An Interview On
Yale University

Background

Interview Date:March 2019

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Vietnamese
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Public high school in Southern California, with a graduating class of about 500 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Neuroscience
Minor: None
Extracurricular Activities: I’m a writer, illustrator, and layout designer for a magazine. I also participate in a volunteer club where we help people apply for jobs.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
The magazine work has brought out more of my creative side. I’m doing a lot of art on a weekly basis, and it’s made me consider pursuing art further than just a hobby.

Academic Experience

What is your weekly coursework like for your Neuroscience major?
I have a lot of problem sets to do in my STEM classes, and I’ve had a lab every week since freshman year. Exam wise, we usually have three to four exams per semester.

Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
They offer a lot of resources for students. Outside of professor office hours, all the TAs have discussion sessions and office hours as well. Most of the TAs are responsive to emails, and are even willing to coming to a closer location to hold study sessions for us. They offer peer tutoring outside of the TA hours, which gives us even more help.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s less competitive than what I had in high school. Everyone is pretty willing to share their notes and resources. As long as you’re not trying to take advantage of people, they are usually receptive to helping you. Most people don’t discuss their grades, which makes it better when asking for help because you don’t feel bad about your own grades. Everyone is competing with themselves.

How accessible have the professors in your department been?
Pretty accessible. If you shoot them an email you can usually schedule a meeting with them during lunch or office hours. They are even pretty open to meeting outside of these times.

What was your favorite class in your major?
Probably The Human Brain. I’m pretty interested in psychology, and the professor was really good at lecturing. He presented all the material in an easy to understand manner. All of his notes were well organized, which made the learning process easier since you could match it to the textbook, as well as what he gave us in class.

Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I had always been interested in science, particularly the biological sciences. I came into Yale as a Molecular Biology major, then after taking a course called The Human Brain, I started leaning toward Neuroscience. I talked with a couple of professors about the difference between molecular biology and neuroscience, and most of them said it comes down to whether you want to work on a molecular or systemic level, which would include learning computer science. Because I also have an interest in computations, I decided to apply to the Neuroscience major.

How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student? Are there systems in place that helped you transition?
I had never done research before. There is a program called STARS, targeting first-generation and low-income students that taught us how to present and write scientifically. Through that course, I became a lot better at giving oral presentations in science courses, and conducting scientific research in a lab setting. [See here for more academic resources offered at Yale.]

Do you do research? If so, how easy was it to get involved in the research?
I currently work at the Yale School of Medicine. It all depends on when you start contacting professors. The earlier you contact them, the more open they are to meeting with you to see if you’re a good fit for the lab. The longer you wait, the harder it is because the labs fill up. For me, it was pretty easy. I emailed a couple of professors saying what courses I’ve taken, and expressing my interest in their research. I met with a couple of them to see if I wanted to work in their lab. I considered the type of mentorship I’d be under, and what kind of work I’d be doing.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Timothy Dwight Residential College with one roommate and two suitemates.

Sophomore: Timothy Dwight Residential College in a single.

How was transitioning from your town in Southern California, to New Haven, CT?
It was a huge change because of the weather difference, and the fact that Southern California mostly revolves around cars for transportation. In Connecticut, almost everyone walks or rides a bike. It didn’t take that much time to get used to it because it seems like you just get hit with bad weather once, and then everything is good. Now that I’m used to the weather I like the change a lot. I’m able to walk around and spend time in nature, and I enjoy the snow.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
Luckily for me, I’ve always felt safe walking around campus. There are a lot of blue lights, and security is always walking around. There’s only one place I can name that is unsafe, so I avoid it at night. It’s a park nearby called [New Haven Green].

Pros and cons of being located in New Haven, CT?
Pros:
1) Almost everything is nearby. You have supermarkets, a movie theater, restaurants, and museums.
2) We can take the train to New York. It’s about a 2.5-hour trip.

Cons:
1) The safety aspect of being near that park where there’s more suspicious activity.
2) Not a lot of people visit New Haven, CT.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Yale?
I’m not a big party person so most of the time I spend it watching movies with friends in our suite, or just hanging out and playing board games.

What are your favorite events or activities?
There’s a big Halloween show the Yale Symphony Orchestra puts on every year, and they go all out. They make a huge video with a storyline that has a lot of Yale inside jokes, and they provide the background music for the video.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Yale? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m pretty happy with them. I feel like there’s something for everyone. There are smaller scale suite parties where people feel more comfortable, and then there are frats for more extroverted people. For the people who don’t like partying, there are acapella and theatre shows. There’s no pressure for you to go out.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
Mostly through my residential college. Timothy Dwight is known for its community, as opposed to the other residential colleges. I’ve also met some of them just sitting in the dining hall. The closest ones I met because I interact with them a lot in classes, and back in the residential college. We’ll study and rant about the classes together.

