BackgroundInterview Date:March 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Questioning
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Private high school in New York City with a graduating class of about 50 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Majors: Computer Science and Music
Extracurricular Activities: I participate in a varsity sport. I used to volunteer at a coding program for SheCode, which teaches high school students the fundamentals of coding. I recently joined the VR Club as well.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Being a varsity athlete definitely does. I to go to practice for 2 to 3 hours a day, and it has a big impact on how I feel throughout the day. Being able to get up and run is something I like to do.
What is your weekly coursework like for both of your majors?
For the Music classes, the work is primarily worksheets where you apply knowledge learned in class, so either making, composing, or finishing compositions in a certain fashion. Or, it’s hearing and recognizing notes orally on your own, and demonstrating that competency in class.
Ethnomusicology is a Music class that basically entails weekly readings. It has heavy in-class discussions and participation, and the majority of the work is related to a semester-long project we have to do. The coursework in computer science is definitely just problem sets. We get two weeks to do them.
Is there anything you feel either of your majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
Since Computer Science is still developing, I think right now it could improve in offering more variety of classes that aren’t so much about system operating, or that are just purely theoretical. When I go into class and do a problem set, I [want to feel] like I’m doing more applicable things to real life. A lot of the core classes aren’t like that, so I’d like more options for Computer Science majors in general, especially in the beginning. Also, [there could be] better entry-level classes because the teaching staff here has lacked in terms of accessibility, even when people go in and try their hardest.
For Music, I’m specifically interested in jazz. I want to see more integration of jazz or any non-classical art form, rather than purely music theory classes focused on the classical professions and things like that. This is already happening on a small scale, but again it can improve.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
The learning environment in Computer Science isn’t competitive from my experience, but it’s definitely not collaborative. A huge thing here, and in any computer science environment is that collaboration is discouraged because there are so many things that could go wrong in terms of plagiarism. I end up working on the majority of pieces alone, with minimal help. The only real other sources of help you can receive is going to office hours, but they are always packed, and the TAs are usually busy with other people.
For Music, it’s a lot more communicative, and it encourages collaboration. The classes don’t specifically collaborate at any point, but the environment definitely allows for friendlier interactions which lead to collaboration and sharing ideas.
How accessible have your professors been?
Professors are pretty accessible. I have talked about Computer Science in that way because, even when you try and go to office hours with a specific appointment, it has to be short and you end up having to come back, and it still might not be the amount of help you need. In general, professors at Yale are pretty accessible and enjoy getting to know the students and things like that. You can just email them and set up a time.
How was managing both your sport and coursework?
For me in particular, it’s not too difficult. Sports help reset my mindset and help keep it clear by being active. It’s more of a positive than a negative because otherwise that time I would have spent not practicing would be time wasted anyway. It makes me somewhat productive almost every day in that regard.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student?
As a first-gen student, it doesn’t necessarily feel difficult within my own individual experience because of where I was coming from in high school. It’s a very similar environment coming here, and it wasn’t a culture shock as some other fellow first-gen students would say they experienced. I had the feeling of coming here and not knowing many people, and not having as many connections as people who come here at the same time. I feel that my social networking opportunities are lacking. That can sometimes be diminishing, and you feel like you want to overcompensate by putting yourself out there a lot.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Bingham in a suite of six.
Sophomore: Grace Hopper residential college in a suite of ten.
How do you like the residential college system?
The residential college system is fine. I’m indifferent at the moment, it’s just part of what Yale is. It’s nice going to different environments for dining halls, or to visit friends’ houses and things like that. I could say it’s a nice setup and it creates a sense of community in a way, being affiliated with whichever residential mascot you have, or having specific names of what to call people living in specific colleges.
Pros and cons of being located in New Haven, CT?
1) Coming from a city that never sleeps to somewhere where everything closes down before 10 is a lot sometimes.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Yale?
I’m part of a social club that used to be a fraternity, but that dissipated a long time ago. Now, it’s just known as a social club on campus. There are usually weekly meetings and events going on. I like to hang out with that group of people during the weekend. I remember the first year before I was in that social club, almost every night would be going frat hopping, to one or two or three a night. My life at Yale hasn’t really encompassed a lot of sweet parties in particular.
Where are the parties generally located?
They are generally off campus. Another thing that discourages parties from happening on campus is noise complaints. There are also residential college rules that if there are parties above a certain number of people, you have to register it.
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
There are lots of an acapella performances going on. There are theatre, dance, and comedy groups that also happen fairly often. Sometimes people go out to get food, hang out there, and then come back. There’s a place called Good Nature Market where people will hang out late at night too.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Yale? Is there anything you would change if you could?
