BackgroundInterview Date:July 2017
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2017
High School Experience: Private school in Massachusetts with a graduating class of about 250 students. I wouldn’t say I’m from Massachusetts, though. I’m more multinational because I grew up in France and Spain.
Extracurricular Activities: Vassar Greens, which helped bring solar panels to campus.
Can you describe the weekly coursework in your major?
It’s all reading and, depending on your professor, either weekly essays, a bunch of essays over the course of the semester, or one big essay at the end.
Did you especially like or dislike anything about your major’s department? Did they do anything especially well or poorly?
When I was there it was a pretty small major. I really liked that I was able to really get to know my professors. I also liked that a lot of the students in the department weren’t people I was close friends with, but within the department community, we were really close. The small department was a great opportunity to meet lots of different types of people.
How would you describe the learning environment?
It’s collaborative. Vassar is very collaborative.
What was your favorite class in your major?
My senior seminar. The goal of it was to work on our capstone 20-25-page paper. There were only 5 people in the class so we all got to know each other really well.
What was your least favorite class in your major?
I took a 100 level Islamic Studies class. I didn’t like it because the organization was a little wild, not because of the content. The professor was pregnant and was going to give birth during the semester, so we had a bunch of different professors over the course of the semester.
What is a fun class you took outside of your major?
Native American Studies.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I wanted to learn about different types of cultures. I would’ve liked to try to double major or try to finish my minor just because I think it would have been nice to have a more diverse degree. Knowing what I knew at the time, I made the right choice.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Olivia Josselyn Hall in a double. At Vassar, you don’t switch dorm buildings. If you want to you can, but it’s a complicated process.
Sophomore & Junior. Olivia Josselyn Hall in a double with two bedrooms separated by a door. One bedroom was bigger and had a common space and the other was smaller.
Senior: In a Townhouse with 5 people total. We all had our own room, I loved it.
What was your favorite living situation?
The Townhouse. We cooked a lot together, which I thought was a lot of fun.
How safe do you feel on campus and in the surrounding area?
On campus I always felt very safe. Even if you don’t, there is an option to call a security car to take you wherever you want to go. We’re in the outskirts of Poughkeepsie, which is a city. It’s weird that you have the Vassar bubble and then a city. As a city it tends to be not as safe, I wouldn’t feel comfortable walking around it by myself.
How walkable is the area around Vassar? Could you get necessities without a car?
It’s not super accessible. If you live in the Townhouses you need access to a car. It would be nice to have more access to Poughkeepsie. Were farther out of the city center so it’s harder to access.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
Two places: Thai Spice and Rossi’s, which is a sandwich place that has good gluten free sandwich options.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I never felt the need to get out and get off campus because the campus is pretty big relative to the number of people there. Hudson Valley is full of lots of activities, like hiking, you can go visit cute towns nearby. I don’t have one particular place that I would say I like the most, but there is a lot to do around. [Vassar’s campus is about 1,000 acres.]
Pros and cons of being in Poughkeepsie?
Pros: (1) You’re in the Hudson Valley, so you have access to outdoor activities.
(2) You’re a 2-hour train ride from NYC. Tickets can get expensive but the train ride is beautiful.
Cons: (1) It’s not a very accessible city, you need a car to access pretty much everything.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife did you participate in?
We’d regularly go out on Friday and Saturday. I think that’s the norm for the campus. It’s hard to access bars in Poughkeepsie, so we tend to go out on campus. We got to peoples’ rooms or senior housing. It was a range of on-campus stuff. The most popular place to go out is the Townhouses, which is an area of senior housing.
Can you describe a typical night freshman year?
I was very close with the people I lived around. So, it’d start with hanging out in other peoples’ rooms and getting ready. Potentially we’d go to other dorms and other peoples’ places that were having smaller parties and then after a certain point we go to the Townhouses and check out what’s going on over there. We’d get there, Townhouse-Hop until the end of the night or eventually go to Bacio’s, which is a pizza place nearby.
What is an alternative to going to a party or bar that you like for a night out?
There are a lot of people that don’t go out and don’t drink. You don’t have to be part of that if you don’t want to. There are different groups on campus that have events like movie nights or laser tag in a campus building. There is a range of activities set up by the college or you can hang out with friends.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Vassar? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I think it would be nice to have more bars or more stuff nearby. I didn’t mind it, I had a good time, but I think having other options that are more accessible.
How did you meet your closest friends?
The people on my hallway. You start off freshman year with your Fellow Group, who are the people on your hall that you do everything with the first week. For me, it was through that and people that they met through their activities. I was friends with a lot of a friend’s friends from dancing.
Do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Yes. I think, like every place in the USA, racial tensions are present, but I think there is still lots of mixing. I think Vassar is learning in that respect and putting into place various conversations and classes to really talk about those things. In terms of sexual orientation, Vassar is incredible for that. People feel very comfortable expressing themselves.
How would you describe the social scene?
I think it’s interesting because you think there are these groups but it gets shaken up a lot. For example, junior year people go abroad and come back with new friends. I think there are groups and things that form but it’s pretty small so you’ll know two people completely separate from themselves but then see them having lunch together. There is a lot of mixing, but you do settle into groups of friends. Activities are huge in terms of making friends. People in lots of groups, like theater, dance, etc. know the most people.
Vassar is a very political activist-focused campus. Because it’s in Poughkeepsie, you feel that you’re learning about all of these things and you want to make a difference, but I don’t think a lot of people have a good outlet for it. It can sometimes feel restricting in that there are certain things you’re supposed to say and do.
Do people seem happy with Vassar by senior year?
I think most people do. A lot of my friends liked their experience. A lot of people leave being ready to go into the real world and be done with this.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Vassar before you entered as a freshman?
You do need a car. It didn’t bother me much while I was there, but they tell you there are all of these things to do around the school but you need to find your own way there.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Explore the campus as thoroughly as you can. There are running trails that I didn’t know about until later on and all these little nooks and crannies in the dorms and library. There’s also so much stuff going on all the time, like concerts and performances, so maybe seeking out what’s going on on-campus is good advice.
Reasons to attend Vassar College:
1) The open curriculum. We have very few academic requirements, which is one thing that really drew me there.
2) I love the campus.
3) There are very cool people on campus and they bring a very friendly, collaborative vibe. My private school was very competitive, I love the vibe. People do their own thing and are super creative and interesting.
Reasons to not attend Vassar College:
1) It is a very political activist and social justice-minded student body. The school attracts that kind of person. If you’re not comfortable with that, don’t come. It’s important to know if you want that kind of vibe. Freshman year I knew a girl that was really nice but from a conservative background and she wasn’t comfortable with the sexual identity and gender fluidity. [In 2018, a student who identifies as a centrist liberal created The Vassar Political Review due to a lack of diversity in campus politics.]
2) It can be really intimidating to have an open curriculum. If you want more structure it’s going to be hard. Freshman year you get a pre-major advisor, but they’re busy with their actual advisees so you have to be proactive in reaching out to them and asking them questions. I don’t think it’s the best system. A lot of stuff at Vassar is like that in that you get out what you put in. Once you get your major advisor, they’re very helpful.
Overall I liked it. It was great.