The Uncommon Interview: Samantha Gordon

By Jen Glickel

O-Week welcomes the arrival of about 1,100 eager members of the Class of 2009. But what about the more seasoned but still eager additions to the Class of 2008 or 2007? The Maroon caught up with one of these transfer students: Samantha Gordon, a former University of Michigan student who is now a member of the Class of 2008.

Chicago Maroon: Where are you from originally? What was your elementary and high school education like?

Samantha Gordon: I am originally from New York City. I went to Fieldston, which is a fairly small, co-ed private school right outside the city. Of the private schools in New York, my school is known to be very “artsy” and liberal: I remember the principal making a point of allowing kids to go to a student walk-out and rally in Manhattan a few years ago, to protest going to war in Iraq.

CM: What inspired you to transfer schools? What did you dislike about the University of Michigan?

SG: I was completely culture-shocked when I first went to Michigan. I was coming from a small, artsy, intellectual school in New York City, and ended up on a Big Ten university with 25,000 other undergrads. I grew up in Manhattan so Michigan’s size didn’t really overwhelm me, but, because of its size, U of M has huge classes and I found it very difficult to get access to professors, especially as a freshman. The culture at Michigan is focused mainly on football and Greek life. I felt like something was missing from how I had imagined college to be. I went to visit friends at other schools over a long weekend in the fall, and when I came to the University of Chicago, I found that it was a lot more like what I was looking for.

CM: What attracted you to the University of Chicago in particular?

SG: I was initially interested in the U of C because of its size and location. I liked that it is a relatively small college with the resources of a major university, in a big city. I really liked the people I met, the campus, the overall atmosphere here.

CM: What is your greatest fear or anxiety about the new year?

SG: I am a little nervous about the workload, since the U of C has a reputation for being really difficult. Obviously, it is a little intimidating to be starting at a new school as a second-year, but I am more excited than nervous about being here.

CM: What are you most excited about in coming to the U of C?

SG: There’s not really one thing I can single out particularly. I am just really excited to be here. I have heard such great things about the U of C from both current students and alumni, so I am really looking forward to the whole U of C experience. Additionally, I am really excited to spend time in Chicago, because I love visiting new cities.

CM: What do you anticipate the transition will be like coming from a school with distribution requirements to a school with a core curriculum?

SG: Well, it is going to be a lot harder for me to avoid math and science classes here than it was at Michigan! No, kidding aside, I think that I am going to have to take some more core courses as an upperclassman than if I had come to the U of C as a first-year, but it is nothing I am overly concerned about. I actually think that the core curriculum is one of the most impressive things about the U of C. Even though there are certain departments in which I probably wouldn’t take classes on my own accord, I think that the Core gives you such a broad-based, complete education.

CM: What classes or genre of classes are you looking forward to taking at the U of C?

SG: I am planning on majoring in art history, so obviously I am excited about taking those classes. I am really looking forward to taking a course in economics, because it is such a great department at the U of C.

CM: In what extracurricular activities did you participate while at Michigan? Do you plan to continue your involvement at the U of C?

SG: At Michigan, I was involved in College Democrats and Voice Your Vote, which is a non-partisan voting rights group. I also wrote a few reviews of concerts at local venues for The Michigan Daily, the student newspaper. I am definitely planning on continuing those activities at the U of C. I also pledged a sorority at Michigan, but my house doesn’t have a chapter at the U of C.

CM: The reputation for the social scene at a Big Ten school like U of M is very different from the reputation of the social scene at the U of C. Does this make you nervous at all?

SG: I wouldn’t say that the U of C’s reputation for its social scene (or lack thereof) makes me nervous, but it was definitely something I thought about when I was deciding about coming here. In the end, I wasn’t looking for a party school—that was what I was transferring out of. I had a terrific time when I visited the U of C last fall and I have heard stories from friends here that definitely dispel the rumor that this is “where fun goes to die.”