Bruin 101: Struggles and Growth
(Katelyn Dang/Illustrations director)
In this episode of “Bruin 101,” a Daily Bruin podcast about life at UCLA, Podcasts contributors Rosie McGowan, Wendy Minn, Crystal Woo and Kyla Ventura discuss challenges they have faced at UCLA and how they have grown as a result.
Kyla Ventura: Hello, and welcome to “Bruin 101”, a Daily Bruin podcast that is made by Bruins for Bruins. In this series, we hope to help students and prospective students learn about and adapt to UCLA by providing insight into the school, sharing helpful tips and discussing concerns.
KV: Congratulations to the UCLA Class of 2022. We are so proud of all of you and can’t wait to see what you do as alumni. My name is Kyla Ventura, and I’m a Podcast contributor. Today I am here with my fellow Podcast contributors.
Rosie McGowan: Hi, my name is Rosie.
Crystal Woo: Hi, my name is Crystal.
Wendy Minn: Hi, my name is Wendy.
KV: Today we’ll be talking about challenges we have faced adjusting to college life and UCLA and how we feel we have overcome them.
KV: Personally, I feel like I’m alone a lot more often. I think that has to do with adulting and independence. And I don’t think I had ever had a meal by myself. And now I’m eating by myself all the time. I don’t know if anybody can relate to that.
WM: I’d say I had the exact opposite experience at home. I had a room to myself. But here, I’m in a deluxe triple. And it’s just different having someone there constantly, as well as just the sheer number of people at the school. I mean, I came from a somewhat big high school with 3,000. But the number of people here and class sizes are— don’t exactly compare.
RM: Yeah, I come from a big family. So I had a lot of my meals with my siblings and my parents. And now there are some weekends where my roommates will go home and I go to the dining hall, and it’s weird to eat by yourself sometimes. But it’s definitely an adjustment. And I feel like sometimes when I have to eat by myself, I like to FaceTime someone or also just go on my phone. And then also a lot of times, if you sit close to someone, everyone is really friendly. And if you see someone else sitting by themselves, they would probably be open to a conversation.
CW: Yeah, I definitely relate to that a lot. Because I feel like since coming to college it’s so different from high school in that we have to maybe walk to class alone, eat alone, spend time alone, study alone. Even though we may have friends with the same schedule, it is really hard to align something with everyone’s schedule. So being alone and doing things alone might be the most efficient thing to do. And for me personally, I actually get a lot of alone time. And I really enjoy it as an introvert because being able to eat alone means just time away from just talking to people or even just thinking, and just being able to be in my own world and just think alone. Especially going back to my room with my roommates, I feel like, I like being surrounded by people, but at the same time, it is hard to kind of constantly think of conversations or feel the need to just be around people.
WM: Do you guys feel like you guys have changed in terms of reaching out to people? Like, are you guys more, I guess assertive than maybe you were in the past? Because I feel like that’s definitely changed for me. Like in the past, I never would have thought of reaching out to someone over text, even if we have the same common interest, but it seems so natural now.
KV: Yeah, definitely. Especially because you could sit next to someone and then never see them again. So having to keep going back and like, “Oh, do you want to get lunch?” and then putting yourself out there, and I don’t think I’ve ever had to do that before. And everyone has different lunchtimes and schedules. So that’s also important.
RM: I completely agree, especially as an out-of-state student. A lot of weekends my roommates go home. And because I get a lot of my meals with them, I was kind of forced on a lot of weekends to think, “Wow, I’m really alone.” So I do need to reach out to people. And it definitely made me go out of my shell. Especially because when I was in high school, I stuck mainly to my friends that I’d known since birth practically. So now having to reach out to new people, especially if you’ve only talked a few times. It was really challenging at first and it definitely pushed me to be a little bit more social.
CW: Yeah, I have the same experience. I feel like I tend to reach out to people a lot if I want to eat with them or just hanging out with them, and it always ends up being fun. But just reaching out is kind of hard at first, and I feel like at the end of the day everyone is really friendly and really down to just hang out and get to know more people. And with that, I get to know more people through my friends and it’s always nice.
