BackgroundInterview Date:January 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Hispanic/Puerto Rican
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Private school in Brooklyn, New York with a graduating class of about 95 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Biomedical Engineering
Minor: There are no minors at Yale.
Extracurricular Activities: I am in the Sabrosura Dance Team, I participate in the health care team of Engineers Without Borders, I work in the DNA Analysis Lab, and I work for the Native American Cultural Center.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Sabrosura has been amazing. I never danced before, so it’s been a big turnaround for me. I had the opportunity to organize a show, which was an incredible experience. I also have amazing friends from that.
What is your weekly coursework like for your major?
Depending on the course, I have a lab. I’ve taken Physics lab and Chemistry lab so far because I take a lot of science classes. It’s a pretty problem set heavy major, so I get a problem set a week per class. I try to have humanities classes mixed in so I don’t feel so overwhelmed with my other classes. It’s mostly math, science, labs, and problem sets.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
We have really impressive professors who are doing amazing research at the school. Therefore, the lab experience that we can have is really great, but the only problem is that with the workload there is very little time to do that. One downside is that we have these amazing professors who are doing research and they’re mostly focused on that research, so the lectures can be bad. They just throw information at you and want you to study on your own, instead of explaining step by step how to do something. If you put in the extra time to go to office hours, they’re great, but if you just go to class it’s not as easy to understand the material. If you want to do your own research, there is a professor that has experience doing that who can guide you.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think it’s incredibly collaborative, which I was surprised by. Yale can be a competitive environment because everybody has a very high work ethic. The only competitive nature about the school is that the grading curve can be difficult, everybody gets a really low grade on the exam and then that grade is curved up to a normal range. That makes it so that students are putting in a lot of extra time into classes so that they can do really well. In office hours and writing study halls, people are very collaborative. At office hours we’re all at a table going through problems together with the professor, and the professors, in general, encourage study groups and for us to do homework together. A lot of students do work together because it’s too much work to do on your own. Yale’s a really collaborative place and the people are really nice. If you need help people are there for you.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I don’t love the structure of the major at Yale. The biggest problem with it is I feel like they push and prepare us to become Ph.D.’s and they really want us to do research, so it’s not as geared to people who want to go into industry or product development. There are also so many prerequisites before you’re able to take the really cool classes. Like, there is a Biomedical Device Design class that I’m super excited to take, but I can’t take it until my junior year. Freshman and sophomore year, you have to take prerequisite classes like math, biochemistry, and physics.
How has being a first-generation student impacted you academically? Were there systems in place to help you?
Because I had the privilege to go to a private school, I was academically prepared. Even though I went to a private school, in comparison, the wealth at Yale is a very different story and therefore socially I was not prepared. The major social life at campus is going to frats, which cost money to get into or going to events or places that also cost money, so as a first-generation student I was not prepared for that. Academically, if you continue with the work ethic that got you there, you’ll do okay. There are tutors for almost every class and the professors are available if you reach out. A lot of first-gen students don’t want to reach out and ask for that help, so you the only limitation is you don’t go and seek that help for yourself. [Socioeconomically, 19% of students at Yale come from the top 1% and only 2.1% of students come from the bottom 20%, which is among the lowest in the Ivy League.]
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Bingham Hall with six other people.
Sophomore: Grace Hopper College with seven other people, but this year my room is at least double the size and we are on two floors.
How was transitioning from Brooklyn, NY to New Haven, CT?
New York is definitely a lot more vibrant and high energy, and I definitely feed off that energy a lot for motivation. In Connecticut, I only go outside to go to classes and everything is pretty close. I don’t get that same motivation from everybody hustling and bustling. There is a little less going on, which is something I need because I’m a high-energy person and feed off that feeling of everybody is doing something so I need to do something.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It’s New Haven, so we get emails about stuff going on and there are a lot of homeless people across from campus. [New Haven has the second highest homeless population in Connecticut.] Seeing the wealth of campus and then crossing the street and seeing lots of blankets is interesting. Recently there was a student held at gunpoint in a dorm. Things like that scare me, but, in general, I feel safe on campus.
Pros and cons of being located in New Haven, CT?
1) There are shops right around campus.
2) Going places off campus is affordable.
1) It’s sad to see the disparity in wealth between Yale and the New Haven community is sad. [There is a 26.1% poverty rate in New Haven.]
2) It’s not as fun or motivating as what I’m used to in New York City. I thrive off of that big city energy.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Yale?
