A year ago we talked with California native and OSU freshman Sam Kelly-Quattrocchi about why he chose Oregon State. He cited the school’s welcoming character as well as the great marine biology program as the major motivators behind his decision. We recently had the chance to catch up with the University Honors College student to see how his first year at OSU went:
How would you describe your first year at OSU?
Incredible. I loved it. The sense of community was by far the best part of the experience for me. My floor in McNary bonded together so well. We’re still going to have monthly floor dinners so we don’t lose touch.
What kinds of activities did you get involved in while you were here?
My job this year was as a tour guide at Oregon State. I answer phones and give tours, and I love doing that – just being able to share my experiences with people from all over the country and outside the United States. I just gave the international tour last week with all the INTO kids. It was really cool to do that. I love all the stories of how people got to Oregon State. It’s so much fun. Everyone’s so different. It’s great to get to reassure the families, and tell them their daughter or son is very safe here.
I’m part of the Humans vs. Zombies (HVZ) club. It’s like the massive game of tag we play on campus. Last year we had about 300 students play on campus. It kind of shows that if you have a ridiculous idea like a game of tag with zombies and nerf guns, you can make a club and find enough people to play it on campus.
I also joined the ballroom dancing team. I did about two and a half terms of “Cool Shoes,” and we performed all throughout Oregon and in Seattle. We practiced about two or three times a week.
Do you still have the same goal of majoring in marine biology?
I’m still majoring in marine biology. Although I’m thinking about higher education, so we’ll see how that goes. I loved giving tours so much I might want to work in that field as a career. If I decided to go into higher education, I’d want to major in human development and family sciences. Teaching is where I am leaning toward right now if I stay with sciences.
What kind of impression did your Honors College classes make on you?
They’re really discussion-based, which is how I learn better. All the classes I took that were Honors had about 20 kids. For music credit I took History of Hip-Hop and Culture, so there were 15 students and a couple of professors. My biology lab was Honors-based. That class and I are very close. We had a big lecture, and then our small lab would meet. We’d finish lab pretty fast and study for the test, as nerdy as that sounds. It was like, “Welcome to the Honors College.”
But it worked.
Do you have any favorite professors?
My favorite professor so far was Indira (Rajagopal), who taught the biology lab. She’s an amazing professor. She was very level, and never talked down to us. She was always so excited when we wanted to try something different in our labs. She’d say, “Yeah, go for it! Here are the tools you need.”
But all the professors I’ve reach out to are welcoming. They love to talk to you about their field, or their life, really.
What kind of advice could you give to first-years that would help them get involved?
Don’t be afraid to be who you are.
In high school I came out as gay. One of my best friends couldn’t take it, and I haven’t talked to him since May of last year. So coming to college I was definitely nervous having to come out again and see how people would react. I didn’t say anything for a long time. And then I found out both my neighbors were lesbians, and I was like, “Okay, I can come out and it’s not a big deal.”
Now I have a boyfriend – we’ve been dating for six months now. I’m going to join the Pride Center soon and get really involved in any way I can in the gay community.
But definitely don’t be afraid to be who you are on campus. Because odds there are hundreds of people like you who have the same beliefs, who won’t get mad at you.
So for me, I realized, “It’s okay to be gay. It’s not a problem to be gay on campus.”
Has the OSU community lived up to your first impressions of it?
Definitely. When I came here on my tour I thought, “This is a pretty welcoming place for a tour. I wonder what it’ll be like when I’m actually a student.” People are really friendly and outgoing. If there’s something you need, a question or a helping hand, they’re right there for you. I’ve heard too that Oregonians hate Californians, and I’m Californian, but I didn’t feel that at all. It was so welcoming here.
Is there anything about your first year that surprised you?
How close my floor became, and how quickly. I knew we would be friends, but I didn’t realize how quickly I could call on someone at 2 a.m. to talk, or go to Circle K or Fred Meyer. Even though some of us are RAs now, and some of us have moved off campus, we still text and talk through Facebook and call each other all the time. They’re really good friends to have.
What was your biggest struggle during your first year, and how did you overcome it.
Obviously being gay was a struggle, but coming out and talking about it was an easy way to overcome it for me.
Also finding a balance between school, work and social life was hard. At first the alarm clock was an enemy to me, but then I got into the groove of getting up at 9 or 10 and going to classes.
If you could know one thing when you started that you know now, what would it be?
It doesn’t matter who you are, you’ll find friends here. There’s over 300 clubs on campus. And if you don’t find one you like, make one. Five students is a club. Also, I’m not afraid of who I am anymore. I’m open to new ideas. I had a great freshman year.