The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Gabrielle is a Kansas City tutor specializing in ACT prep tutoring, History tutoring, Writing tutoring, and more. She graduated from University of Missouri in 2010 where she studied English and History. Check out what she had to say about her alma mater:
VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?
Gabrielle: Campus itself is a contained entity. It takes about fifteen minutes to power walk from one side to the other, but a pretty good number of people like to take bikes around. There are buses that come in from several student apartment complexes and from a commuter parking lot so you don't ever have to bring your car to campus. I definitely wouldn't recommend it - parking garages are pricey and street parking is really hard to find during the day! Downtown Columbia is right next to campus, so you can go get something to eat or study at a coffee shop and be able to walk to class in five to ten minutes.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Gabrielle: In my experience, professors are available if you want them to be. Almost all of them have regular office hours and any time I wanted to go into a professor's office to chat, they were always welcoming and open to the idea. Some academic advisers are more available than others. For example, the History department adviser would always schedule a time to see everyone in the major before you had to sign up for classes but other advisers might only have open hours where you have to wait in line to go see them. Teaching assistants were harder to pin down than professors, for me. They have shorter office hours, but if you do show up while they're in, they are always happy to see you.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Gabrielle: One thing Mizzou has been struggling with lately is large freshman class sizes. There is always enough housing for everyone, but to accommodate everyone they made a deal with some nearby apartment complexes, which means that some freshman live off campus. Some people really like this, but I personally enjoyed dorm life. You have the opportunity to join a FIG (Freshman Interest Group) and/or Learning Community your first year, which means that you can get paired with people who have similar interests, or at least similar majors (which is great when study time hits). Usually only freshmen and sophomores stay in dorms and most students move out to live in apartments by the time they are juniors.
There are a lot of great dining options on campus. A lot of people love going to Plaza 900, which has several different grill options and is usually large enough to fit everyone in it. The Mark Twain dining experience is considered to be the tucked away treasure - which I highly recommend if you are out on campus in the Music building or an Engineering building. A staple of the dining experience is Rollins Pizza To Go, where you can use meal points to buy freshly baked pizzas late at night. Everyone loves that!
Because campus is so big, there is plenty of room to socialize. Any club you could want to be in is probably in existence already and each department and major has its own groups and clubs if you are looking for interests in your area of study.
VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?
Gabrielle: The two most supported schools on campus are Business and Journalism. The Business school is now in this beautiful revamped building, courtesy of some alumni, and it is full of every state of the art anything you could want. Business majors are awarded not only great classrooms, but a lot of opportunities to be mentored by and connect with alumni as well as score internships. The J-School is one of the most prominent public school journalism programs in the country, and it is definitely worth its salt. They recently revamped some of the buildings in this area too. All students get the opportunity to intern with the local newspaper and can pursue just about any direction of journalism they want.
I personally studied English and History. When I left campus, they had just started work on Tate Hall - the English building - to make it more up to date. The History building hasn't been touched in awhile as far as I can tell, and although it definitely holds its charm, it is not the most well funded area on campus. I pursued my course of study purely for love of the subjects and although the departments did not have much support as some others, they did award scholarships annually. Also, my own experience was with fantastic professors in both areas. I had some classes led by the most qualified and interesting professors who loved their subjects and seemed, to me, quite capable of being at a more "exclusive" school. The most important part of school to me was class, so I didn't mind being in older, less technically savvy rooms. The professors definitely made it worthwhile. (As an English major, take a Shakespeare course with Dr. Reed or Dr. Kerwin. Take Civil War history with Dr. Whites or Medieval history with Dr. Huneycutt or History of the Reformation with Dr. Frymire.)
VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?
Gabrielle: I made friends more easily than I feared as a freshman. I was part of a FIG (Honors Humanities) and part of a Learning Community so the people who lived around me were also in some of my classes. The thing about being a freshman is that most other freshmen are also looking to make friends so you tend to drift together. However, I wanted to make sure I had a community that I fit into so I also signed up for marching band before getting to school. I would definitely recommend joining a FIG or thinking about group you want to be a part of before you even get to campus. The first week, I felt like I knew nobody, but a month in I had made friends that are still some of my best friends today.