How do you like the residential college system?
I really like it because even though they say it’s random sorting, each residential college has its own personality. The one I was put into fits me well. I like a tight-knit community where I know and hang out with everyone. With some other residential colleges, most people don’t know their entire class, you just go there to sleep. That’s good for some other people that don’t enjoy that community aspect and just want a place to go back home to after a long day.

How would you describe the overall social scene at Yale?
I would say people feel comfortable socially. Everyone needs time to de-stress, and some people do that by going to a club. I didn’t realize Yale had a specific club in New Haven people will go to in the middle of the week. The residential college heads and deans are pretty encouraging for you to be social. I was sitting alone at the dining hall, and the head of the college came up and told me there were freshman in the dining that I should go make friends with, and that’s how I started making a lot of friends with people.

How did being a first-generation college student effect your social transition, if at all?
I was lucky to grow up in a high school with a lot of first generation kids, so I didn’t feel too much of a transition. In college itself, I found a really good group of people that are first-gen and low-income through the STARS research program I talked about earlier. They provide a lot of helpful resources through a group chat and a Facebook group. I’ve talked to first-gen students, and what has helped their transition a lot is having a group of people who share the same experiences as them, and are willing to share all the resources they have to make sure they succeed.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
To my experience, I feel that there’s a pretty good mix. There are groups on campus like the Asian American Cultural Center, and then there’s the Afro-American Cultural Center. There are groups for people to support each other, but as a whole, everyone interacts with one another. It’s nice having that diversity, but also having a place to share your own experiences. [In 2018-2019, about 43% of students are White, 19% are Asian, 13% are Hispanic, and 11% are international students. The Class of 2022 was the most socioeconomically diverse class that Yale has ever admitted.]

How would you describe the student body at Yale?
It’s very diverse and everyone has their own quirks, which makes the entire experience really interesting. There are so many people from different backgrounds, and you learn so much just because they are different. I have international friends from Austria, Singapore, and London. You also have people from different income backgrounds, so it’s interesting to hear their perspectives as well. Almost everyone there has some sort of passion which makes you feel more motivated because you’re surrounded by so many people that are pushing hard to get to their goals. It inspires an atmosphere of working harder to improve yourself.

How do you like the size of Yale in terms of undergraduate enrollment? [Yale has about 6,000 undergraduates.]
Because it’s split into the residential colleges, it feels much better. I don’t know a whole lot of people at Yale, but I know the people in my residential college very well. The size of the Yale undergraduate class isn’t as impactful to me as the size of the residential college. I grew up in Southern California my whole life, so I knew the same people from kindergarten until high school. I was used to a tight-knit community where I knew everyone. Going to Yale with the residential colleges on the smaller side with around 100 people made the experience much better.

How strong is the Vietnamese or Asian community on campus?
I don’t participate in it a whole lot, but they are very welcoming and have a lot of events centered around the Asian culture. When the Lunar New Year came around, they had a big party where they served Asian food, and that was nice because it’s almost a home away from home. You also have a lot of people that are open to discussing [our culture.]

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I don’t interact with the alumni network a whole lot, but there’s one professor here that was a Yale alumnus. Him talking about his experiences and him encouraging us to network with other professors has helped me a lot.

What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I haven’t used them at all.

Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that will be helpful professionally?
I’m learning Java and SPSS right now, but haven’t applied it outside [of the classroom] yet. I will be learning C++ and MATLAB this summer, and will use it to do my lab work.

Financial Aid

Have you used financial aid? If so, accommodating was the office to your needs? Were they responsive to your questions?
I am on financial aid. The only way I’ve gotten help was through their office, and they are usually open to helping you fill out financial aid and scholarship forms. They are usually pretty receptive and helpful with any questions you have.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Yale before entering as a freshman?
All the opportunities available here. I didn’t know the opportunities available for art and magazine until this year, and that’s because people started reaching out to me once they saw my art.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
A cool place for hiking is East Rock. A lot of people know about it, but not a lot of people go there. There’s a relatively new place called the Center for Collaborative Arts and Media (CCAM). They have things like VR where you can play different games. Because not a lot of people know about it, you can find whatever game you want to play. There’s also a lot of stuff there for art, such as art prints.

Reasons to attend Yale:
1) The liberal arts program. You are really encouraged to take classes outside of your major, which opens up a lot of new horizons. I’m taking a class on the archaeology of East Asia, and it’s nice having a class to go to that isn’t STEM.
2) The lack of a competitive nature. Everyone is competitive with themselves, but not with each other. This drives you to improve yourself without being let down that other people are doing better.
3) There’s something for everyone, and you’re encouraged to try so many different things. Through networks, you are presented so many opportunities that you may not have otherwise thought of.
4) There are so many resources you can use, like the STARS program. There’s something for everyone. One of my friends is in a steak club where they just make steak every month.

Reasons to not attend Yale:
1) If you’re not into the whole liberal arts thing. Maybe people just want to focus on their major and get out. If someone knows what they want to do, then maybe this isn’t the place because you’re required to take classes outside of your major.
2) If you don’t enjoy the city life. Yale is placed in a small city, and most people don’t drive.

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

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