An Interview On
Wesleyan University

Background

Interview Date:February 2019

Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: African-American
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Public school in Jamaica with a graduating class of about 200 students. It was very uncommon for students to study at a university in the United States.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: Neuroscience and Theater double major
Minor: None
Extracurricular Activities: I’m part of Mock Trial and Student Government, I play Club Volleyball, and I’m part of Second Stage, which is a theater group on campus.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Mock Trial has had a huge impact on my experience because before I came to the U.S. I never knew it existed, but I saw an advertisement saying, “Do you love debating? Do you love acting?” I thought that this would be perfect for me because I did debate in high school and I love theater, so it was the perfect combination of all my interests and talents. I tried out and was accepted, and only then I realized how serious the activity was and that those who do it are people who want to go to law school and become attorneys in the future. Even though I’m pretty bad, I stuck with it because I love the experience of competing and offered me a lot of insight into law.

Academic Experience

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your majors?
My science classes are exam-oriented and I have problem sets to do. I go to T.A. sessions outside of class to get help with those problem sets.

For Theater, we have lots of readings and essays. Most of the papers are response papers where I go to a performance on campus and I critique them based on what the crowd’s response was and articulating how the students’ performances enhanced and took away from the show. I also perform, whether it be as an actor, dance, or working behind the scenes helping build the set and being a stage-hand. My grades are based on my papers, performances, and I sometimes have in-class presentations on research on the theater world.

Is there anything that you feel either of your majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
What I like about the Theater major is they help us connect with Wesleyan alums who have ventured into those fields so we can get internships from them during the summer or during breaks so we can see if this is what we really want to do.

I personally really love the Neuroscience department because it allows me to see what we’re learning in class in action in the labs. I learn things and then am able to see how it’s applicable in medicine.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s competitive to some extent, but it’s not a cutthroat environment where people are trying to do better than you. People are trying to do well, but they’re also helping you do well. There’s a lot of collaboration and it can be hard to distinguish who is tutoring who because everyone is helping someone understand some of the concepts in class. That for me is really good because once you learn it, the concept is reinforced in your mind while your teaching it to somebody else and then you do better on your exams.

How accessible are your professors?
They all have office hours and it’s not just something they publish, they actually use them. There is also an area called STEM Zone where mainly TA’s will have office hours, but professors will also go there to help their students. Professors really go out of their way to make themselves available so that you can speak with them if there are concerns.

How was transitioning academically as an international student? Were there any resources that helped you adapt?
We have the Office of International Students Affairs, and, if you find it difficult adjusting to life on campus or the culture you can go to them and tell them what’s happening. They will help you make accommodations or contact professors to get help. Also, the resident advisors are really great. They’re aware that some students are international, and some of the RA’s are international themselves. They can offer insight and tips on how to adjust to the culture. Then before school, we have International Student Orientation where just the international students come in and meet each other. It helps because you initially see who is international and who shares similar experiences as you. Then when the rest of the freshmen come in, you can make your friend groups and that stuff. Having that connection with the international students makes it feel like you’re never alone. We have Haven House, where students can go if you have to stay on campus over breaks and not feel lonely. They also have dinners and other events for students to meet each other.

Why did you pick your majors? Are you happy with your choice?
I love acting and I want to be a doctor. In the aspect of medicine, I want to be a neurosurgeon, so that’s how I chose my Neuroscience major. In terms of acting, I always loved acting as a child, so I thought I’d explore that realm. The Theater major here does more than that, they want you to be well-rounded s that you can also direct, produce, and do other stuff. I’m developing an interest in that stuff now too.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Clark Hall in a double.

Sophomore: I’m a Resident Adviser in Nicolson Hall

How was transitioning from your hometown in Jamaica to Middletown, CT?
The snow was a bit of a shock and I wasn’t expecting that. The weather in Connecticut varies drastically. You have to keep checking your weather app to keep up to date with what you have to wear that day. That was a huge transition coming from a tropical island.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I’m not uncomfortable with safety. The campus is open and not separated from the community, so some people do not view that as being safe enough. I think campus safety does a good job of keeping the campus safe and keeping suspicious people away. We also have the Blue Light system on campus and that kind of stuff.

Pros and cons of being located in Middletown, CT?
Pros:
1) It’s a small community and is very quiet, so it’s not a distraction. I love that because I spend most of my time on the campus and I’m not distracted by a busy city so I can focus on academics.
2) Even though it’s a small town, it’s close to wherever you may want to travel. It’s a half-hour drive to Hartford and New Haven, and a 2-hour drive from Boston and New York. You don’t have to deal with the busyness of the city but you can get away from Middletown if you need to.

