The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Tiffany is a senior at Stony Brook University studying Spanish Language & Literature. She is a New York City tutor who specializes in SAT prep tutoriing, Literature tutoring, Essay Editing tutoring, and more. See what she had to say about her school:
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?
Tiffany: The Stony Brook campus is very large and has a cosmopolitan, mature, and “city-like” feel to it. The student body is extremely diverse, which I love. It seems like almost every country and language in the world is represented here. I feel very safe on campus, and Security is easily contacted and always available. I commute from home via car. In fact, half of the student body also commutes. On campus, there are always buses running that bring students from one area on campus to another (since it’s so vast). And the buses run late, which is convenient.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisors, and teaching assistants?
Tiffany: My professors have always made themselves very available to me, but the Spanish department at Stony Brook is rather small. I’ve heard from my pre-med friends that their Biology professors and such can be hard to contact. But the advising office is open all day long, and you can make appointments with them almost anytime. Some classes have teaching assistants, while others do not. Here, there are lots of tutoring options and a writing center, both in English and for the foreign languages. I tutor at the Spanish Writing Center. I can say that I never felt totally in the dark when I didn’t understand a topic. There is always someone there to help; you just have to reach out and be heard.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Tiffany: I’m a commuter, so I can’t comment on the dorm life here. There are many, many dining options though – Wendy’s, Mexican, Asian, and lots more. Even off campus, dining options are close by and plentiful. Stony Brook University is located right near the LIRR train station, so commuting and traveling is easy. There are also lots of clubs and organizations to join. I’m involved in a few of them, including Sigma Beta Honor Society, which conducts community service events on the island. I transferred from a private school my sophomore year, and I honestly love it here. There are so many opportunities and ways to keep busy.
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?
Tiffany: Stony Brook is renowned for its Premedical, Dental, Computer Science, and other Science programs. I chose to study Spanish because it’s what I’m best at, and I find it to be unbelievably useful in everyday life. I’m glad I chose Spanish as my major. It’s not a common major here, but for that very reason, I was able to get a lot of individual care and one-on-one mentoring. I know all my professors on a first-name basis, which is awesome.
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?
Tiffany: I found it very easy to meet new people, even as a sophomore, but I’m a social creature. Joining clubs and going to campus events is a great way to get out there. Or you can just start talking to people, which is what I do. I’ve made a few friends just by being friendly while sitting on the benches outside. To be honest, whether or not you meet people totally depends on your behavior. Potential friends are everywhere. You just have to get over being shy if you want to enjoy your college experience. And while parties are always fun, you generally won’t meet people who have the same academic interests/passions as you at those sorts of events, so be well-rounded and maybe go to cultural events, too!
I’m happy to say that Greek life does not play a significant role in the social atmosphere of Stony Brook University. Actually, one of the reasons that I left my first school, a small private college in PA, was because I chose not to “go Greek” and felt like an outcast as a result of that choice. That’s so not the case at Stony. Here, there are people of every sort imaginable. There really is no excuse not to find a friend just like you. Jocks, nerds, exchange students, etc. – we’re all here!
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Tiffany: Our Career Center is awesome. They’re currently helping me search for teaching jobs in the states and abroad. They’re very professional, too. I know there are many opportunities for internships here. Stony has an online program called Zebra Net where you can post your resume, and employers can seek you out electronically.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Tiffany: It totally depends on the time of day. Some study areas are always packed, which is why I choose to go to the less-known ones or walk a few flights up the stairs to find a quiet space. There are plenty of places to hide out in; you just have to know which are the hot spots and which aren’t. Stony Brook has a lot of computers for student use, though.
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?
Tiffany: Stony Brook, NY itself is not a big, hopping town. There are little strips with restaurants, bars, and other establishments, but I would say that most students travel elsewhere for “real” fun or stay on campus. Once again, it’s a different experience for me as a commuter. But since the train station is so close to campus (and it actually is located right on the outskirts of campus), traveling is made easy.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Tiffany: The student body here is absolutely huge, yet I’m always running into people I know on campus. Some of my classes were large (like Anthropology – 200+ students), while some were very small (less than 20 students). It depends on the type of class it is. Math and Science classes (Bio, Physics, Calculus, etc.) are generally much larger here. But I feel like the classes get smaller the farther along you get in your degree track – i.e., the more specialized the classes are.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Tiffany: My favorite class of all time was Spanish 393 – Introduction to Spanish linguistics. The professor was Jose Elias-Ulloa, an incredible man. This class made me realize that I want to return to Stony Brook for graduate school, and that my calling in life is linguistics. He and I are still in touch. I’ve had a few bad experiences here, but they are truly insignificant in comparison with all the good ones. I love Stony Brook. I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything. My advice to new and prospective college students is this: get to know your professors on a personal level, build and maintain good relationships, and be friendly and kind to people. You’re going to need references someday. And if you have a 4.0 GPA, but nobody can speak about you as a person, you’re going to face some serious problems in the professional world.
Check out Tiffany’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.