RM: Yeah, especially— everyone is in the same boat. And we have so much free time now that if you do reach out to people, you’d be surprised almost 100% of the time they’re going to say yes. And if not, at that moment, they’ll say it in the future. Everyone is trying to make friends, especially first and second year, but I’m sure upperclassmen too are all looking to make more friends.
CW: Speaking on the topic, do you guys have any struggle with friends, or kind of since we talked about independence and being alone, do you think it is hard to balance social life and just a long time with friends? Because personally, I feel like coming into college, I’m thrown into this world where I’m surrounded by so many people. And seeing everyone is constantly outside doing fun stuff sometimes makes me feel left out and feel like, “Oh, why am I not my friends every moment?” But I also realized that there should be a balance. What about you guys?
RM: I completely agree. I think FOMO is real. And yeah, I mean, going back to eating meals alone sometimes – I know everyone does it, but you just feel so alone, and when you see everyone else eating with their friends. But I relate. Sometimes have a lot of work to do, and I go outside and I see everyone just enjoying themselves. And I think to myself, “Oh, why can’t I just manage my time better? Or, why do I have so much more work?” But it definitely is about a balance. And knowing that those people are probably also struggling and trying to find times to stay outside – maybe it’s just a different time than you, maybe they’ve been cramming all night and decided to get out at a different time.
KV: I think it’s really important to plan when you want to do social activities or when you’re going to study, because they can kind of merge. And then planning to study or planning to get out around times when you normally, like naturally, take a break – like when you’re going to eat or at night. I think that helps to make time for social activities.
RM: Yeah, especially being at UCLA, we can take advantage of the fact that even though we might have a lot of work to do, we can do it outside and just finding where you want to do it. We have so many nice study spots on campus – outside of Kerckhoff is amazing, and yeah, in the libraries too. So I think sometimes finding that balance with– if you have a lot of work to do, maybe going outside to or asking your friends to study with you could be a good way to balance your time.
KV: Yeah, my friend and I will just sit next to each other and do our own work. But it’s nice to struggle with someone, instead of just by yourself in your dark room.
WM: Yeah, I think I had completely different expectations. When I came into college, I definitely thought like, “Oh, I’d be going out, because I was gonna be in LA. I’m gonna be a city girl, essentially.” But none of that’s really true, I guess, because I underestimate that I’m still a student. And just after sometimes long weeks, the last thing I want to do is go out. And so I kind of underestimated that. And kind of like Crystal said, I’m also kind of introverted. So I also don’t know what I was thinking, “Oh, I’m gonna go out every single weekend,” when that really isn’t me. And it’s kind of just like, that’s the college life. And I think I had that expectation on myself. But I mean, I’m perfectly content with where I am. I don’t need to be going out every weekend. It’s nice to go out, nice to have things closer, but without it too, it’s pretty cool. There’s a lot to do on campus like you guys talked about.
KV: I know my friend went to Boston, and she’ll be like, “Oh, you doing city girl things?” Like what even is that? I just walk around campus.
RM: Sometimes I feel like I don’t even see LA. But the bus system here is really good. So I think if you, you know, you want to explore the city, you definitely can do so. Something that I’ve enjoyed doing is usually I have all of my stressful exams on Thursdays randomly, my midterms. and so me and my friends have started taking the bus to the Santa Monica Pier and watching the sunset. And it’s been so nice because, honestly, the bus ride is really nice. You can just listen to music. And then once you get there, it’s about 30, 40 minutes away. And then you just feel so grounded, especially after doing so much work throughout the school week.
CW: Yeah, same, I love doing that too. I love taking the bus to downtown LA and just go to nice restaurants with my friends. Or I also like to take the bus to Santa Monica Pier, like downtown Santa Monica and the beach. They’re all located super close. And I just love shopping there and watching the sunset at the beach. And those are always just nice after and they feel very peaceful and calming after a hard study session.
RM: Have you guys found it difficult to manage your time? Because I know in high school, everything was a bit more structured. But now it feels like we have more time and we do, because our classes are less structured and less hours of the day. But still, that lack of structure makes it so much easier to procrastinate.