Greek Life is pretty significant on campus. I had a pretty good number of friends who participated in Greek Life, and they do not fit all the stereotypes you think of when you consider someone in a fraternity or sorority. I should mention, though, they are BUSY. My friends had to do rush week and get the new students initiated, then move onto Homecoming, which is a HUGE deal on Mizzou's campus. We claim that we started Homecoming and the Greek side of life gets really into that idea with floats, house decorations, and a week-long competition with each other. They do multiple blood drives, volunteer hours, and all sorts of things I don't even know about. That being said, if you are not a member of Greek Life, it is still easy to make friends and both groups seem to get along pretty well.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Gabrielle: The Student Support Center is fantastic. They have a great and enthusiastic staff that is always working with and talking to students. We have a business center, which looks at resumes, does mock interviews, and helps students who are looking for jobs for after they graduate. There is also tutoring available on campus for some students. Career Fairs come through Lowry Mall fairly often, and they are catered to different groups of students. So, one week you might have an engineering fair and the next week a business career fair. There isn't a huge market for job fairs in English, but when I walked by I always saw company names that I recognized.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Gabrielle: The main library on campus, Ellis, was my favorite study place. I either sat in the cafe on the ground floor with snacks or made my way up to the third or fourth floors and tucked myself away into a corner. It is amazing how many chairs and tables (and outlets!) are in one building. The other libraries on campus, from what I heard, were also nice and less crowded but I never really had a reason to go to a specialty library.
The student center just got redone and it is beautiful. In addition to a lot food, there is plenty of seating all by huge windows. But you should only study here if you can get work done while listening to people talking, eating, and playing music all around you. Another student common area, Memorial Hall, was another of my favorite places to study. It tends to be a little quieter than the student center and during finals, they set up more tables and chairs in the ballroom areas. In addition to both of these places, there is also a 24 hour computer lab and food court on campus, which was a good place to be when staying up until three in morning.
I never spent much time in dorm lounges for studying. In my experience, people used these lounges to hang out with their friends and watch movies, not to study. The library was definitely my spot of choice, except during finals week. During finals, you might want to consider locking yourself in your room. Every study place on campus mysteriously fills up.
VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus?
Gabrielle: Downtown Columbia is a huge part of campus life. Like I mentioned before, its right on top of campus and walking from class to a restaurant takes no time at all. Local businesses get most of their business from students and really cater to them. There are a number of restaurants specific to town: one of the most popular is the Heidelberg (or "the Berg") which is right across from the J-School. It serves basic bar food and drinks but is a favorite student hangout. Columbia also boasts multiple parks, including the MKT Trail which is a very popular walking/bike trail that goes for miles. I never knew anyone who didn't spend a good amount of their time drifting around downtown Columbia. If you live off campus, this does mean having to arrange rides to get to downtown, but in my experience, downtown was the place to be if you wanted to go somewhere.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Gabrielle: The student body is big, bordering on 30,000 students when including graduate and doctoral students. The underclassmen are numerous and you will never walk through a deserted campus. This does mean big lectures or general education classes. I never had to sit in too many. My biggest class was probably a 200 student gen ed, but by the time I got into major classes, those were all 30 students or less. Some of my friends in other areas of study had consistently bigger classes. Biology lectures, for example, are big even when you are in the more difficult classes.
Any major option, you will have to be in several big lecture classes at some point. I had the pleasure of being in smaller classes and by the time I was in my senior year, I had classes that were 15 students or less and even two courses that were me and a professor one on one. I think that Capstone classes (which you take your senior year to graduate) tend to be smaller in general because they are focused on more specific projects and working directly with a professor.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Gabrielle: I already mentioned several professors but the most memorable class I took was a series of courses through the Honors College. They are Humanities courses that start with the Ancient World, move to Medieval/Renaissance, then to the Early Modern World and end with the Modern World. In each section you read works of fiction and philosophy by authors you've heard of - it is a great way to read all the books you always hear about and never pick up! Each work you read is introduced by a lecture and all the lectures are given by professors who specialize in the subject - Dr. Markie's Descartes lecture is particularly memorable because he runs up to students and shoves his hand in their faces, demanding to know if they see it. After lectures, the next two or three classes are in small discussion sections. These classes were some of my favorites! I read so much that I can now talk about and sound educated and they do such a great job of bringing "boring" books to the forefront.
It was in this course that I got to argue with a professor over whether or not Jane Austen was a valuable author - I claimed yes, he wasn't so sure. This class also offered me the opportunity to listen to the best musical lectures you can hear. Dr. Budds is the most highly anticipated lecturer of the semester.
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The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.