Joanne Tsai, '21, poses in front of the popular bear statue in the Earl Warren College at UCSD. (Photo courtesy of Tsai)

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Joanne Tsai, ’21, joins Taiwanese club, TASA and dance team, Alter Ego, in hopes of making new friends and connections

Joanne Tsai, ’21, attends in-person and online classes at the University of California, San Diego. She is majoring in cognitive science.

Q: Why did you choose UC San Diego? 

A: I was actually deciding if I wanted to go to Boston for BU (Boston University) or if I should stay here and go to UC San Diego. But because I could get credits for the AP’s I took at Country Day and also because I kind of wanted to stay in California,  I ended up going to UCSD. 

Q: Are you attending classes in person or online? 

A: Both. I have one class that is fully online, and the rest are kind of like hybrid classes. So, we can choose if we want to come to class or not. For some classes, there are recordings of the lecture we can watch, and it’s really convenient. As for tests, some will also be online as well. But other than that, we have to wear masks all the time in lecture halls. 

Q: What classes are you taking? 

A: I am currently taking five classes. I’m taking CAT 1, which is basically a writing class, Math 10A (calculus), statistics, a class about the biology and functions of the brain and a gospel choir course.

Q: What is your favorite class? 

A: I really like the brain functions class, and I would say that it’s one of my favorites. I also really like statistics because of my professor. Even though statistics is very hard, she’s really nice and teaches very well. It makes her class the most interesting even though it’s just statistics.

Q: What are you majoring in? 

A: I was majoring in social psychology, but I just switched to cognitive science because social psychology just felt kind of bland to me. I wanted something that includes more science. Psychology involves a lot of theory-based concepts and a lot of memorization. But, cognitive science is more like design and interaction. It’s more technical stuff, and that’s really interesting to me. 

Q: What clubs or extracurriculars are you participating in? 

A: I’ve currently been going to clubs hosted by the United Taiwanese Association and the Taiwanese American Student Association. I joined because I’m Taiwanese, and a club is a place for me to communicate with upperclassmen and other people. So far, we’ve had a few events like the Thanksgiving dinner. I’m also on a dance team called Alter Ego.

Q: What is your housing situation like at UCSD? 

A: I live on campus, and I live in the newest building on campus. It’s a really nice and neat place to live. Literally every single time I tell someone that I live in the new dormitory, they give me this jealous look. We have really nice and clean dorm rooms.  

Q: How is the food at UCSD? 

A: In terms of dining, we don’t have the buffet-style, instead we have this app where we can order beforehand. They rarely change their menus so it’s always the same thing. I typically get burrito bowls and veggies. There are some restaurants on our campus like Starbucks, Subway, Panda Express and Mexican cuisine, so sometimes I go there for dinner.

Q: How has Country Day prepared you for college? 

A: It definitely did in terms of academics. Especially for writing. In junior year, Ms. Bauman’s AP English class had a lot of work and gave me so much stress because I wasn’t the best at writing, but writing comes with practice, and Ms. Bauman gave me that. My writing skills improved so much, and she really helped me with my writing class now for college. Actually, I feel like I’m even kind of ahead of some people who might be native English speakers. So, I’m really thankful to Ms. Bauman for that.

Q: Did you make any freshman mistakes?

A: Yeah, I definitely did. I chose the wrong math professor. I should have gone on “Rate My Professors” and looked up my professors before choosing them. My current professor has a pretty bad rating. He’s smart in math and all, but he doesn’t really know how to teach. The highest grade from our exam is the average grade in the other Math 10A class. The class is just really tough, and the exams are rough in general. 

Q: What is your advice to the class of 2022?

A: Go on “Rate my Professors” and look up your professors before you enroll in their classes. Enroll early because you might not get your professor of choice if you enroll late since a lot of people are trying to get into the good professors’ classes.

  Also, definitely don’t be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone, especially in the first month of college. That’s when no one knows each other yet. Try to make more friends during that time because, then, as time goes by, everyone has their own little groups, and it’s harder to get involved. You should also join clubs, go to school events because you can make friends there.

 In the beginning, I was kind of anxious because of how small Country Day is compared to UCSD. But, over time, I got used to it, and I started enjoying it, the opportunity to go, and meet new people and start socializing.

Five Star or Subpar?
Quality of classes
Student-teacher interaction
Social scene
School spirit

— By Garret Xu

Originally published in the Dec. 14 edition of the Octagon

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