KV: I think I actually have a lot less homework now than I did in high school, because you have like six classes a day, or at least I did. And then for each class, like an hour of homework, and but now I have homework maybe every other day. So being on top of myself to make sure that I’m actually doing it and actually studying, because midterms come up really quickly. Like, we just had midterms, and now we’re gonna have finals. So just being on top of yourself. And I think we, I felt whiplash when, like fall quarter, because I wasn’t used to that. But I did learn to, you do need to prepare when you’re going to work and all of that.
RM: Yeah, I definitely struggled to manage my time fall quarter, because I kind of relied on the structure of my days in high school. But I think it is really nice that we do have more time. And we have less assignments, at least for my classes. I usually am just graded off of a midterm, an essay and a final. And so all that time in between, that’s just on me to do my work, which is a little bit daunting. But it’s also a lot of freedom that you can use to your advantage. So I think the biggest struggle for me is finding time and motivation to do the work when I’m not graded on it immediately. But if anyone has any advice for that, I’m still looking for it.
WM: Invest in a planner. I think that’s definitely one of my problems too. Because just like you, I feel like I really need that structure. So having a class every single day at the same time, whereas sometimes I kind of forget I have class until my Google Calendar goes off. It’s just like 30 minutes. And I’m just like, “Well, I have to start walking.” That’s also another thing. I feel like even though we do have less time or more time to ourselves and less time in class, the thing is, meals are like a whole event. I have to get ready, I have to go to this dining hall, look acceptable in public. I’m not going downstairs to grab breakfast with my parents. It’s a whole event and walking to class, also a whole event, especially because I live on one of the furthest dorms on the hill. So, some classes can be a 30-minute walk.
KV: So I think in high school, I used a planner. But then that didn’t really work for me coming here, just because it wasn’t a bunch of assignments I need to keep track of. But I think what helps me is using my calendar app, like you said, Wendy, and the reminders on your phone, because it’ll be like, “Oh, you have a paper due today.” It’s like, “Oh, great.”
CW: Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I feel like just the difference in the nature of time management. And just the amount of free time that we have really is a kind of a step into adulting and to see how we can go about our lives without over-stressing ourselves, just because we don’t have enough time. And I feel like especially for me, before I was, had a really structured schedule of just classes, and then doing homework, sleeping and all that in high school. But then since coming to college, there actually are a lot of events or just everything happening outside of academics. So even if you have a set schedule of your classes and when to do your assignments, you still have a lot of free time that people could just spontaneously ask you to go hang out or go here and go there. And a lot of times you want to, you would say “yes,” and you want to go. So then I feel like even just preparing us, as Kyla said, like preparing when to do your work and just knowing that you always have some buffer time before the actual deadline is really important.
KV: I think a lot of my clubs have had socials too, like one of them went to Insomnia and we just all walk together. And so I think that that is like a combination, like a happy middle where you’re doing something academic, but you’re also helping your social life. So I think that’s good.
RM: 100%. So we’ve also been talking about freedom of time, but what about freedom in the sense that you’re away from your family? Have you guys felt at all homesick at all?
KV: I live pretty close, or like 40 minutes without traffic. And so I go home a lot more than I thought. I applied out of state, like I don’t know how you do it, Rosie, because I go home like almost all the time. So yeah, so that’s different than what I had expected for myself.
RM: Yeah. So I’m from Connecticut. So I’m very far away, takes me about six hours by plane to get here. And I wanted to go far, so I was expecting this. But I definitely do experience homesickness and unlike a lot of people that are in-state when they feel that they can go home. For me, what I found the most helpful is FaceTiming my family. But even that, sometimes our schedules don’t align because it’s a three-hour difference. So I think being in somewhat constant communication with my siblings through text has been really helpful. And then just also spending time with all my friends here has been helpful too, just to alleviate some loneliness by being with other people too.
CW: Rosie, I definitely agree. I feel like for me, even though mine is a six-hour car ride away, I’m from Bay Area. But I also don’t go home often. I only went home for winter break, and I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving break or spring break. But as you said, it was good to spend time with friends here. And especially I hang out with international students too, so we’re kind of all in the same boat. And we spend time with each other to kind of get our minds away from home. And I feel like even just coming here for college, it is in a sense that you’re growing up, as in you aren’t really spending that much time with your family anymore. You text occasionally with your parents and siblings to catch up. But then a lot of times, your schedules don’t align. And in turn, you kind of have to just figure things out on your own and just do everything on your own. And there’s not really anyone there to always be there for you.
