University of Rochester
BackgroundInterview Date:February 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Black – From Southern Africa
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Private school in New Mexico with a graduating class of 120 students representing at least 92 different countries. There was a strong culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: International Relations
Minors: Business and Psychology
Extracurricular Activities: I am part of International Student Affairs, which is Student Government, and [have a leadership position] in the Pan-African Student Association. I also have two jobs on campus.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
They have fulfilled a large purpose to me being here. I play a vital role in seeing that the welfare of the African students’ and International students’ expectations of the institution are being delivered.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for International Relations?
There are lots of readings and papers to compliment those readings. Most classes expect you to complete write-ups. Most of us generally have two classes a day, which is 16 credits for each semester.
Is there anything you feel the International Relations department does especially well or especially poorly?
There is a lot of support in terms of guidance and advising. I don’t think it’s necessarily just the International Relations department. The professors always have office hours, so everybody is more than welcome to go and meet with them beyond the classroom. This helps a lot of students with questions they may not be confident enough to ask in class. They are good at helping you get into programs and writing recommendation letters.
Can you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s both competitive and collaborative. Although competitive, it’s healthy competition. It’s not as though people try to do better than you, but they work together to get the best grades. No one feels as though they are inferior to anyone else. It’s competitive because everyone is trying to make the Dean’s list and graduate with honors.
How accessible have the professors in your department been?
Very accessible. You get a syllabus in every class telling you when their office hours are. I haven’t had a professor yet where they haven’t made themselves available. If they are not available, there is a TA who also has office hours.
Do you feel that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
No, I feel the liberal view here is predominant. People are definitely open to multiple schools of thought, but those with unpopular opinions will not speak up because of the fear they may be marginalized or attacked to some extent. If your view is very conservative, you are likely to face backlash.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student? Are there systems in place that help you transition?
Seeing that I was in the U.S. two years before coming to Rochester, I had already adjusted to the climate and culture. Orientation helped a lot here, and there are lots of classes for international students that teach us how to assimilate to the culture. It was a very good transition.
Why did you pick International Relations? Are you happy with your choice of major?
I have always had a passion for diplomacy. That was something I’ve had before coming here, so
It’s just me fulfilling my need to eventually end up in foreign service for my country. I am very happy.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Hoeing Hall with one roommate.
Sophomore: O’Brien with one roommate.
How was transitioning from New Mexico to Rochester, NY?
It was not as cold in New Mexico. It was very warm, but there wasn’t as much entertainment and student life. Here, although it took a while to adjust to the cold, it’s very nice because of the entertainment options. There are always things happening on campus, such as club events or parties.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It’s very safe within the campus perimeters, and public safety is always visible wherever you go. Incidents do happen off-campus across the bridge [in the 19th Ward.]
Pros and Cons of being in Rochester, NY?
1) It’s a six-hour bus ride to NYC.
2) Everything is pretty accessible.
3) It’s predominantly nimble, meaning people are generally nice and don’t discriminate against certain people.
4) It’s full of culture, and the nightlife is awesome.
1) The weather.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
There are lots of frat parties on campus, so that’s what a Saturday night looks like. Usually, there are college nights where the clubs allow people 18 and older in. There are three popular clubs where people struggle to get in because of the lines. Friday nights there are usually parties, but not necessarily frat parties. It’ll be parties happening at people’s places. Most of the time on a random weekend frat house predominantly host the parties, along with the clubs. Most fraternity parties are on the fraternity quad. Once a semester the Black Student Association will throw a party that is really fun. Although not exclusive to African students, it could be open to anyone.
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
Beyond parties, there are other events on campus. People come in and showcase their talents from 8 PM to 1 AM every Friday night at the Starbucks on campus. There are also movie nights, and I work in Events and Classroom Management as a video technician. Saturday nights I show movies in Hoyt Auditorium. There are three showings starting at 8 pm, and ending at 3 am.
How happy are you with the weekend activities or nightlife at your school? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m very happy with it.
