Becca Waterson and her housemates do a mock photo-shoot in the front yard of the house they are renting. (Photo courtesy of Waterson)

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Becca Waterson, ’20, swims in San Diego while attending classes asynchronously at Brown University

Becca Waterson, ’20, has yet to decide her major at Brown University. She is leaning toward computer science, literary arts or both.

Q: Why did you choose to attend Brown University?

A: Honestly, there are so many reasons. I was in love with the open curriculum, and when I first stepped foot on campus, I just absolutely loved it. The swim team was fantastic, and everyone was super sweet on the recruiting trip. 

Q: Why are you leaning toward a computer science or literary arts major?

A: When I first watched Moana, I remember thinking how badly I wanted to work for an animation company. My drawing skills definitely need a lot of work, so obviously not working in the drawing department, but I think it would be so cool to develop software or work on writing stories for different production companies. So, that experience kind of drove me in this direction.

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: For the fall semester, freshmen were given the entire semester off except for one optional class. So, last semester I only had one class, which was a computer science class. Now, I have a full course load, which includes a computer science class, a math class, a first-year seminar about music and an English course. 

Q: Are all of your classes synchronous?

A: No, only my first-year seminar is entirely synchronous. My English class is completely asynchronous. My math class is also asynchronous except for the optional recitation sections on Thursdays. My computer science class is optionally synchronous. Effectively, that means that anyone who wants to attend synchronously can, but all lectures are recorded for people who can’t make it. Only the lab sections are required to be attended synchronously.

Q: How are your professors over remote learning?

A: I would prefer to have my computer science course in person just because it’s so much easier to talk to someone about code when you’re actually in the same room as them, but I think all of my teachers have made it work very well.

  Of all my teachers, my English teacher definitely does the best job. His class is probably the coolest class I’ve ever taken, even though it is entirely asynchronous. It’s called Fantastic Places, Unhuman Humans: Exploring Humanity Through Literature, and the professor has set it up like an adventure. Basically, every reading assignment or writing piece is called a quest, and you have to make your way through different realms. Even the course website looks like a map. It’s very clear he loves what he’s doing, and it makes the class very enjoyable.

Q: How do you feel about your first year of college being on Zoom?

A: I’ll be honest, it kind of feels like I skipped going to college and moved right on to something else. Since I am not in a dorm, I have to worry about paying rent and other adult-type worries. That said, I have had a really positive experience, so I think I made the right choice staying remote.

Q: How was your transition to college?

A: I think I have managed it pretty well. It was definitely harder during the fall semester, but that was not due to any lack of preparation. My computer science class was synchronous and had a lot of group projects, but my partner lived in Taiwan. The time difference was a lot because I had to stay up really late and he had to wake up really early, but we made it work. Since most of my classes are now asynchronous, that is no longer an issue. The classes that are synchronous have made a point of dividing students into groups based on their timezones, instead of just randomizing them.

Q: As a swimmer, how have you been continuing to practice off campus?

A: I heard about an opportunity to train in San Diego from another Brown swimmer. It is called Coronado Swim Team-Team Elite, but we jokingly call it the West Coast Ivy League. The team is comprised of most of the members from the Harvard swim team, a few people from Columbia, someone from Princeton, and a number of other students from different colleges on the East Coast, all of whom are asynchronous. We live separately in apartments, but we all come together to practice. 

Q: Have you considered joining any clubs at Brown?

A: I have been thinking about it, but I am waiting until I get back on campus to join anything because of the time difference. There is a super cool club that I really want to join once I’m on campus called “The Brown Screenwriting Collective.” Right now, their schedule conflicts with practice, so I can’t go, but once I am back, I definitely will.

Q: How have you been spending your time outside of school?

A: Swimming takes up a lot of my time, so when I am not in the pool, I am usually doing classwork. When I first arrived in San Diego though, I did a bit of exploring. A group of us went out surfing together, and there were quite a few sunrise and sunset adventures. Sadly, I cannot do too much of that anymore, but I’ve still been having fun.

Q: Do you think Country Day prepared you well for college?

A: Absolutely. All of my classes taught me so much, particularly Mr. Mangold’s AP Calculus BC and Great Books classes. Since I’m taking Math 100 right now, we go over a lot of the same concepts, so my notes have come in handy. Additionally, everything we did in his Great Books class has come up in some way, shape or form in my English course. As a result, I have been able to pull on a lot of different things from that, which has been amazing. I have even been getting A’s on all of my papers thus far, which I definitely think has a lot to do with how well Mr. Hinojosa prepared us.

Q: Do you have any advice for the class of 2021?

A: I think so many people say this, but I cannot stress the importance of going to office hours enough. Whether it’s with a TA or the professor, it is so helpful in developing relationships. You never know if you will have a professor or TA again, so it will be so beneficial in the long run.

Brown University
Quality of classes
Student-teacher interactions
School spirit

— By Simone DeBerry

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