FRESHMAN FOCUS: By taking summer class, Ulises Barajas, ’18, could ‘get to know’ Boston

Ulises Barajas, '18, and some of his new friends from college went to Cambridge, Mass. Barajas said that this photo of them at a mural was taken on his friend's Polaroid camera. (Photo used by permission of Barajas)

Ulises Barajas, ’18, attends Boston University (BU). He plans to get a dual degree in the Questrom School of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences. Currently, he’s an international relations (IR) major.

Q: Why do you want to pursue a dual degree?

A: I’m currently an international relations major, and I’m really enjoying it. At first I thought I was going to major in Asian Studies, (but I) decided to take an intro to IR class, and now my major’s IR.

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: I’m in fourth-semester French, third-semester Japanese, intro to IR and The Memoir – my writing course.

Q: Do you have a favorite class?

A: One of my favorites is The Memoir class because (we’re studying) such good books. Each class, we have discussion, and there are an endless amount of topics.

We’re reading “The Ticking is the Bomb,” which is about a man who, after his mom commits suicide, feels lost. It’s so interesting.

My professor has also written his own novels, and one was turned into a movie on Netflix called “Hold the Dark.” In class, he was like, “Yeah … Netflix paid for my home,” and we all just started laughing.

His approach to writing is not something I experienced at Country Day. For example, a conclusion no longer summarizes what your whole paper is about – it’s leading into something else and showing that there’s more you can talk about.

My strangest class is French just because I’m used to having a vocab list (in the textbook), but the teacher doesn’t use one. None of the romance languages use one. Our class is all based on discussions, and we can only use (words) we know right now, so it’s up to us to learn new vocab by ourselves.

Ulises Barajas, ’18 (back row, far right) and his friends make the letters “B” and “U” – the abbreviation for Boston University – with their hands. (Photo used by permission of Barajas)

Q: What’s your workload for your classes?

A: For my IR class, I have 80 pages per week to read, and for Japanese, I have 88 vocab words to memorize, and I have to learn six grammar points, and I have a vocab and kanji quiz every week and a test every other week.

In my Intro to IR class, my entire grade is two midterms, one exam and one essay.

Q: How big are your classes?

A: Three of my classes have 18 (students). The only big class is Intro to IR. There are about 120 students, and it’s lecture style, but we have discussions each Friday where a TA focuses on what the professor taught us that week.

And it’s really easy to go to office hours, which I really appreciate.

Q: Are you in any clubs or extracurriculars?

A: I’m in the Mexican Students Association, where people of Mexican descent meet up and promote Mexican culture around campus. We’re going to be doing an event for Day of the Dead. We’re making an altar at the GSU (George Sherman Union, the student union building).

And I’m in MEXAS (Mexican Students Association at Boston University). We help high school students who are from Mexico – we help them with the college process. We’re going to do Facebook video calls with them, and they’re going to send us emails if they ever have questions.

Another club I joined was Asia BU. For IR, we choose a specific track, and mine is Asia. So for Asia BU, it’s the Asian Studies Initiative at BU, and basically my position is cultural ambassador for Japan. I help with events that center around Japan. That club meets mostly to discuss Asia and celebrate Asian culture. It’s a lot of fun.

But my favorite club is probably Badminton Club. Around 300 students signed up for it – it’s one the most popular clubs at BU. Tryouts are next month, and I’m going to be trying out for the team. Our team was number one on the East Coast last year, so we’re actually really good.

Q: What was it like taking a Japanese class at BU over the summer?

A: It was such a good start to get to know Boston. I don’t have as much time (now) as I did over the summer, when I could hang out with friends.  

I knew a lot of the material, but the class improved my speaking skills. My professor forced me to speak so much, and now I’m for sure in the intermediate level.

Q: Would you recommend doing that?

A: Definitely. You have fewer classes, so you can explore the area and meet new people from around the world. I met people from the Middle East, China, Japan, and I have a friend who’s going to George Washington (University), and I still keep in touch with her all the time.

I wanted to discover Boston myself and make sure I transitioned well into the city. Most of my friends don’t know much of Boston because we’re so busy with academics now, but I really got to know where the good food in Boston is. Everyone I’ve met says that I know where the good food is.

Q: How do you get around campus?

A: I mostly walk just because I love to walk around here. Boston’s the number-one most walkable city in America, and I really believe that. But if I’m not walking, I take the T (Boston’s subway).

Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes?

A: I haven’t, but my roommate has. He was walking around campus, and he lost his key to his dorm, which is $120 to replace.

Thankfully, someone found it on campus and put in the lost and found.

Ulises Barajas, ’18 (far right, front row) snaps a selfie at an cultural appreciation event. According to Barajas, flags of every country were on display and represented in some way. (Photo used by permission of Barajas)

Q: Speaking of roommates, what’s your living situation like?

A: I thought I was going to be in Warren Towers, which is the second-biggest dormitory in the U.S. It houses a thousand-something students. But for some reason me and my roommate were placed into the honors college on the honors floor, even though we’re not honors students, which is why we’re very confused. But we’re very thankful because we have a private bathroom instead of a communal bathroom.

We have three other suitemates in another room. We get along very well – we even have dinner all together sometimes. It’s really nice.

I’m (also) next to the nicest dining hall on campus, so that’s a plus.

Q: Is there anything you don’t like?

A: Laundry is $1.75 for washing and another $1.75 for drying. That’s what most people complain about.

And the BU shuttle isn’t very fast, but luckily most of my classes are close by.

Q: How was your transition?

A: The first week of school was a little bit weird because I wasn’t used to so much homework. Everyone felt the pressure. I had 88 words to memorize (and) 80 pages to read for (just) two classes. It was a bit overwhelming.

But after the first week, I definitely transitioned well and felt like I could handle the work.

Q: Do you have any advice for the class of 2019?

A: Don’t procrastinate. That was something I did in high school a lot, but here, no one procrastinates for the most part. At top universities, everyone’s so smart, so you can’t slack off like you did in high school. This is where it really counts.

Five-star or subpar?

Food: ☆☆☆☆☆

School spirit: ☆☆☆☆☆

Location: ☆☆☆☆☆

Clubs: ☆☆☆☆☆

Student-teacher interaction: ☆☆☆☆☆

—By Allison Zhang

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