There’s nothing in particular that I’d change. I’d like more variety of off-campus party options rather than frats. If I wasn’t in the social club I’m in, I wouldn’t know what I’d be able to do on the weekends unless I had connections to other people.
How did you meet your closest friends?
That’s something I’m struggling with here. Trying to have those connections with anyone. I tried to find and form bonds with people here, and it’s been difficult for one reason or another, whether it the pressures of Yale, or where we are in our own character development. Unfortunate some people just don’t line up. In my first year, I spent a lot of time with a specific group of people, but it was always contentious until it went awry. At this point in my life, I don’t spend a lot of time with people, and I can’t consider anyone here a closet friend here, as much as maybe a shoulder to cry on.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Yale?
It’s hard to meet other people in general, but there’s not a lot of social opportunities to be able to maintain those relationships or go out and do something with them, other than saying, “Oh, let’s grab a meal.”
How did being a first-generation student affect your social transition, if at all?
It didn’t influence it too much. In terms of individual interactions, it was just another point of relation or similarity between me and some other student that allowed us to have social interaction. Beyond that, it hasn’t really played out in my experience that much.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
It’s a complicated question because I don’t see a lot of facets at Yale. Especially within comedy or dance groups, people of different cultures regularly mesh and interact socially. Other than that, there’s very much a separation you can see that forms within certain cultures here. There are the cultural houses, like the Asian-American cultural house and African-American cultural house that enables people of the same background to socialize in that space. [In 2018-2019, about 43% of students are White, 19% are Asian, 13% are Hispanic, and 11% are international students.]
How strong is the Black community on campus?
I’d say at least from the two years I’ve been here, the culture shifts as each year comes in. It brings in a different energy, and participation is very dependent on that. People coming to events at the Afro-American Cultural Center and showing up to things varies. The strength of the Black community is very yearly dependent, so I can’t say there’s any consistency there. There’s definitely an effort and a sense that everyone wants to be together and show solitary for one another, especially when big things or current events happen. The biggest showing of strength is when anyone has an individual event or occasion. There’s an African-American girl on the hockey team, and a lot of people showed up when she wanted people to.
How do you like the size of Yale in terms of undergraduate enrollment? [Yale has about 6,000 undergraduates.]
It feels big yet really small. On your day to day basis, it’ll seem small because you notice and see the same people, but you only notice the people that you know. When you enter a different environment like going to see a friend in a comedy show and you don’t know the other 10 people in the show, it makes Yale feel big. It depends on perspective and where you’re looking. When you encounter a new person that’s not connected to any of your friends, Yale definitely becomes big again.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I’ve been trying to find summer opportunities for computer science, and that’s been difficult in the past. They are making an effort to have more opportunities there, and I’m doing one over this summer. Yale collaborated with a coding boot camp company and is making a 10-week coding intensive program I’ll be part of.
Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that will be helpful professionally?
Have you used financial aid? If so, accommodating was the office to your needs? Were they responsive to your questions?
The office has been fine. I just fill out FASFA and do what I need to with that. In my experience, there hasn’t’ been a lot of interaction between the office and me. [During the 2016-2017 academic year, nearly 50% of students received financial aid.]
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Yale before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew where I could belong, with a more solid foundation. Looking at different groups beforehand to have a clear idea of what space I’d like to occupy at Yale, as well as knowing the difficulties of joining spaces like that. For example, knowing the difficulties and time commitment to be part of a band here.
What is something a prospective Black student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
Keep an open mind with anybody you meet. It’s more of a general thing, but coming here there definitely was some anxiety about interacting with other Black students in such a predominantly White space. I’ve been used to it since I was young, but many other Black students have not been. When making the first touchdown experience, don’t be anxious and just keep an open mind about everything. Don’t chase anybody but don’t push away anybody because of any external or perceived factor about them. Don’t get too focused on people around you, just really focus on yourself while being respectful to others.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I think it’s worth checking out Bulldog Days. Check out the Butteries, and Yale’s nightlife culture. Sitting down at a dinner with a random student would definitely be beneficial as an addition to a tour they may receive.
Reasons to attend Yale:
1) Opportunities that may be available to you, from the Yale name to any resources you can latch onto here.
2) There’s a wide variety of people, you just have to be good at finding it.
Reasons to not attend Yale:
1) There’s going to be a lot of pressure here. if you’re not someone who works well under pressure, or really fumbles on that, maybe another environment would be better.