Aishwarya Nadgauda, '15, (far left) participates in a scavenger hunt for her fusion dance team initiation at The University of Pennsylvania.

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Aishwarya Nadgauda deals with difficult clients, demanding math teacher in business, engineering dual program at UPenn

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 week.

Aishwarya Nadgauda, ‘15, is majoring in computer science and finance at The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

She is part of the Jerome Fisher Program, which allows students to earn degrees from both the Wharton School of Business and the Engineering School.

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Aishwarya Nadgauda deals with difficult clients, demanding math teacher in business, engineering dual program at UPenn
(Photo used by permission of Nadgauda)
Aishwarya Nadgauda, ’15, (far left) participates in a scavenger hunt for her fusion dance team initiation.

Q: Why did you choose Penn?

A: I did a summer program there before my senior year. We worked on projects, and I got the attention of some of the people who were in business and engineering.

So I applied early decision and got accepted.

Q: What are some of the perks of Penn?

A: There are all kinds of classes and clubs. Anything you could imagine to do you can do.

I’m on a fusion dance team, and I’m planning on joining a business fraternity. It’s a big networking thing, and there are workshops to help you with interviews. And they’re coed.

Q: Why do you prefer a university over a college?

A: I think one of the big driving factors when I applied (to Penn) was that I love computer science and finance, and at a small liberal arts college, engineering majors aren’t as common.

(In the Jerome Fisher Program) we have to take a lot more classes, since it’s a two-degree program. The idea of the business part is like entrepreneurship.

The goal of it is to give you both a technical background while still understanding business, so when you graduate you have a lot more to choose from.

Being in a big school there are a lot of big-school problems. But with the Jerome Fisher Program, it’s like being in a small school.

It makes it feel like a smaller school, like Country Day. There’s only 50 kids in the whole class.

Q: What makes it feel like Country Day?

A: I can email the teachers and the upperclassmen whenever I need help, and there’s also a lot of closeness between upper- and lower-classmen.

We have our own study rooms, and if you need help or advice on an internship or homework, there are people you can go to.

Q: What attracted you to your major?

A: Process of elimination and getting admitted to the (Jerome Fisher) program. I read about the major and then went to the summer program. There I quickly realized I liked mechanical engineering.

Q: What is your most interesting class?

A: Management 100, which all Wharton freshmen need to take. They put you in groups (of) 10 people, and you get to test your skills and abilities by having to think through some strange situations.

It gives you a lot of hands-on experience. You work with a real client.

You have to deal with real things like not getting angry and how to fund something when you have zero budget.

Our team worked with SPARK, who runs a mentorship program for disadvantaged children. They work with those students and pair them up with graduate students, their mentors. We worked with (SPARK), so that they could have better relationships with their mentors. It ended up being a lot of work since there are 10 people and you have to coordinate things.

We had to research how they could maintain mentors, conduct surveys, go to past SPARK mentors (and submit) a list of things they should do to help their retention.

At the end (of the project), they basically told us that we were incapable of doing work. During our research they would send happy emails like, “Great job!” but whenever they would send feedback to our professor, they said we did terribly.

Our client is notorious for not being happy, no matter how much work you did for them. They were unhappy with us, while other clients were throwing pizza parties and potlucks. And we tried really hard. But when they submitted feedback, they were giving us zeros on a scale from zero to 10.

It was very much like the real world.

Q: What’s your favorite class?

A: I’d have to say I enjoyed my computer science class in retrospect. It was really hard when I did it because you had to learn to code on your own.

Coming out of it, I had a lot more knowledge of computer science, more knowledge than the one semester that I actually took.

The professor was a little insane because he is used to teaching graduate classes and this was an introductory class, but it felt like a graduate class.

Even though it was an introductory class, it was like they expected you to already know how to program and they’re just giving you a review.

The homework would take 18-20 hours every week, and it would get harder and harder.

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Aishwarya Nadgauda deals with difficult clients, demanding math teacher in business, engineering dual program at UPenn
(Photo used by permission of Nadgauda)
Aishwarya Nadgauda (bottom row, at left) and members of her M&T Lineage gather after their Thanksgiving dinner. A Lineage is a smaller group of students of all classes within the Jerome Fisher Program, so Nadgauda has people to reach out to.

Q: What don’t you like about Penn?

A: First semester, I applied to various consultant and Wharton clubs. It’s a really elaborate process to get into any club. You have to write a couple essays, and polish up your resume, and if you get in, then they ask you questions and expect you to know all this knowledge that the club is supposed to teach you.

(Also) the classes are really rigorous, and there isn’t much support or help if you are struggling.

Every class – every single class from the beginning through these next four years – (is) related to my major.

It was like they threw me into a pool and expected me to learn to swim.

They offer tutoring from 3-7, but also there’s still classes going on at night and I couldn’t even make it to those. If I didn’t understand the material, then I couldn’t even get the help.

The professors were not really good at teaching. If you had never taken multivariable calculus and you took (my math teacher’s) class, you (wouldn’t) learn anything, and then (there was) no help, no one to reach out to.

The way (my math teacher’s) class is taught, he doesn’t really teach, he reviews. He never defines important terms; he would just tell you this is important, and he expects you to already know it.

If you didn’t already know the material, it was very difficult to understand and follow the lectures. He mumbles to himself to make sure he knows what’s going on. When he’s doing his problems, you can never know when he stops one and goes on to the next. It’s not just me (who’s confused) because everyone is confused by his class.

Also, he only has 20 minutes of office hours during the day, which is only enough to answer one question.

There’s a lot of people. It started out with 160 students, and towards the end it became exponentially smaller. One time I came to a lecture where there were 15-20 students.

Q: How are you coping?

A: I didn’t do too well (at first). Once I got to know more people, I could kind of study with them.

But the problem is that we were in the same boat; we both didn’t know what was going on.

Everyone says once you’ve taken the basic classes, the introductory classes, it gets better.

It’s so much different than CD, where you could go to teachers to help you.

Q: How’s the campus life?

A: It’s very social. People are very proud of Penn’s “work hard, play hard” mentality.

Q: How’s your dorm?

A: My actual room is pretty nice. It’s fairly small-ish, a traditional dorm.

Our dorm is fairly close to the freshman quad, so our bathrooms are pretty disgusting,

Next year I’m going to look into an apartment.

Q: How’s the food?

A: The food is pretty bad. It makes it worse if you have any eating restrictions.

I’m vegetarian, so that restricts what I eat. I’m always unclear if something is vegetarian. One time they were making fried rice and they were putting this sauce in and I asked her if it was vegetarian and she said, “I guess so.” They also don’t get new pans after cooking meat.

And my roommate is super allergic to basically everything: eggs, milk, gluten. I remember in the first few months she would break out in hives because of cross-contamination in the dining halls.

Q: Do you go to Philadelphia a lot?

A: I’ve only been a handful of times. There’s a lot of good food and a lot around campus to do.

Q: Any advice for the class of 2016?

A: Talk to some current students, both before applying and after getting in. When I first went to Penn, I knew no one, and it is very hard to get around and do things without knowing people.

The first semester of college is really hard, so give yourself some time. College may not be exactly what you anticipated it might be, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

—By Chardonnay Needler

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