I do a lot of things with Sabrosura. We mostly throw suite parties and off-campus house parties. If a lot of people are going, we’ll go to Toad’s Place. Yale’s night for Toad’s is Wednesday night, but there are a lot of other schools that go there on Saturday night. Suite parties are fun but those can be pretty cramped. The frat parties are fun and not too exclusive as long as you know someone. You’ll just have to wait in a line. There are also groups that throw parties, like acapella, standup comedy groups, and the sports teams all have houses. There’s something for everybody.
What nights of the week do you like to go out?
My first semester freshman year, I would go out to Toad’s and frat parties, but my second semester I went to more suite parties. This past semester, I went to student’s suite parties or parties with Sabrosura. This upcoming semester I’m going to be a little bit more focused on school, so I’ll just go to specific birthday parties and Sabrosura parties. I think the Sabrosura parties are the most fun because people actually enjoy the music and dance instead of trying to get really drunk.
How happy were you with the nightlife at Yale? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I wish there were more social spaces on campus other than fraternities. I wish there was more funding for specific places for people to rent out to have a party. There are so many places on campus that are left empty. We definitely have groups on campus that rent places and throw parties, but I wish we had more that did. I don’t really like the frat parties and sororities can’t have houses.
Did being a person who identifies as LGBT influence your nightlife experience at all?
I didn’t know that Yale is the “Gay Ivy,” so I was pleasantly surprised when I came. I feel very welcomed on campus and I don’t think my sexuality holds me back. I think a lot of people are very open to coming out there. There’s also a pretty strong community, it’s surprising how many queer people there are on campus.
How did you meet your closest friends?
My friends have changed a lot since coming to Yale. The friend group that I made first semester is different from the group I have now. My best friend now I met at a party dancing together. My closest friends that are newer I met going out as well. My first semester I was really social, and then I started to pick people from the larger group over time. It was a process.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
There are spaces for everyone. You can find something for you. There is such a diverse set of things going on on a given Friday or Saturday. If you like frats you can do that, if you like bars you can do that, if you are more chill and want to stay in and watch movies there are people and spaces for that as well. It can be really fun if you find the stuff that makes you happy. I think it can take a while to get to for some people. I think people can be a little infatuated with the frat scene and meeting those types of people, but if you don’t like that there are lots of other things to do as long as you’re not pulled in by that influence.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Our school is self-segregated and very White. A lot of queer people don’t really go to frats, I go to more Black parties and Hispanic parties, and end up hanging out with people who are very similar to me, which is not what I expected. People are really nice to each other and they could be friends, but there are so few [minorities] that we band together. [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 do you like the size of Yale in terms of undergraduate enrollment? [Yale has about 5,500 undergraduates.]
I think it’s a perfect size. If you want to get away from someone, it’s big enough for that, but it’s small enough that you know most people on campus. Because you know most people it feels much safer and comfortable.
How strong is the Hispanic community on campus?
I’m not super involved in the Hispanic community other than Sabrosura. La Casa is a very close-knit community, so therefore I would say it’s a strong group. Sabrosura is its own thing within the Hispanic community, some people in it are super into La Casa and some people are not. I don’t love the culture of the cultural centers because they’re spaces that are not very integrated on campus because they make students feel at home and not hang out with other people who aren’t part of La Casa. It’s good to feel comfortable, but it’s also important to challenge yourself with new people and new ideas.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Yale before entering as a freshman?
College is hard [laughs]. I expected college to be the most fun four years of my life. If you don’t know what to expect, Yale is not the same place as you see in the movies or at big state schools. If you have a lot of free time at Yale you’re going to do poorly. My first semester I didn’t do terribly, but I did do poorly, which I think most students do. I think it’s easy to feel anxious, depressed, or unworthy because it’s more difficult.
What is something a prospective Hispanic or LGBTQ student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
Being themselves and not trying to conform is very important. Yale can be a conformist place. People like it a lot more when you’re trying to be yourself. I’ve made friends that are very different from me by being my most authentic self, and I think there’s a deeper connection than trying to find connections in other ways.
Reasons to attend Yale:
1) There are so many things to do academically and we have amazing professors.
2) There are so many extracurriculars so that you can find things that you actually want to do.
3) If you like humanities, you should go to Yale. There are really strong professors that help you build the skill of analyzing and debating. It also helps you learn to read quickly because there is a lot of reading to do.
4) It’s a beautiful campus.
5) You can really feel at home if you find the right people. You’ll grow a lot. It’s been a very transformative experience for me.
Reasons to not attend Yale:
1) If you’re a STEM student you have to wait for the upper-level classes to do classes that are more interesting to you.
2) If you want to have a fun time and have the stereotypical college experience. Here you really have to balance your workload and fun.