Cons:
1) You have to travel a bit of a distance to get to Wal-Mart and Target. The nearest thing that is similar is a Rite Aid in town.
2) The weather. There are a lot of people who don’t like to be here because of that.

Social Opportunities

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
When I first got here I thought college life was going to party on the weekends so I did that for a while, but it got boring very quickly. I got a job at the cafeteria for Late Night where they serve all the food you shouldn’t be eating [laughs], like mac and cheese and French fries. If I’m not doing that, then I’m probably giving a performance or going to one because there are lots of student-run events like dance shows and plays. There are also events put on by UCAB [Usdan Campus Activities Board], which are events put on for students who don’t like the party life, so I sometimes go to those.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Wesleyan?
I think there could be more options for those who do not subscript to the party every weekend mindset like I do.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
I met my closest friends through a program called WesMASS, which is Wesleyan Math and Science Scholars. When you are accepted into Wesleyan, an invitation is made to students interested in science from underrepresented groups in science. You apply to the program and you are accepted. There is a virtual summer program and an optional residential program. I didn’t do the residential program, but I went to the welcome dinner for WesMass I met some of my closest friends here.

How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s a small campus, but in some ways it can seem big, and everyone is so friendly. I like the fact that it feels like a melting pot of students with different views who are also tolerant of others’ views. We love to express ourselves and be creative and we get along really well.

To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
In terms of race, I find that people tend to have different groups of friends, so you have your White friends, your Black friends, and so forth. There’s intermingling going on, but for the most part, people stick with people of their own race. There is still a mix but it doesn’t happen super commonly. In terms of sexuality, people are very tolerant. A lot of people like to say 35% of Wesleyan is [Queer], so there’s no separation there.

Were there any parts of Wesleyan or American University in general that surprised you when you arrive on campus?
Coming from Jamaica, I was surprised by how many things could be perceived as offensive. That was definitely a shock. Political correctness culture was a shock.

To what extent do international students mix with domestic students socially?
That is well-mixed. There are not friend groups based on who is international and who is not. The social separation comes where you live on campus and the classes you take. I find that aspect very good.

How would you describe the Black community at Wesleyan? How strong is it?
I think it’s very strong, we have a POC alumni group. Especially now that we’re in Black History Month, the presence is felt on campus with the number of activities that are put on during this time. There are other events throughout the year, but just not as heavily concentrated as this month. We have had speakers come in and I have been impressed by how many non-Black students came to support events like the Martin Luther King talks. I was shocked to see how many people in the audience who were not Black. That made me feel very proud.

How do you like the size of Wesleyan in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How was transitioning to a school with about [3,000] students?
I think the size is great. It’s not too big and not too small, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by so many people. It’s large enough to not know everybody but small enough for you to form strong social groups and have small class sizes. The Class of 2022 is a bit larger than other classes and recently there has been a problem of space. For example, the cafeteria will have ridiculously long lines sometimes.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I personally haven’t but I have seen that happen.

What have you used the career office for? How helpful were they?
We have Handshake, which is run by the career center on campus. I go to the career center to proofread my resume and then I go to Handshake and submit my resume to jobs posted by alumni and other people. We have the New York Career Trek where you can find someone who is working in the field you’re interested and you go to New York and see what life in that field is like.

Have you learned any computer languages or software that will be helpful to you professionally?
Not specifically, what I’ve learned is what I knew before coming here.

Financial Aid

Have you used financial aid? If so, how accommodating has the office been to your needs?
I have financial aid and that is one of the biggest reasons why I’m here. If it were not for financial aid, I could not be at Wesleyan. They are very understanding if you need to make changes because of unforeseen changes in your family income, they will adjust your financial plan. When I came here I needed a new laptop, and they were understanding of that and gave me money for that. I find that they are very accommodating.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Wesleyan before entering as a freshman?
The biggest shock for me was how sensitive students on campus can be. That’s something I wish I knew before coming.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
We have a program called WesFest that pretty much goes over everything Wesleyan has to offer. If you don’t go to that, you will miss a lot. My advice is trying to come here during that week.

Reasons to attend Wesleyan:
1) There is a great community of students.
2) There are awesome professors who make time for students and actually care about their well-being.
3) Residential life on campus.
4) The academic flexibility allows you the liberty to explore other interests through different classes.
5) They are very generous with financial aid. [In 2017-2018, 42% of students received a need-based scholarship averaging about $45,000.]

Reasons to not attend Wesleyan:
1) If you don’t like weather that can change drastically.
2) If you are a fan of the city life and always want to be in the hustle and bustle.
3) If you are not comfortable meeting people who are different from you and outspoken.

Notice: Wesleyan University is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Wesleyan University.

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