10. When I go out of my spaces it can be really uncomfortable. A lot of people can be very ignorant and very closed minded or assume hurtful stereotypes about me. I don’t feel comfortable walking around at night by myself because of it. [See: “Anti-Muslim rally with armed protestors at Georgia state capitol [in Atlanta],” “Headstrong & Headscarves: Conversations with hijabi women of UGA,” “UGA Muslim Student Association hosts Islamic Awareness Week.”]
How do you like the size of Georgia in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How was transitioning to a school with about [29,000] students?
I like it. It’s a really big campus and that can give you so many opportunities. The big campus also helps out with customizing your own education.
How strong is the LGBTQ+ community on campus?
For the Queer people of color community, we’re all pretty close and tight-knit. That’s because there are not a lot of us, so we all kind of know each other. I really like that community because it’s very supportive and loving.
How strong is the Muslim community on campus?
Being LGBT and Muslim in the South, the Muslims I’ve met haven’t been as open-minded or progressive. There are a few, but I think because it’s in the South the Muslim Student Association isn’t going to be as inclusive as the MSA in D.C. or California.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful were they?
The career office has helped me out with my resume and has explained the basic necessities of getting a job. However, being a STEM major, I don’t think there is as much career perspective and outlook compared to what the business students get. With the Pre-Health Advising Office, I haven’t experienced much in terms of medical school or taking gap years. Also, there isn’t much help in terms of research, you have to find it on your own.
Have you learned any computer languages or software that will be helpful to you professionally?
Not necessarily because I’m doing Genetics and I am more just working in labs.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how accommodating has the office been to your needs?
I’m a Pell Grant scholar and I actually receive a lot of money from UGA, which I’m really thankful for. The financial aid office has been okay. I’ve had both good experiences and bad experiences. I found scholarships that not a lot of people talk about, so that goes back to doing that research on your own and hunting through Google to find stuff. There are online scholarships that not a lot of people think about applying to.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Georgia before entering as a freshman?
I wish I understood the process of receiving mental support or using the mental health resources because, although I don’t like the university health center for mental health resources, there are clinics you can go to for help that are easily accessible.
What is something a prospective LGBT student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
I think we hit it all, but I’ll emphasize that it’s really important to find a support system of people that will have your back.
What is something that a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
If they’re passionate about something, like study abroad or research, they should take the time to explore that and reach out to those people by email. There are so many clubs and different ways to get involved, you can’t be lazy, you have to be very proactive.
Reasons to attend Georgia:
1) Really excellent financial aid for lower-income students.
2) There are so many spaces for you to find all different sorts of people.
3) If you’re passionate about community service and cultural issues, it is easily accessible.
4) Low cost of living in Athens.
5) There is a customizable education.
Reasons to not attend Georgia:
1) You have to find your own support if you’re LGBT or a person of color. It can be very difficult on some days going to a predominantly White institution.
2) The career office is not very good at connecting STEM students to post-graduate opportunities.
3) It’s very hard to get to Duluth and Atlanta if you don’t have a car.
4) If you want [an ethnic scene], it’s not the best nightlife.