Born and raised in San Diego, CA, Andrew is a graduate of the Preuss School UCSD. A psychology major who’s pursuing a minor in Chicano/a-Latino/a Studies, Andrew has taught pre-school children through the Jumpstart program and backpacked and kayaked with first-year students around Catalina Island! In a candid interview, Andrew talks about his college search, the Pitzer experience, and studying abroad in Parma, Italy!
Tell me about your college search experience.
The first time I ever heard about Pitzer was when one of the admission counselors visited my high school. I had already heard about the Claremont Colleges since Pomona had visited the week before. My counselor told me that Pitzer would be a good school for me, so I attended the presentation. The Pitzer representative told me that Pitzer was located near Los Angeles, and that it offered good financial aid packages. Pitzer is located only two hours away from my hometown of San Diego, so it’s relatively close, but far enough away so that I could learn how to grow up by myself. That’s how it started. With Pitzer in mind, I learned more about how the Claremont Colleges worked, and I felt like the Consortium was a unique idea that seemed to work well. Once I got the big orange “Welcome to Pitzer” packet, I was really excited! When I participated in the Diversity Program, I got to meet other students who wanted me to come here. Everything they said has held true, and I’m really glad I made the decision to attend Pitzer!
What was your high school experience like?
I went to a small charter high school that was designed for students to enter the UC system – the school was even part of UC San Diego’s campus. The college counselors gave us a lot of attention, and really held our hands through the college application process. I did well in a small high school, so I thought I would do well in a small academic setting in college. Throughout high school, I was involved in lots of sports, including soccer, lacrosse and cross country. Sports have always been a big part of my life – they’ve taught me how to work together with other people on a team, and how to be a leader within a group. Since arriving at Pitzer, I’ve tried to get involved in something new every year. I feel like the more things you do, the more the college experience is worth. Going to a small school gives you lots of options and avenues to learn how to help your own community, which is very important to me.
What was is that convinced you to attend Pitzer?
Besides the omelets in McConnell Dining Hall (which are delicious), it was the student body. I stayed with a buddy of mine when I visited campus, and he told me a lot about the school. I saw how the students interacted with each other, and I met a lot of people from the other Claremont Colleges. I just got an overwhelmingly friendly vibe! I knew that I was welcome, even as a prospective student. People didn’t judge me, and honestly, Pitzer felt like a safe space. Growing up in the Latino community, family is a big thing, and family was something I automatically felt at Pitzer. It made me feel comfortable right away, which in turn made my transition much easier.
Speaking of transitions, what was your transition to Pitzer like?
I would have to say it was a little rough at first. I don’t know what my expectations of college were, but I knew it was going to be a little different being away from home and not knowing a lot of people. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who didn’t look like me. I felt like an outsider at first, but little by little I realized that our student body is very diverse. We’re all different enough so that it works out in the end. Students shared stories about how they grew up, what they did in high school and what they wanted to do now. From that experience, I realized that I had a really unique story to share, and that’s when I started feeling more comfortable with the student body. One of the advantages of going to a small school is that you can always ask for help, and someone is always willing to give it.
What advice would you give other students about the freshman year transition?
You end up learning a lot about yourself during that first year. I think it’s important to realize that you need to slow down. Not everything needs to happen by the next day. It’s a little scary, to be honest, because there are lots of things going on, and you want to do everything. During my first year, I learned what it took to succeed. For example, I learned that I needed to have a certain amount of sleep each night in order to function normally. I started getting up for breakfast every day, and that made a huge improvement in my life! You learn little things like that during your freshman year, and you need extra time to gauge your surroundings and figure out what you need to do to be successful. Every year I come back to Pitzer, I have another new realization about myself.
What are some of the memorable courses you’ve taken during your time at Pitzer?
I’m a psychology major, and while I’ve enjoyed the vast majority of my psychology courses, I feel like the courses you take outside of your major are sometimes the ones you enjoy the most. I took a sociology course called Exploring Urban Landscapes with Professor Anthony Francoso, where we looked at city spaces and analyzed issues of social equality. We explored Los Angeles, took pictures, created PowerPoint presentations and then showed the class what we saw. Psychology of the Chicano/a was a really cool course because there’s a much smaller sample size within academic literature when it comes to minorities. Having a professor like Raymond Buriel, who’s a pioneer in the field, was awesome! He was able to teach us how the field has evolved from the 1930s. When I was in Italy, I asked him for a scale to measure language proficiency and usage, and he e-mailed one to me the very next day! I’ve also taken Human Sexuality with Professor Ralph Bolton, who’s a world-renowned sex anthropologist. I learned so much! The neat thing about the Consortium is that you can take lots of different, really cool courses throughout the Claremont Colleges.
What made you decide to study abroad in Parma, Italy through the Pitzer in Italy program?
I’d never had the opportunity to travel growing up, so I wanted to take advantage of Pitzer’s study abroad programs. I wanted to do something different – I wanted to go somewhere where I wouldn’t be comfortable and learn a new language. I grew so much as a person! The academics were awesome…I learned about a new country, its history, the culture and the language. The most beneficial part of studying abroad was the challenge of getting acclimated to a new place that’s completely different from what you’re used to. That was where I was the most challenged. I think it’s important for Pitzer students to have these experiences. Everyone has to learn how to live in the real world.
What is your favorite memory of Pitzer thus far?
Honestly, there are so many good ones! Through Pitzer Outdoor Adventures, I went with a group of friends to Joshua Tree National Park. Pitzer not only gave us the camping gear, they paid for the gas, too! 15 people went on that three-day trip. We explored the desert, made campfires every night and listened to blaring music! Everyone worked together to make the trip comfortable, and it was a really fun experience.
What led you to participate in Pitzer’s Orientation Adventures for incoming freshmen?
Pitzer uses its Orientation Adventures to give first-year students a sneek-peek at what Pitzer has to offer in terms of community building opportunities. Thinking back to my freshman orientation trip, most of the close friends I have now were members of that group! When I led my Orientation Adventure trip this past year to Catalina Island, it was an amazing experience, not just in terms of what I saw, but being a leader and helping the freshmen get over that scary hump of freshman year. I took it upon myself to educate them about what they should expect, and what they needed to do in order to be successful. It was really neat to tell them the things I wish someone had told me as a freshman. The Orientation Adventures speak volumes about Pitzer’s student body. We give students attention, and share our experiences with one another. That’s something that makes me feel positive about the way Pitzer functions.
What are your plans after graduation?
As a result of my study abroad experience, I’ve gotten the urge to explore the world a little bit more. I was in Europe for four months, but only saw three countries. I got to know those countries pretty well, but now I want to see more. I would like to apply for some fellowships, possibly Fulbright, that will allow me to do my own psychology research in another country. If not research, I’d like to teach English somewhere in Latin America…I want to get back to my own roots and get to know Latin American better. Graduate school is also on my mind. UC San Diego has great research facilities, especially in the psychology field.
What advice do you have for prospective students who are considering Pitzer?
You need to ask questions about what you’re getting yourself into. Talk to current students or alumni, and ask yourself what you think you can contribute to Pitzer. Put yourself in the shoes of a Pitzer student, and try to see what you can get out of this experience. And remember, you’re going to get admitted to and rejected from lots of different colleges. You will end up where you need to be, so don’t stress about the process. Enjoy it, and learn from your undergraduate experience, because it is unlike any other experience out there!