Miloni Gandhi is a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) with Bachelor’s degree in International Development Studies and Geography.
Miloni’s story is one of great interest and passion, for all things International. Her pursuit of International Development Studies, and her year-long immersion program in Madrid, created a foundation for her future career.
Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:
Episode Title: Miloni Gandhi on UCLA: International Development, Approachable Professors and Bruin Spirit.
Episode summary introduction: Miloni wanted to go college in a “real city” like say New York City. Unfortunately for Miloni, her parents were not for it. They wanted her to be in Los Angeles.
Miloni Gandhi is a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) with Bachelor’s degree in International Development Studies and Geography.
In particular, we discuss the following with him:
Topics discussed in this episode:
Our Guest: Miloni Gandhi is a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) with Bachelor’s degree in International Development Studies and Geography. Miloni then graduated with a MA and PhD in Social Sciences and Comparative Education from UCLA. Miloni can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Memorable Quote: “Professors are approachable if you approach them.”
Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.
Transcript of the episode’s audio.
Welcome to the podcast, College Matters. Alma Matters. We podcast, personal college stories, and all things college. Check us out and subscribe at alma matters.io forward slash podcasts (almamatters.io/podcasts).
And UCLA also has Tier One college athletics and NCAA Tier one. So there's a huge sports community as well.
And even coming from someone who's not a die hard sports fan, during my college years, I really made an effort, especially my last year to go to all of the football, home games and the basketball home games. And the Bruin spirit is really evidence in those arenas.
Miloni Gandhi is a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) with Bachelor’s degree in International Development Studies and Geography.
Miloni wanted to go college in a “real city”, far away from Los Angeles. She was excited when she got into NYU.
Oh yeah, she did get into UCLA as well!
But, New York City was a real city!
Unfortunately for Miloni, her parents were not for it.
So, Miloni worked out a deal. She would go to UCLA, provided she could study abroad for a semester or two.
Miloni is with us on our podcast today, to tell her UCLA story.
Before we jump into the podcast, here are the High-Fives, Five Highlights from the podcast:
[Vast UCLA Campus]
I remember like one of the first things that I noticed was just kind of like physically how large and spatially spread out everything. And our dorms were located, kind of a bit of a walk away from where the classes were. So we always had to, like trek over to the other side of campus. And we got a lot of exercise.
From a very young age, I had wanted to leave my hometown and go to a major urban city like New York and actually NYU is my first choice. And I got in, but my parents said no, so I was able to go there. And UCLA was kind of the next best option for me in terms of vibrant campus life.
Professors are approachable if you approached them. But in large campus, I think if you came from a culture where your teachers were reaching out to you in high school, the transition to college might be a little bit unnerving at first, because you have to reach out to the professors. But if you do reach out, they're going to be super helpful.
[Junior Year in Madrid]
In August, I left for Spain, and I was in Spain for both semesters and that was another difference. UCLA [was on] quarters but the study abroad program was in semesters. And whilst I was there, I taught English and through that, I met a couple of local families, some of whom I'm still in touch with and I spent a lot of time immersing myself not just in my classwork, but the cultural experience of living in Spain, through the family that I was living with.
[For Aspiring Students]
If you are really stuck on attending a certain dream school, for example, if UCLA is your dream school and you don't make it in your first shot, for whatever reason, don't give up on it. You can always try the Community College route, which at the time of my undergraduate experience, I don't think was as popular.
Venkat Raman 4:33
Now, I'm sure you want to hear the entire podcast with Miloni. So without further ado, over to Miloni Gandhi!
I am here!
Venkat Raman 4:43
You are here!
Welcome to our podcast College Matters. Alma Matters.
Thank you so much for making the time. So as we spoke, we are basically catering to an audience of aspiring international students, and hopefully their parents as well. And thought, you know, learning about your personal experience at UCLA would be very beneficial and hopefully inspiring for all these young folks.
So, yes, so with that, let's sort of jump right into it. Maybe we could start with your overall impressions of UCLA now looking back in time, What are your feelings and impressions?
So I grew up very close to UCLA. And I had actually visited the campus on numerous occasions, even in high school. So my impressions were kind of, planted early on, but the difference between going as a high school student for a short visit, or dinner in Westwood with the family compared to living on campus and being fully immersed was really different, because you don't get the feel for the vastness of the campus in terms of size, as well as the experiences that are there until you're fully immersed.
So I remember, like one of the first things that I noticed is just kind of like physically how large and spatially spread out everything. And our dorms were located, kind of a bit of a walk away from where the classes were. So we always had to, like trek over to the other side of campus. And we got a lot of exercise that maybe some of us weren't used to getting before.
But overall, I think, compared to some of the other UC campuses, I don't think UCLA is actually like the largest. But when you're walking, it felt like it was very vast. And I distinctly remember that, because planning for time to get between your classes and the physical locations of the classes was something that was a new concept for many of us in terms of like, Oh, well, the class is scheduled with only 10 minutes apart. But it takes me 30 minutes to walk to it. So let me make sure it's physically possible to do that.