RM: But also what you said about finding other people that are in the same situation. I know randomly in the middle of the year there was a group chat of all the Connecticut people that went to this school, and I was added into it, and we all met up for lunch. And it was really funny just being able to talk to other Connecticut people and hear about their experience here. And now I see them around campus. And it was a good way to, you know, relate on the fact that we’re both long-distance and feel more united in that way.
KV: That’s really cool. And you could probably find a plane buddy like that or something.
RM: Yeah, yeah. One of them I think we might coordinate.
KV: Oh, OK. Yeah.
WM: I’d have to say I have like no experience with homesickness. I mean, kind of like Crystal, I’m more Central Valley-ish, not the Bay, but still like a six-hour drive away. But for me, my parents were immigrants. So I feel like a lot of times, we couldn’t really communicate with each other. And as we were with each other, especially over COVID every single day, I think we started arguing quite a lot. And so I feel the distance actually has been a good thing for me, because it’s more of a longing, and there’s more to say to that when we call on those fewer occasions. So I think that’s been nice. And then also for me, it’s kind of like, I guess, the freedom to kind of be kind of who I want. My parents are a little bit more conservative, more traditional, they kind of want me to be a certain way. So now that I’m kind of out of eyesight, I can kind of do what I want – kind of dress the way I want and do things like that.
CW: Yep, I totally relate to that. I feel like as having strict parents, they do restrict you in the sense that, oh, they want you to not go here not go there because of safety reasons or because they wish you would take that time to study. But at the same time, me knowing myself, if I know that I’m able to balance going out and studying and getting good grades, then I would still continue to do and make my choice of doing what I want and kind of being like a rebel for once and not listening to my parents.
RM: Yeah, I think there is freedom and being away from home in the fact that you can kind of find yourself. And for me, I have two older sisters, and we practically did everything together. So being away from them, I’ve kind of realized what sort of things I am different from them and some things that we are still the same. And also being in a different, almost culture, on the West Coast, I’ve been seeing a few changes and making adjustments to my life based on that, like everyone is so stylish here. I don’t know if you guys feel the same way, but it’s been making me want to update my wardrobe for sure. Just small changes like that.
RM: As we wrap up, what is one way that you feel like your personality has changed since coming to college.
CW: For me, I feel like just being independent and just enjoying my alone time is very, it’s like, it’s very important. And at the same time, just knowing that at the end of the day, you’re your own main character. You don’t have to care about what other people really think about you or what they judge or what they think just because at the end of the day, UCLA is really big and you’ll definitely find someone that you vibe with.
WM: Yeah, going off that, for me, my biggest change, kind of like I mentioned earlier, was just being able to reach out to more people and feeling more comfortable. I guess on a smaller note on a lifestyle difference, it’s going to bed later and I blame my roommates for that. I used to go to sleep at 10 but they won’t believe that. But that’s just my little changes.
KV: I think for me, I felt the peer pressure of like needing an iPad. I had my computer, I had my notebook and everything, but I needed to be able to take notes on that because I saw everyone having one. I don’t know. I think I stay up a lot later than I used to, which is probably just a universal college thing. But yeah.
RM: Yeah, in terms of personality, I think I’ve stayed a bit similar. Maybe my sense of humor has a little bit changed because it’s a different audience. So I’ve just learned what jokes are hitting and what isn’t hitting. But I would also say that I have become a little bit more extroverted almost forcefully because I’m also an introvert, like you Crystal, so I definitely have felt the pressure to reach out to more people. But honestly, I think it’s been a really positive thing that’s happened. And then also just external factors, like I have changed my style a little bit and even my language too because I’m surrounded by different people, which is kind of funny.
KV: OK, well, thank you guys. “Bruin 101” is brought to you by the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper. You can listen to the show and others by the Daily Bruin on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and SoundCloud, and the transcript for this show is available at dailybruin.com. Thanks, everyone. See you next week.