The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach—they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Erica is a Miami tutor specializing in French tutoring, geometry tutoring, writing tutoring, and a number of other areas. She is currently a sophomore at the University of Miami majoring in computer science and studio art. See what she had to share about the University of Miami:
Describe the campus setting and transportation options.
Erica: The campus architecture is non-traditional, but beautiful. All of the buildings have a new, very modern design, and there is a lake at the center of campus. The atmosphere is very calm and laid-back. I would call the setting suburban. The campus is within 10 miles of Miami proper, but the immediate surrounding area is an affluent suburb. The campus is incredibly safe. The campus gates close at midnight each night, and they require you to swipe an ID for entry. Each dorm building has multiple levels of security, and students must swipe in two separate times to enter after 10:00 p.m. I have never felt remotely afraid walking by myself on campus, even in the late night or early morning. There are free campus shuttle buses, but their schedule is somewhat irregular, and I have never used them. I have a bike, and I personally feel that it is necessary to use it. I do not use a car, and I do not feel that it is needed. The train station is across the street from campus, and Metrorail is a very fast way to get around the city. It takes about 15 minutes to get from campus to downtown Miami. The Metrobus also stops at the train station, and it is a good way to get around the more immediate area.
How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants at University of Miami?
Erica: My professors have generally been fairly available, as well as willing to speak after class or during office hours. I have had only a few professors who were difficult to contact. The availability of advisers seems to vary—it is easy to meet with my scholarship adviser and my College of Arts and Sciences adviser, but I have only communicated with my designated adviser for my major via email. This is somewhat less than ideal, but students are provided with several advisers, so it is likely that they will be able to meet with at least one regularly. The teaching assistants for my major have always been very available and helpful, perhaps more so than some professors. There are many free tutoring centers in the various schools and departments where teaching assistants are on duty to help students.
How would you describe the dorm life—rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Erica: The rooms are a bit small and cramped, and the freshman dorms look very institutional, but this seems standard for most universities. Freshman dorms have resident assistants who coordinate floor activities that are good opportunities for socialization. I personally did not take part in these very often. Freshman dorms are separated by gender, but new incoming classes should have the option of gender-inclusive housing. Dining halls are very conveniently located right outside the dorms. Freshmen are required to purchase a meal plan, which I strongly disliked. The dining halls are of decent quality, but very lacking in vegan options. They are either buffet-style dine-in or takeout, but the takeout has very strict rules and limits.
Which majors/programs are best represented and supported?
Erica: The University of Miami is a very medicine-oriented school. I believe the university specializes in public health. Most of the popular majors are pre-med, like biology and chemistry. The University of Miami also has a good marine science school located on a different campus. It is a good school for the life sciences, and I am double majoring in computer science and studio art with minors in math and public health. The university is not known for its computer science program, but I have found the department to be excellent. The computer science faculty are all very knowledgeable and talented with impressive backgrounds. The art programs are lacking. Classes are designed with non-majors in mind, and most of the people taking them are taking them as electives. It is difficult to get access to a lot of the facilities, and they are small and do not have a lot of supplies or equipment available to students. The art program here is not well known, and I would not recommend it.
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?
Erica: The student body here is homogenous, honestly, and a majority is very wealthy. I felt alienated on campus at first, but as the year progressed, I found it fairly easy to make friends. The University of Miami is large, so you will inevitably find friends. Greek life is big here, but it is not something I really take part in.
How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services at University of Miami?
Erica: The Career Center is well-staffed and holds a lot of events, as well as offers services like free resume editing. There are several job fairs every year as well, with prominent national companies coming in to recruit. From what I can see, quite a few University of Miami graduates go on to be placed in reputable, brand-name jobs right out of college. I have not made extensive use of other student support services. I will say that there are not a lot of resources available at the University of Miami for LGBTQ students, something that I hope will change.
How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges?
Erica: The library and student center are large and well-lit. They are excellent places to study. There are several coffee shops around campus, and with the beautiful Miami weather, plenty of outdoor study spaces. Freshman dorm lounges are pretty small and often crowded, but there is no shortage of other places to study. The library and student center are readily available during the daytime, and they close at 2:00 a.m. except during finals. People can be found studying outside at all hours.
Describe the surrounding town at University of Miami.
Erica: The surrounding town of Coral Gables is a suburb, mostly residential with some malls and shops. The neighboring suburban area of Coconut Grove has a strip called CocoWalk with many bars, restaurants, and shops that many students frequent. Many students also go to Miami’s financial district, Brickell, for nightlife. Coral Gables and Coconut Grove are somewhat boring. I often ended up venturing downtown for events. Downtown Miami has plenty of things to do, and it is full of shops, museums, and parks. The Wynwood Art District has many galleries that open to the public every second Saturday. Miami has a thriving electronic music scene, as well as an underground music scene.
How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Erica: The student body is reasonably large, with most classes averaging 15-20 students, except for lectures. I was generally pleased with the class sizes. Art classes in studios are smaller, with less than 10 students each. Lectures can get quite large, with as many as 150 students. I did not like this so much, as these classes felt very impersonal. Most of my other classes had fewer than 30 students each.
Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Erica: I took a survey course in modern art history, a subject I was very interested in. The professor was deeply knowledgeable and willing to stay after almost every class to speak with me. He gave me an incredible amount of confidence in my ability to analyze and speak about art, and he encouraged me to seek out avenues for pursuing this, leading me to find work in galleries in the Miami area, and to incorporate the theory I was learning into my own artistic practice. I am extremely grateful for this professor who not only did not write off my dual interests in art and digital/computer-based media, but actually pushed me to dive into them further both creatively and curatorially.
Check out Erica’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.