But other than that, I was just always like, it's so beautiful. And when you stand in the middle of the main quad, where we have all the red brick buildings, some of the original buildings of the campus, it's just like a really beautiful campus. And it's very awe inspiring, and you feel compelled to study and learn and interact with folks who are there.
Venkat Raman 7:49
So was UCLA, your first choice and your only choice? Why did you choose UCLA? Did you look at anything else at all?
Oh, yeah, I definitely.
From a very young age, I had wanted to leave my hometown and go to a major urban city like New York. And actually, NYU was my first choice. And I got in, but my parents said no. So I was not able to go there.
And UCLA was kind of the next best option for me in terms of vibrant campus life. And our trade off was that if I was staying so close to home for all the four years, one of the four years, I was going to do a study abroad.
So that's kind of how I ended up picking UCLA. And I mean, of course, the academics are amazing, the campus is beautiful, and all of that.
But from a personal standpoint, I still initially remember that I had wanted to move to a real city as I called it, and I thought in my mind that New York was a real city.
Venkat Raman 8:57
Okay, so so...
...that was my story there.
Venkat Raman 9:00
So you made a deal, and...
I made a deal.
Venkat Raman 9:07
What was high school like? What were things that caught your interest, you're excited about, passionate about, in class outside of class?
So high school was a really excellent experience for me. We had a good high school with a lot of additional opportunities, like the Spanish club that actually went on field trips, or the very robust Model United Nations program. And we even traveled internationally for a model, Model UN. And so those were some of my favorite things, the social sciences, and humanities.
And because of those groups and organizations that I was able to be a part of in high school, I actually had a lot of connection to the UCLA campus, because we would often go and visit the campus for various Programs both for Model UN and for other high school activities. And so they kind of helped familiarize the students with the world outside of high school, which I think was really important for us to see that there is something other than just what is there in our town.
But the other cool thing about our high school was, we were incredibly diverse. And we were given a lot of opportunities that I know now looking back, not everyone has in high school.
So we were very lucky. And we had a lot of teachers, who made sure that we had these opportunities to learn about things outside of our hometown, and how to kind of engage with colleges or other entities that would help us out for our future planning.
And it kind of created a really nice bridge between high school and college. And I'm grateful to have had that.
Venkat Raman 11:02
Let's sort of talk about transitioning to UCLA. You mentioned, it was quite a different experience from living at home. So what was that transition like? What was the first semester first year like, maybe academically speaking?
Okay, so academically speaking, first year, first quarter was the worst quarter of my academic history.
I had taken a bunch of science classes for my general education requirements, because I wanted to get them out of the way. But I hadn't yet been well versed in how to ace college classes. And while I came from a really great High School, things were just done a little differently in college, and especially in the math and science classes, I had to kind of figure that out.
So my first quarter, I was taking astronomy and oceanography, and I can't remember what my third class was. But those two classes sounded cool, because I thought I was just gonna look at pretty pictures of stars. And, you know, like, learn about fish.
But that was not the case, they were really heavily science focused. So I had to do a lot of additional prep and help to kind of just pass the class. And being my first quarter, I still wasn't aware of, kind of, how to game the system in terms of, I didn't need to take a letter grade, I could have just done pass, no pass.
But I was not yet well versed in all of those little things, because we never had that choice really in high school, right. And then all of a sudden, you have all this freedom over how you get graded in college, and then I just switched to pass no pass, I think that would have made everything so much easier.
But I spent a lot of time in those oceanography labs trying to learn how to do the equations of the waves and all that. So that's my one thing that I would leave for students to know your options, when you go to class for the first time in college. And even if you want to get something out of the way, like maybe actually ask someone what it entails, cuz that title does not always actually equal the work.
Venkat Raman 13:21
Now, I'm assuming it got better. Definitely, the remaining quarters that's here.
So basically, I still kind of stuck to the plan, because I wanted to just get rid of everything I didn't like. But once I eliminated everything like stats and non major related classes, I had a lot of fun with all of the Spanish and Poli Sci and other social sciences classes that I took. And eventually I found my way to International Development studies and Geography.
And those were the kinds of classes that I had always envisioned taking in college through my time in high school. And so once you're in the classes that you actually want to learn about, it becomes a lot easier to learn about them.
So homework wasn't homework. It was just like learning about really cool stuff that you wanted to learn about.
Venkat Raman 14:27
So how was the experience with your classmates and peers? What was that like? I'm assuming it's a pretty diverse crowd as well.
Yeah, it's a hugely diverse crowd and also like the class sizes initially as a freshmen are pretty large.
I had the, I guess, benefit of coming in as a second year student because I had taken a lot of advanced placement classes in In high school, so that bumped up my registration time.
