America Lopez, 16, attends the University of California, Merced. She is undeclared in the natural sciences department.
Q: What classes are you taking?
A: Biology, a history class that dates back to the 1500s, Writing 10 and Math 5.
Q: How big are your classes?
A: Roughly 200 students, but discussion classes are around 20-50.
Q: Do you like the sizes of your classes?
A: I don’t mind the lecture classes being so big because they’re not very interactive classes, and we just listen to the professor lecture. Discussion classes are where most of the interactions happen because we can ask more questions and work with others. We have discussion classes for every class except for writing.
Q: What’s your favorite class?
A: It would have to be history because it’s super interactive. It is everything from 1500 to present day, basically since the beginning of colonization to current events of today. It covers all different parts of the world, so basically an intense course of world history. Every lecture is a new topic, and the professor slides quickly past the PowerPoints.
Q: Least favorite?
A: Writing 10 because it’s at 7:30 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I am not a morning person. Our teacher is very rude and gets easily annoyed, and she doesn’t have a lot of patience with students, which sucks because I really like writing.
Q: Have you participated in any traditions?
A: Around the first week of school, all freshmen and transfer students walk through this huge statue that we have – “The New Beginning Statue.” And then when students graduate, they walk in the opposite direction. They had shirts specially made for freshmen and transfers. It was a really long walk, and there were teachers and students clapping for us. It was kind of nice being greeted like that.
Q: Have you participated in any clubs?
A: I’m in a club called Global Medical Training Program. It’s a club where ultimately students go to places in Latin America and train with actual doctors. So you really get to experience what it’s like to be in the medical field. In order to join the club, you send in an application and have an interview. This is the process of someone who was going on the trip (in Latin America). I didn’t go on the trip this summer, but I definitely see myself going in the years to come. I would then go through the interview and whatnot. People who go say it is a life-changing experience.
Q: Did you transition well?
A: Very comfortably. Country Day really prepared me academically. College is fast-paced, and Country Day is very academically rigorous, so in that aspect it really helped me. I also feel really comfortable going to my professors during office hours because I have that experience from Country Day. Some of my classmates feel intimidated asking questions.
Q: What is the overall attitude of the student body? Are the majority very studious, or are they big partiers?
A: Well, there’s always going to be both, and I have definitely met both, so I would say (it is) pretty evenly split. I’ve met really studious people, but I’ve also met people who are really trying to “live the college life.” I generally hang out with more studious people because I like to hang out with people who have similar goals to keep me motivated and focused.
Q: How do you get around?
A: Freshmen aren’t allowed to have a car on campus, so usually if I want to go somewhere (and I don’t want to take the bus), I’ll use Uber. There is a bus that takes us downtown and basically everywhere that we would need to go. It’s there for our use, but it doesn’t usually get anywhere on time, so it’s not very reliable. The bus is free; you just have to show your student ID.
Q: What is Merced like?
A: I don’t go off campus a lot because I feel like everything I need is on campus, and my college is in the middle of nowhere. The small town is developing more, so there is a mall downtown. If I wanted to go off campus, I would probably just plan a trip to San Francisco or something because it’s a lot more fun. I went there for the Women’s March.
Q: What is your dorm like?
A: I live in a suite. It has two rooms and two people. At the beginning of the year, my roommate left because she got really homesick. (She was from Sacramento.) Up until Friday, I was living alone, but now I have a new roommate. I really enjoyed living alone because I could bring friends over, and they would have somewhere to spend the night. The suites are much better than the actual freshman dorms because we have so much space, and we have a living room. And we only have to share the bathroom with about three people.
Q: How is your roommate?
A: My new roommate has a severe peanut allergy, and her old dorm wouldn’t accommodate her needs, so she had to move. She pretty much keeps to herself, but I’m hoping she opens up a little more.
My old roommate and I knew each other from elementary school. We were friends, and then we kind of lost touch. She asked if we could be roommates, and I agreed because it would be nice to have someone (I) know on campus. Then she left when she got homesick.
Q: What is the weather like?
A: The weather gets extremely dry (and) cold in the winter and extremely hot in the summer, which I don’t mind because I prefer the warm weather.
Q: Has the college lived up to your expectations so far?
A: Honestly, it only gets better with time. I never know what’s going to happen. There’s a new event every day. The housing officers are always hosting fun little events with food and whatnot, but sometimes they don’t fit into my schedule. Every day is different. I really didn’t used to like change, but now I love it.
Q: What is your favorite thing about UC Merced?
A: How easy it is to get to my classes. It takes me like five minutes. If I have to get there quickly, I can. I know people at different colleges who struggle so much with getting to their classes. The campus layout is also very easy to understand. It’s a pretty small college, but it’s supposed to double in size by 2020. I feel like all four years there is going to be construction.
Q: What don’t you like about your college?
A: Even though it is (in) a developing city, it’s not quite there yet. There are a lot of things about the town that could be improved, but I don’t really care since I don’t go around town a lot.
Q: What makes your school unique?
A: It is the newest UC. It just opened in 2005, and it’s very diverse. There are different ethnicities and different religions, and I meet new people every day.
Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes?
A: Definitely. I’ve locked myself out of my dorm probably around 30 times. I have five freebies where I can call someone to get me back into my room, but I’ve already used three and they have to last for the rest of the year. After we use our freebies, we have to pay.
Q: What is your advice for the class of 2017?
A: Take it easy when you first start college. It’s so different and exciting, but don’t rush into doing everything your first year. Have fun, and know how to pace yourself.
—By Bri Davies