University of Michigan: A Student Interview

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Brendan received a Bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern and North African Studies and a Master’s in Modern Middle Eastern and North African Studies  from University of Michigan. He is currently a tutor in Chicago specializing in history tutoring, french tutoring, math tutoring, and several other subjects. See what he had to say about his experience at University of Michigan:

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?

Brendan: The University of Michigan does have an urban feel, as the city of Ann Arbor grew up around the school. However, that urban feel is not overwhelming. One always feels as if there is something to do, but without the fast-paced environment of a major city. As for transportation, Ann Arbor has an excellent bus system, although many students prefer walking or riding their bikes. However, for those who prefer to drive, it is rather difficult to find a parking space.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Brendan: The teaching assistants always make a point of telling students at the start of the semester when their office hours are, as do the professors. It is usually easier, however, to schedule a meeting with teaching assistants than it is with professors, although professors with smaller classes have more time to meet with students. It is also rather difficult to meet with academic advisers, solely because they are assigned so many students.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Brendan: Generally, the dorms on campus were clean and well maintained. The dining halls were also quite nice. Finally, most dorms were located close to the main lecture halls, although the dorms on North Campus were quite far and rather isolated.

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?

Brendan: All of the major programs were well represented. My undergraduate and graduate majors were Middle Eastern and North African Studies (MENAS) and Modern Middle Eastern and North African Studies (MMENAS), respectively. I chose to study the Middle East because of my long-standing desire to serve our country. As a whole, the University of Michigan did a good job of supporting my area of study.

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?

Brendan: As a freshman, it was quite easy for me to meet people and make friends. I made friends by simply interacting with others in my hall and by joining a running club. However, I knew many people who made the majority, if not all, of their friends through the University of Michigan’s very prominent Greek system.  

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Brendan: The Career Center is generally quite helpful. I knew several students who the Career Center found lucrative jobs for. Although there were recruiting events, I did not attend any. As a result, I cannot say which specific companies recruited on campus.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Brendan: The libraries were usually the best places to study on campus. Although I both worked and studied in several libraries, my favorite was the law library. It was very quiet, open late, and the staff was quite friendly. In fact, I was on a first-name basis with the security guard, Filmore, by the time I finished graduate school. The same, however, cannot be said of the dorm lounges or student union. They were crowded and very noisy. Such an atmosphere is not at all conducive to studying.

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? 

Brendan: The University of Michigan is the center of Ann Arbor, so to go downtown all one has to do is walk down the street. Even though Ann Arbor is smaller than cities like Detroit or Chicago, there was always quite a lot to do. There were many good restaurants, movie theaters, coffee shops, stores, etc.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Brendan: The student body is very large. There are usually between 30,000 and 40,000 students during the year. During both my undergraduate and graduate careers, I had large and small classes. Although I did not mind the larger classes, I found the smaller ones more engaging.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Brendan: My fondest memory from college occurred during the second semester of my sophomore year. That semester, I had an Anthropology class that focused on the Middle East. For one class session, we were to read a few Bedouin folk stories from Saudi Arabia. One of the stories was known as “The ‘Adwani and the Sbayhi.” When Professor Andrew Shryock called on me to discuss the story, I was able to recite it in its entirety. Everyone in the room, including Professor Shryock, was impressed. Indeed, later that day Professor Shryock sent me an email in which he referred to me as, “Young Bedouin Master.”

Check out Brendan’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.