The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Ariana is earning her bachelor’s degree in English at Vanderbilt University. She is currently a tutor in Washington D.C. specializing in college essays, editing, writing, and several other subjects. See what she had to say about her experience at Vanderbilt University:
VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or rural is the campus? Did you feel safe on campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?
Ariana: Vanderbilt has a gorgeous campus with such a large variety of plants and trees native to Tennessee that it qualifies as an arboretum. Although Vanderbilt is only a quick drive from downtown Nashville, it is self-contained and I’ve always felt safe on campus. Since nearly all of the students live on campus, walking is the most popular form of transportation, and having a bike or car is not a necessity. There are also small buses (nicknamed the “Vandy Vans”) that transport students around the perimeter of the campus from 5 p.m.-5 a.m. daily.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Ariana: In my experience, the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants have been very willing to help. Even my larger classes have had professors who made themselves available to their students in any way they can! For example, the professor for my huge Intro to Neuroscience class gave us her cell phone number in case we had any last-minute questions before the tests. My Communications 101 professor even hosted the entire class over at her house for dessert to celebrate the end of the semester! Although I have had less contact with academic advisers and teaching assistants than professors, they have been eager and prompt in their responses when I have had questions.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Ariana: At Vanderbilt, all freshmen live on The Commons, a small community of dorms with their own student center and dining hall, and upperclassmen live on Main Campus. I have found both of my dorm rooms so far to be spacious, and the dorm to be clean and relatively quiet. The dining options are plentiful and include the aforementioned freshman dining hall, the Main Campus dining hall, a kosher vegan café, a small pho restaurant, a salad and pizza restaurant, a pub, and several to-go markets. The dorms do provide social activities in the form of RA-led house events, but the students themselves initiate most socialization.
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?
Ariana: Some of the most popular majors at Vanderbilt are economics, political science, mathematics, English, and psychology. After brief stints as a music major and a cognitive studies major, I settled on an English major with a creative writing concentration. I decided to major in English and creative writing because of the rich discussions in our literature classes and the phenomenal poets who guide our poetry workshops. Vanderbilt supports the English department through a number of writing-based events, such as the Writing Symposium, which gives undergraduates a chance to present their writing in an academic conference setting, and the Visiting Writers Series, which brings well-known writers to give free readings on campus.
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?
Ariana: It was fairly easy for me to meet people and make friends as a freshman. Vanderbilt really tries to get freshmen to feel at home through initiatives such as the required freshman seminar, a small class on a specialized topic just for freshmen, and the VUcept groups, a mixed group of about 15 freshmen that meets once a week during the first semester to talk about everything from dorm life to political issues. Extracurricular groups are another popular way to make friends, and I have also made many friends from my classes, especially the smaller ones. Greek life is prevalent on campus with about half of the student body participating, but I am not Greek and I have not felt that it inhibits my social life at all.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Ariana: I have not been to the Career Center yet, but it has been helpful to many of my friends, and I’m sure I will make a visit before I leave Vanderbilt. Other free student services at Vanderbilt include The Writing Studio, peer tutoring, the Psychological Counseling Center (PCC), Student Health, and the rec center. Taking advantage of these helpful services has definitely improved my experience at Vanderbilt. I honestly don’t know which companies recruit because I’d imagine that would apply more to seniors who aren’t planning to go to graduate school, which I am.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Ariana: I normally study in my room, so I will admit that I don’t have extensive experience with other study spaces, but I do know that there are multiple spacious libraries spread out across campus. When I have been to the libraries to do research or meet for a group project, I have always been able to find space to do so, and I have enjoyed being able to pop into the Peabody and Central Library cafes for a quick cup of coffee or a treat!
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?
Ariana: Vanderbilt’s location in Nashville is one of the most alluring things about it. There are many fun events on campus, but students do venture into Nashville a fair amount. I could spend this entire interview talking about activities in Nashville, but I will limit myself to two of my favorites: going to musical events and sampling restaurants. Nashville is considered to be Country Music City, and rightly so, but it is musically and artistically interesting outside of country music. In my first two years at Vanderbilt, I have enjoyed seeing classical music at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, indie and pop at the Grand Ole Opry, and bluegrass at the Station Inn. As with country music, Nashville is known for its replenishing southern food, but it also has every type of restaurant imaginable from award winning Thai food to hip vegan cafes. Rather than staving off boredom, I have always found more interesting events to go to (on campus and off) than I possibly could have the time to attend!
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Ariana: There are about 7,000 undergraduates at Vanderbilt. I think it is an ideal size—just small enough to feel comfortable and personal, just big enough to have some anonymity and all the resources you need. I have been quite pleased with class sizes overall, although it does depend greatly upon major. Psychology and science intro classes can be as large as 100-200 students, while many humanities seminars and education classes can be as small as 20, or even five students. In general, freshman and sophomore classes are larger, and the last two years are more specialized and bring smaller classes.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Ariana: I had a memorable experience with a professor during my first semester sophomore year in my Latino(a) Literature class. For a class assignment, I wrote a poem from the perspective of Joy Castro, an author we read that semester. My professor sent the poem to Ms. Castro, whom she was friends with, and I received an eloquent and emotional response from her, which was such an honor for me. I am very grateful for both my professor’s generosity and the existence of this type of opportunity at Vanderbilt.
Check out Ariana’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.