Micaela Bennett-Smith, '15, (third from left) and her siblings and friends dress up as Mario Kart characters for Halloween. Bennett-Smith attends Occidental College with her brother, Morgan, '13 (second from left). Also pictured are her brother, Miles, '09 (second from right), and sister, Meredith, '06 (far right).

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Surprise! Micaela Bennett-Smith likes it at Oxy!

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.  

Micaela Bennett-Smith, ‘15,  attends Occidental College in Eagle Rock, Calif.

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: Intro to Islam, Geology and a cultural studies class that’s required for freshmen.

I was taking a critical theory and social justice class, but I dropped it because it wasn’t what I was expecting. I found out that it didn’t fulfill any requirements, so it seemed like a waste to take  a class I wasn’t interested in or wasn’t a core class. I was also worried it might bring my whole GPA down.

I like all my teachers, and I’m doing well in all of my classes.

My favorite class is Intro to Islam. My teacher is really chill about when to turn in assignments, which makes the class really relaxed.

I also really like all the interesting projects. Right now our project is to stop five times a day for 12 days and recite a phrase, such as a line of poetry or whatever you want. Reciting this recurring line mimics what some Muslims do when they practice salat. It’s a ritual project, so after 12 days we have to reflect and write an essay.

We also have a project about Islamophobia. Using sources, such as television and movies, we’re critically looking at how Western cultures portray Islam.

Q: How’s your dorm?

A:  I like how my dorm is close to my classes, the library, central campus and restaurants. I never have to wake up super early to get to my classes on time.

The big downside is that there is no air conditioning in my room, so during the first two months of school it was extremely hot.

Q: How’s the food?

A: Great. One of the dining halls doesn’t close until 2 (a.m.) and serves junk food, such as nachos and burgers.

I wasn’t surprised by the quality of food because I’d already eaten (here) when I visited my brother (Morgan, ‘13).

When you decide what college you’re going to go to, I think a really important factor to choosing the school is the food. You don’t want to be stuck at a college with sucky food.

Q: Are you participating in extracurricular activities?

A: Intramural soccer, Planned Parenthood Club and the College Chorus. My friends (and I) run (intramural soccer), with some help from Morgan (who plays on the Oxy soccer team).

We got a team together, and we arrange practices every weekend. My friends and I decide which drills and what we’re going to do in the practice, and for some of the practices Morgan coaches us.

My team is currently in the playoffs (intramural teams play against other Oxy teams).

I don’t do much in Planned Parenthood Club other than participate in the discussions. We talk about raising awareness and promoting women’s reproductive rights.

I like being in the club because I get to meet a lot of people who share the same ideas as me, and it’s fun to discuss these shared ideas.

The College Chorus rehearses once a week, and we sing mostly classical and choral music.

Q: How’s Eagle Rock?

A: It’s a pretty cool neighborhood, but it’s definitely gentrified.

It’s really close to campus, and there are a lot of coffee shops and restaurants, such as a Thai restaurant that my friends and I regularly go to.

Bennett-Smith and her brother, Morgan, '13, live across from each other at Occidental College.
(Photo used by permission of Micaela Bennett-Smith)
Micaela Bennett-Smith and her brother, Morgan, ’13, live across from each other at Occidental College.

Q: How are you adjusting to the campus?

A: Really well. It’s a really small campus that I’ve already been to. If I ever do need any help, I can just ask Morgan. He helped me pick out my classes by telling me who the good teachers are.

We literally live across from each other; if I look up from my window across the lawn, I see Morgan in his dorm.

Q: What’s the most embarrassing freshman mistake you’ve made so far?

A: I wore my shirt inside out the first day of school, but really that’s just a typical Micaela-thing for me to have done.

Q: What has surprised you about Oxy?

A: That I actually like it at Oxy.

When I was applying to schools, I just applied here because I knew it was a good school and my parents wanted me to go here, but I never thought I would actually go here.

After getting accepted by Boston University, it was actually a really hard choice to pick between BU and Occidental. But when I finally chose Occidental, I was really worried that I had made the biggest mistake of my life, which obviously isn’t a good feeling.

I’ve made a lot of friends here, I have my brother to help me out, and I’m relatively close to my family. So now it’s clear to me that I made the right choice.

Q: What makes Oxy special?

A: The good interaction with teachers, classes offered and the fact that administration people are easily accessible.

At a protest where students were voicing their discontent with the school’s lack of racial equality, there were over 500 students protesting President Vietch. The students gathered at the front of the school, and President Veech went to the students to hear what they wanted him to do to improve the situation.

So he walked into the circle of students that were protesting him. I thought this was unique because not many schools have presidents that actually talk to the students during protests.

Like SCDS, Occidental has really small classes, where I can form a good relationship with all my teachers.

At Occidental, there’s a DWA (Diplomacy and World Affairs) program that I’m really interested in. I’m going to be taking DWA classes next semester.

Q: Any advice for the class of 2016?

A: Don’t be surprised or discouraged if you don’t make any friends on the first day or first couple of weeks of college. When I got to Occidental I thought I had to make friends right away, and that really stressed me out.

That’s not how things always turn out, so it’s really important to recognize that the true friends that you make in college take a fairly long time to find.

It took me over a month to find the people that I was meant to be friends with.

—By Katia Dahmani

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