Interviews by Victoria Fong, Michael Herrera, Esther Lin, Alyce Thornhill and Anders Zhou
University of British Columbia
Why did you decide to go outside of the country for college?
I wanted something new other than California, and out-of-state tuition is ridiculously expensive. But Canada has universal education, which makes their international tuition as [cheaper], if not cheaper, than some of the UCs.
What is the campus like?
It’s super modern and it’s in Vancouver. However, it also pays its respect to native Canadian culture. The campus was built on aboriginal land, but instead of completely destroying any trace of it, they incorporated it into the campus. [They] have areas dedicated to their culture where they perform traditional dances and other things.
Are there a lot of international students at UBC?
There’s a huge international community at UBC. They have a lot of support for international students … They have students from everywhere … [like] the United Kingdom, Turkey, Pakistan, India and I think Ghana.
Did any classes at Aragon influence your major?
[My major is] applied biology. AP Biology from sophomore year was a big influence. I really enjoyed that class. I like explaining things, like seeing things happen and knowing why it’s happening. I was interested in botany, biotechnology and evolutionary biology. Those are the fields that I’m hoping to later get into.
If UBC was a food, what would it be?
It would be poutine because that’s a Canadian food. And it has a lot of toppings, so it’s kind of messy, but in the end it’s good.
Tell me about your major in mechanical engineering.
Part of what makes Berkeley engineering so good is that there’s a distinguished faculty. And, mechanical engineering is great because part of mechanical is knowing a little bit of everything in engineering. You’ve got such a diverse background that you’re able to do almost anything and having a strong program and professors that are renowned in their field and having students from all backgrounds and lots of research going on, builds that sense of “I know what I’m doing and I can apply it in the future.”
What did you like about the Berkeley culture?
There’s always stuff to do at Berkeley. There’s always just a buzz about campus that I really enjoy. When I went on Cal Day, a day designed to woo all the new students, it just felt like a culture that embraced new people. There was a competitiveness that breeds camaraderie, instead of cut-throatedness, especially in the engineering program.
Are you excited to stay close to home?
Yes! I really like this area and there’s a part of me that just loves California and the weather around here. I think being close to Silicon Valley and the innovation around here is important to me … Being progressive and socially aware is [also] important.
Sonoma State University
What stood out to you about Sonoma?
I think it was my major. They’re heavily impacted in the teaching field — that’s what I want … And they have this program where you can become a teacher within four years and get your credentials, so it’s a really fast-paced program, which I like.
When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
I think it was being in four years of AVID. We did a lot of tutorials and I really liked helping other people, showing off my skills, being able to really impact someone’s life [and helping] them get good grades on tests. I want to teach middle schoolers because they still have time to catch up … and start to think about college.
You got the Students Rising Above scholarship. What is it about?
Students Rising Above targets students who are first generation college students [whose parents never went to college] and who have proven they want to go to college and nothing will stop them. They also look for students who want more than just a financial scholarship, students that are looking for community in which they can connect and network with others. For Students Rising Above, you need to have … an obstacle in your life that could have negatively impacted your grades, but you still were able to overcome it and still manage your grades.
What are you most looking forward to in college?
I’m looking forward to being independent, and starting that part of my life … I’ve always just wanted to go away and live my own life.
What are you going to miss the most?
I think what I’ll miss the most: my sister. She’s always been someone that I’ve leaned on, that is going to be very scary for me.
What advantages do you see of going to school in New York City?
Well, the first thing I was looking for in college was where I could grow musically and New York is like the best place for jazz music and a bunch of other types of music as well. So, there’s not only opportunity to play, but also to listen and to check out what’s going on in the scene. And it’s also a cultural melting pot, just like the Bay Area and … there’s a lot of good food and a lot of job opportunities … I just love big cities. I’m a big city guy.
What are your thoughts on leaving the Bay Area?
Initially, junior year, I just wanted to get out of here and … like any other senior just wanted to get out and explore my own life. But you know, I am going to miss it and I am going to miss all the people here … New York is not too different, and the school I am going to — with the political climate — isn’t that different than the Bay Area, so I’m not going to missing [it] a ton. I’m happy to move on, but [San Mateo] will always be my home, but I don’t know if I will come back. I will probably just stay on the East Coast.
San Jose State University
Why did you initially decide to apply to SJSU?
I applied to SJSU with a computer science major because it’s in the heart of Silicon Valley, and it’s one of the growing computer science industries. They have a really good computer science program. It was a major-specific decision rather than a general overview of the school.
What sparked your interest in computer science?
My dad is the owner of a company that is based on web tools and stuff, and so I always just grew up around things like coding and computers. I just have a general interest in them because of my environment. Also, I find it very interesting.
How did you realize that a small liberal arts college was the way for you?
Actually it’s kind of a funny story because I was pretty intent about going to a [large] university but then my dad and I took a road trip up to Seattle and on the way my dad was like ‘Why don’t we stop and look at some colleges?’ and I was like ‘Okay.’ — kind of reluctant. He dragged me to Reed and I was like ‘What is this? I don’t want to go to a small college. I’ve never heard of this place,’ but I basically fell in love in that point, so that’s when I knew that I wanted to go to a liberal arts college.
What made Reed stand out?
It was just kind of the culmination of small things. For example, Reed doesn’t give up-front grades, so you’ll never get back of paper with a [letter grade]. You’ll just get qualitative feedback which I think is really unique, and [the] focus is on what you can do better rather than trying to reduce someone to a certain score.
Will it be nice to leave California, but not be too far away?
I think [it’s] nice because, like a lot of teenagers, I have a relationship with my parents where sometimes I need my space, but I also rely on them a lot for support. It will be nice that I’m in Portland and I can still come home for Thanksgiving and other medium-length holidays.
Check out Part I of our profiles!