How did you meet your closest friends?
My roommate, who I came with from high school, is my best friend. We applied here together and requested to become roommates last year. Beyond my roommate, I have a bunch of friends I’ve met through student government from attending conferences and events on campus. We went to a United Nations conference in Bangkok, and that’s how we became close.
How would you describe the social scene?
It’s nice and very open. There are not many exclusive groups, and people are open to mixing in order to have a good time. On a romantic level, people date people similar to themselves based on race, but on a social level, we can all go to a party and have a good time regardless of where we come from.
To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
We mix to a large extent. It’s a very liberal campus, and people don’t discriminate against each other. I have friends of all sorts of sexual orientations, religions, and ethnicities. [The undergraduate population is 5% Black, 11% Asian, 7% Hispanic, and 42% White.]
To what extent do you feel international students mix with domestic students?
Not to a large extent. One of the largest troubles I’ve had is trying to build a bridge between the international and domestic student divide. Although things have become better, a lot has to be done to really be good together. I don’t know exactly why international students tend to stick with each other. Maybe they find a level of comfort. It’s not that every international student doesn’t mix with domestic students, but on a large scale that’s the case. [In Fall 2018, 37% of first-year students are from foreign countries.]
To what extent do people inside and outside of Greek life mix?
I joined Greek life about a week ago. Fraternities host most parties, which are usually open to everybody so everyone gets some experience of Greek life. [21% of undergraduates join Greek life.]
As an international student, were there parts of the University of Rochester, or American college as a whole, that surprised you?
Although this campus is liberal, I feel people of American descent, especially Caucasians, are more conscious about the Black person in the classroom than the Black person them self is conscious about it.
How do you like the size of your school? How has the size of your school influenced your social experience?
It’s amazing. Most of my classes are not more than 30 people. There are classes with huge amounts, like Economics 101 with 70-80 people, but as a sophomore, I have a class with 8 people, and a class with 12 people. You can get to know people really well and interact more with the professor. [There are about 6,400 undergraduate students.]
How strong is the Black community on campus?
It’s divided in the sense that the African American and the international student populations don’t interact. There is some inherent division, although the African community tends to be very open to mixing with the international population. People are open to mixing at parties, but when forming social circles, it’s a rare thing to find here.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Definitely. Last summer I talked to a graduate who is now the VP of Human Resources at [a bank]. I didn’t know much, but after talking to her I have applied to one of their programs. The university hosts networking events in New York City during winter break. There are always events going on to reach alumni.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I’ve used them for resume building and editing. They are very helpful and use a program called Handshake, where they post opportunities to apply to, or events on campus. They provide advice in terms of guidance and internships.
Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that will be helpful professionally?
Not yet, but I’m likely to my senior year.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Rochester before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew not to take 200 level classes my freshman year. I would have taken it slow, taking the general introductory level classes and building my way up the next year. I didn’t know this, so I was too confident per se. I would advise freshman to take it slow and start off with the general 100 classes. If you hurt your GPA in the beginning, it’ll take more effort to bring it back up.
What is something a prospective international student should know that we haven’t touched on?
You want to know how cold it gets, and how dangerous the black ice is.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
They don’t really experience the student life. I know the school can’t allow prospective students to go to a fraternity party, but that would be really nice to show students if they are going to make a decision about coming here.
Reasons to attend Rochester:
1) It’s a liberal arts education [with an open curriculum]. There are no compulsory classes except for one.
2) The hundreds of clubs you can join, from cultural organizations to sports.
3) The funding. The average student is on scholarship. Students are accepted regardless of their financial situation, and they are given financial aid afterward, based on need.
4) Study abroad opportunities. I’m going to the Netherlands next year for a semester.
Reasons to not attend Rochester:
1) We could possibly do better with freshman housing. For what the school costs, we should have newer buildings. The freshman housing is pretty worn out, but the sophomore, junior, and senior housing options are brand new apartments. [In Fall 2018, total costs were about $69,000.]