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The Octagon

Zoë Bowlus, ’16, discovers new passion for dance, changes majors at UC Santa Barbara

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Zoë Bowlus, ‘16, attends UC Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara. She originally wanted to major in sociology but is now planning on majoring in communication and minoring in Asian American Studies.

(Photo used by permission of Bowlus)
Zoë Bowlus (far left) and the girls on her floor get together for a group photo before the All-Hall Ball. Bowlus said the All-Hall Ball is a Hollywood-themed dance for all the residence halls.

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: Right now, I am taking Communication 88, which is research methods; Earth Science 10, which is about Antarctica; Intro to Asian-American Literature; Intermediate Ballroom Dance; and an honors seminar about the mathematics of origami.

In my ballroom dance class, you learn eight different types of ballroom dance, and you also learn ballroom etiquette – things like how to escort your partner and how to ask and accept a dance.  

Q: How big are your classes?

A: The lectures vary from 200-800 students, but sections have about 30 people.

Q: Do you like the sizes of your classes?

A: They’re fine. The sections are really small. So you just have to pay attention in lectures, and then you go to sections and get a smaller class environment. Plus classes will get smaller as I start taking more major-specific classes.

Q: What’s your favorite class?

A: American Migration Since 1965. I took it last quarter. It just brought up so many things I had no idea about. We talked about the Mexican drug cartels, the different experiences of Asian immigrants and more things like that. It was just very relevant and very thought-provoking. I would say that my experience in that class led me to declare my minor, Asian American Studies.

Q: Least favorite?

A: Chinese Art History. I took it in the fall, and it was really hard because there was lots of memorization. I think it’s hard enough to memorize tons of art names in general, but having to memorize the names in Chinese is extra hard.

Q: Who is your favorite teacher?

A: I really liked my Music Appreciation teacher last quarter. He was really funny and came up with interesting facts about the composers. I also thought the curriculum was really interesting. It was a very broad spectrum of music. Overall, (it was) just super interesting, and the teacher tied it in with history.

Q: Have you participated in any traditions?

A: No. I’m not super big on school spirit. At the soccer games, (I’ve heard) they throw tortillas in the air, but I don’t know for sure because I’ve never been.

Q: Did you participate in clubs or extracurriculars?

A: I joined the Swing Dance Club, and this quarter I joined the Cotillion Club. I’ve never danced before.

Cotillion Club is cool because you can compete or take beginner classes. Cotillion Club is geared toward competitive dancing, but there are beginner classes that I take. We primarily learn ballroom.

It’s been really great for me socially because I’m not as good at socializing in big groups, but the class allows me to have one-on-one socializing in a big group.

(Photo used by permission of Bowlus) 
Zoë Bowlus (second from left) and her freshman seminar group from the fall quarter pose together. Bowlus said they were working on making an interactive tour map for UCSB. While doing this project, they went up Storke Tower, a bell tower in the center of the UCSB campus.

Q: Did you transition well?

A: Initially, no. It was really hard. (UCSB) is really big. Coming from a class of 34 people and then coming to a school with 18,000 undergraduates is just crazy. It’s weird walking around and not being able to say “hi” to everyone. I’m used to everyone knowing everything about me, but here you have to figure out what information to share about yourself.

You’re on your own. You are doing your laundry. There are just so many things to figure out. I definitely don’t wish I was still in high school, but it’s hard to be in college. I’ve had to constantly be around people. So, yeah, I’m excited to go home (for the summer) but overall happy where I am.  

Q: How do you get around?

A: Bike culture is huge here. Pedestrians give way to the bikes. I personally walk everywhere because I don’t like bikes. I am scared to bike.

This quarter I am doing tons of classes, and all of my classes are really far away. It’s about a 15-minute walk, and that gets tiring.

There is a bus that goes downtown to Santa Barbara for free, and that’s nice, but I don’t go downtown that often.

Q: What is the city like?

A: So Isla Vista is like a part of the campus, and it is really not my thing. My classes are in Isla Vista. There are tons of parties, and it’s loud and crowded. There isn’t a drugstore, but there are restaurants. I’m quiet, and I don’t really like it.

There is also downtown Santa Barbara, which has cute shops and restaurants and theaters. Sometimes I go down there and study at the public library.

Q: What is your dorm like?

A: I live in a triple in an eight-story tower on campus. It is centrally located, which I really like.

Q: How are your roommates?

A: I have two roommates. We aren’t all best friends, but we all get along. They are nice, but we all come in at different times, which works out in the end.

We are very different socially. One is in a sorority, and one is a rock climber.

(Photo used by permission of Bowlus)
Zoë Bowlus (left) and her friends Michelle (center) and Cat (right) pose at the Cotillion Banquet. Bowlus said that she walks to and from Cotillion practices with her friends because they all live in the same area.

Q: Will you participate in Greek life?

A: No. It’s just not something that I am interested in doing. But I might look into (getting) a job.

Q: What is the weather like?

A: In general, the weather is really nice. It is sometimes foggy, which is cool. Recently it has been super, super windy, and I hate wind. It just makes me go a little crazy. I also have allergies, which isn’t fun. There are lots of pretty trails that I like to go on, and you can walk by the ocean, but I often can’t because of my allergies.

Q: Has the college lived up to your expectations so far?

A: Yeah, I would say so. I think the culture is really good. They have this thing called Campus Learning Assistance Services, and we have this position called an Academic Skilled Specialist, and I’ve gone there to get help on how to take better notes and read more efficiently. The advising is really good here, and if you go to your TA’s (teaching assistants), they are really helpful.

Q: What is your favorite thing about UCSB?

A: The opportunities in dance. My mom always wanted me to do ballroom dance.

I started on the sailing team here, and I thought it would be really cool. I got on the team and thought it would be really fun. I had never competed before, so it was really thrilling, and it challenged me. It took a lot of my time, and the people were more wild than I wanted them to be.

Q: What don’t you like about UCSB?

A: Communal living. I am very independent and like to have time to myself. You are always around people. Everywhere there are people. Next year, I am relocating to a single. I’m excited for that because I can be social, but I can also not be social and have some alone time.

Q: What makes UCSB unique?

A: Location. You have the beach and the ocean right there. Everyone is super friendly, and everyone says “hi” to each other.

Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes?

A: We have an access card that gets us into our dorms, gets our food and basically everything. I’ve misplaced it so many times!

I’ve also walked into the wrong section once.

Q: What is your advice for the class of 2017?

A: If at first you aren’t happy where you are, don’t get consumed by it because you can’t give the place where you are a fair chance if you are thinking about how unhappy you are. Have patience. You will meet more people. You will find hobbies. Go to office hours. No place is going to be perfect. Sometimes I wish I had gone to some of my other school choices, (but) looking back, everything has fallen into place; it just takes time.

By Bri Davies

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