Johnson Ma, '15, (far right) visits Chinatown in Boston, where he attends Boston University.

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Johnson Ma loves Boston and lobster, but lack of STEM classes, high cost of living disappoint at BU

Find out what the members of the class of 2015 are up to in their first year of college. A college freshman is featured in the Freshman Focus every Friday.  

Johnson Ma, ’15, is a freshman at Boston University. Ma is in the College of General Studies.

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: Rhetoric, Humanities, Social Sciences and Electrical Engineering. The class is taught at a high level, and it’s hard to understand all of the topics. I have a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule, which means I get a lot of time off.

Q: Which classes do you dislike?

A: In Rhetoric and Humanities we have to write a lot. The class is equal to Writing 100. It’s almost all reading and writing. The teacher is terrible! She doesn’t even teach. The highest grade in the class was a B+, and there are hundreds of students. Even the American students get C’s! That class is screwing up my GPA. The other rhetoric classes give out a lot of B’s. BU is quite hard, and the average GPA is only around a 3.0. My English improved a lot, but, come on, the class doesn’t need to be that hard!

Q: How’s your dorm and food situation?

A: My dorm is fine. It’s just messy as my usual bedroom, but I can live with it.

The dining hall at BU is awesome. They have lobster! The main dining hall (Bay State) is ranked first in the U.S. apparently. But I think the West Dining Hall (further away from my dorm) is better.

Q: How are you holding up in the Boston cold?

A: It’s not that cold yet – thankfully. I need to get a pair of Timberland boots in preparation for winter, though, because all of my local friends tell me that once winter starts, it just doesn’t stop snowing.

Q: Do you like Boston? I’ve heard it’s the largest college town in the world.  

A: It’s a cool city. You can hang out with Harvard and MIT people. Some people always start talking philosophy at parties. It’s so weird.

But Boston is really expensive, and you have to manage your money very closely. I don’t know about other people, but I spend like $2,000 a month, even though I don’t have a car. I’m trying to look for a job, hopefully in a restaurant, so I can score free food at work.

The day-to-day living cost is so high here. Bottled water is 50 percent more expensive than in California. It makes no sense to have a car, because you will spend $4,000 for parking on campus. Street parking in downtown Boston is like $20 an hour. Also, apparently cars get buried in the snow.

Q: How does it compare to Sacramento or Shenzhen, China (Johnson’s hometown)?

A: In Sacramento there is a lot of land and countryside, and everything is so spread out. Boston is a lot denser than Sacramento, especially since BU is in the city.

Boston isn’t as crowded as Shenzhen though. It’s also quite clean and nice and not as noisy. The weather has been bad but not terrible – yet.

Q: What has disappointed you?

A: I’m in the school of General Studies, and most of the classes that are offered in this school are humanities and literature classes, which also happen to be things that I don’t like. I went to General Studies looking for STEM classes.

Also, BU is super hard for me because of my Rhetoric class. I would say the average GPA is around a 3.0, which isn’t really high.

Q: Are you doing anything special for the holidays?

A: I’m getting out of the cold and going to LA for Thanksgiving. I’m going with a close friend, and I have friends there.

Q: What made you chose BU?

A: It came down to Purdue and BU, and BU was the “better” school. I also liked that it was really in the center of Boston. The city environment is really special.

Q: Any advice for the class of 2016?

A: Do a lot of research before you choose the school. I didn’t know that General Studies and Rhetoric were so hard. Do research into the majors, and once you get in the school, look up the teacher online.

—By Manson Tung

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