Alexa Mathisen, ‘17, attends Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, where she plays Division III volleyball, plans to major in political science, and will soon host her own radio show.
Q: What were your expectations going into your first year at Wellesley?
A: I was expecting really hard academics, and I was expecting to go off campus a lot, but I actually don’t. I was also expecting bigger class sizes than I actually have. (I also thought) I would have fewer relationships with my teachers, but that (isn’t) the case, which is a plus.
I was also expecting the majority of my friends to come from (my) volleyball (team), but that wasn’t the case either.
My best friend is my roommate. We picked each other before we came to school. She is from Los Angeles. We are both Mexican and are both far from home and from California, so we have a lot in common. We got really close.
I’m in the Latina Student Organization, so I made friends from there. I am also on the radio station, so I was able to make friends through that.
Q: How did you discover the Latina Student Organization?
A: Wellesley flew me out for a visit after I had already been admitted, and I went to one of the meetings and enjoyed it. I am involved with the political aspect of the organization. I did a lot of phone banking for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) this semester.
Q: What are your plans for the radio station?
A: Anyone can join. You just have to spend a semester doing an internship where you shadow DJs and organize CDs and records in the library. You also have to take a written test and on-air test at the end of the semester.
Next semester, I will actually have my own radio show. It’s going to be different types of music. I’m not going to have a specific genre. I’ll switch it up every week.
Q: What classes did you take fall semester?
A: American Politics 200, Consuming LatinX Culture (an American studies class), Spanish 101 and the Human Biology lab.
Q: How big are your classes?
A: My biggest class is probably around 35 people. They try to keep class sizes down, which I really like.
They’re also really strict about attendance, and that’s factored into our grades. It’s hard but also good because it holds you accountable, and we get to have a lot of class discussion and interaction. Our teachers really know us because our classes are so small, and I can email them whenever. They really like to have good relationships (with their students) and are really invested. It’s also nice because they are experts in their fields, so they know what they are talking about.
Q: What’s your favorite class?
A: American Politics 200. I want to focus on American politics because I am majoring in political science. I really liked the class because it was a good introduction to the field. I also had a really good teacher. She taught us about the racial aspect of politics, and she was a new teacher, so it was cool to experience her class before anyone else (did).
Q: Least favorite?
A: Probably Spanish 101. Usually in classes we have lots of meaningful work, but in Spanish it was (very) redundant. Wellesley requires four semesters of language, so I have a lot of time left in Spanish.
Q: Do you like the all-girls’ aspect of the school?
A: I really love my all-girls’ school, but I don’t notice it that much. Sometimes in classes there are guys because we can cross-register with MIT. There is a big focus on feminism, and everyone is looking out for each other. It’s also really competitive with other women, which is good for society. There are a lot of women that want to go into (male-dominant) fields, so it’s cool to meet so many empowered women.
Q: Have you participated in any traditions?
A: On the first night of orientation, you are supposed to go and swim in the lake at midnight. It was really cold, so I didn’t do it. But a lot of people did.
Q: Did you transition well?
A: Yeah, definitely. I thought it would be much harder and that I would seem a lot farther away from home. I think those extra two weeks helped. I had to get to campus early for training (for volleyball), so by the time orientation came around, I was all settled in and adjusted. I knew my way around campus and had already made some friends from volleyball.
Q: Are the majority of students very studious or are they big partiers?
A: Very studious. Most parties are off campus, so there is not much of a party (atmosphere). There is just an overall maturity level that I really enjoy. Most people have fun on the weekends and study during the week.
Q: How do you get around?
A: We have a bus that we can take into Cambridge and Boston during the weekdays for free, and then on the weekends it’s $3. We are only 45 minutes max outside of Boston. First years aren’t allowed to have cars, but I have some friends with cars. And there is a shuttle that goes to the mall. There’s always Uber, but that’s so expensive.
Q: What is volleyball like at the college level?
A: Volleyball is pretty good. On the days we didn’t have games, we would practice and lift. On game days, we would travel and play. All of our travel was by bus because all of our opponents are fairly close to Wellesley.
Despite the rumor that you have more free time in college than high school, I felt like I have had less free time so far because of volleyball. We had mandatory team bonding on Friday to keep everyone in check, which was just more of a time commitment. Now we have spring practices and strength training.
We played in the NCAA tournament (Providence, Rhode Island) because we got a bid and qualified, which was cool to play in. We were knocked out in the first round. I got injured, and it was an overuse injury that I didn’t treat until the end of season. The results were inconclusive, but I’ve injured my foot so many times that they put me in a boot.
The athletic rooms at colleges are often focused on men’s sports, but since Wellesley is an all-girls school, it’s focused on women.
Q: How do you like Boston?
A: There are a lot of fun shops, and I visit other schools and hang out around MIT and Harvard. There are lots of students and food and stuff. It’s not super-exciting, but I don’t really do a lot of touristy stuff. Sometimes I go into New York on the weekends because it is only a four-hour bus ride. I go see Broadway shows and hang out with friends in the city.
Q: What is your dorm like?
A: Our dorm is pretty nice and clean. It only has four floors, so it’s not huge. There is a kitchen on every floor and several bathrooms. I like it overall, but the rooms are sort of small. We have a dining hall in our dorm.
My dorm is where Hillary Clinton stayed when she went to Wellesley. It is almost a mile from the gym, which kind of sucks, but it’s around a seven-minute walk to classes, which isn’t too bad.
Q: What is the weather like?
A: It’s pretty cold in the winter and warm in the summer and spring. The first snow was exciting, but when I go back next semester, it will be so cold. I actually dislike the humidity a lot more than the cold (though).
Q: Has the college lived up to your expectations so far?
A: I’m definitely super happy here, and it’s a good fit for me. At Wellesley, people either really love it or really hate it, and I definitely love it. Wellesley has surpassed my expectations.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Wellesley?
A: Definitely the political science focus. It has opened my eyes so much to the field. I also really like the history of strong women coming from the years and years of history. It’s really cool to see how powerful women can be.
Q: Least favorite?
A: The food is very different than in California. I miss Mexican food a lot, so that has probably been the weirdest thing. (I am a picky eater.) Other than that I really don’t have a lot of complaints.
Q: What is your advice for the class of 2018?
A: For everyone to realize and take advantage of Country Day and the education offered. (Take advantage of) those small classes and understand how lucky we are to have relationships with our teachers. I miss being able to do a lot of sports and extracurriculars as well, so take advantage of that while you can.
—By Bri Davies