So I was actually able to take some classes that were a little bit smaller and not just have to take G classes my whole first year. And so the big difference between those types of classes was the GED classes or, you know, could have a lecture of like 500 students, and then you have a smaller discussion groups.
And you probably will not get to know your classmates in your large discussion, I mean, in your large lecture, but then in the smaller discussions, you do interact with each other.
And you do start recognizing who is in your discussion, and when you cross each other on campus, you'll see them because I was coming in as a second year, I even had some smaller classes, like more comparable to a high school class size, in the 30 to 50 range, even as a freshman. So in those classes, you definitely get to know each other a bit better.
And, you know, at some point in my career, definitely like, by the time I was a senior, all my classes were 20 or less, for the most part. So in those classes, you were definitely interacting with a diverse group of individuals. But also by that point, I was focusing predominantly on my major. So it's kind of like a self-selected group of diverse individuals, guests, but we're all interested in the same topic.
So there's a lot of similarities and kind of our goals and our background, in terms of our professional experiences, and the internships we were kind of trying to get, and so on and so forth.
Venkat Raman 16:39
Cool. Now, what were they a collaborative bunch, competitive or a combo?
You know, in social sciences, where I was, I thought everyone was really collaborative. I know that some of my friends who were in more competitive majors definitely made note of that competitive spirits. But for me, in the social sciences, I thought everyone was really collaborative and into learning together.
And, you know, no one was trying to like steal your ideas or the you know, fight to be the top of the curve or anything like that. Most of my classes were graded, subjectively, with papers as our finals. And so I think that's a lot harder to kind of like, screw the curve for the whole group, when everybody has such a different opinion that they're writing about.
I think the Yeah, the experiences in terms of your teachers are really what you want to make of it, or your professors rather, because professors are approachable if you approach them. But in large campus, I think if you came from a culture where your teachers were reaching out to you in high school, the transition to college might be a little bit unnerving at first, because you have to reach out to the professor's.
But if you do reach out, they're going to be super helpful, but you can't wait for them to reach out to you. So that was like one major tip that I would want to leave for folks like you have to really advocate for yourself, no matter which college you're going to, in comparison to high school where you might have been a little more handheld along the process.
Like in college, if you're going to get a bad grade, like, that's just the way it is like there are classes where they will tell you, you know, well, 50% of the students in this class are not going to get the grade they want. So you're not going to get someone reaching out to you if you're one of those lower grades, because statistically, like 50% of the class is going to get a grade they're not going to like so things like that.
But if you are able to reach out and take advantage of office hours and really try to go to the optional discussions and meetings and things that they have space for. The professors are very kind and engaging. And I'm speaking about the professors that I had some of which I am still in touch with today, nearly 20 years after the undergrad experience.
But I would like to think that most professors are kind of in that similar range of a student reaches out, they're definitely going to try to help. I think, on the side of the professor's being a professor. Now, sometimes the challenge is just the number of folks who are trying to reach out. And so office hours are really important. So if a professor sets office hours really try to go during their office hours, don't try to reach out and try to find another time to work with them. The best time to go is like during their office hours when they're ready for you.
Venkat Raman 19:56
Let's sort of talk a little bit about outside of classes. As you mentioned, the Dorms were a bit ways from the actual classes. So, how were the dorms and what is that system look like? And then we can talk about the cultural and social sort of activities on campus.
So, my perspective and memory from nearly 20 years ago of the dorms is very different from what looked like now, when I was there, it was three or four main residence halls where everyone lived with roommates and shared bathrooms, and then a couple of buildings of suites where you had your own bathroom, and a smaller group of students.
Now they have built a lot more housing. So there are far more opportunities to have a single or a double and your own bathroom, if that is of importance to you. But the social aspect of living in one of the traditional dorms like I did, is really important, I think, to kind of gain that social capital both to work with for classwork as well as for your social life.
So if anyone is listening and trying to debate between having their own room and living in a traditional dorm, and sharing rooms and bathrooms, I would say give that traditional dorm a try at least your first year. And then if you really don't like it in your second year to get your own room, or your suite.
And then of course, all the dorms have dining halls. And that was another important place to kind of meet people and think about whether it's important to you to have your own kitchen option or like whether you always want to go into the dining hall to grab your food.
So those are some...
Venkat Raman 21:44
Yeah, you had dorms for, I mean, you were allowed to use the campus housing for all four years, or was it limited to the first couple of years?
It was limited to the first two years for the most part when I was there. From what I understand it's a little easier now to stay in the dorms, possibly for a bit longer. But I still don't believe they have enough housing to offer on campus for everyone for all four years. So they're, they're likely working on that. And they've also expanded to include apartments that UCLA now runs. So that's another option that some people like better as they go through their years.
Venkat Raman 22:38
How was the cultural and social scene & campus activities? And I mean, I guess a lot about the clubs and organized activities.
So the thing about UCLA is that it's such a large campus, and we have both a vibrant undergrad and graduate program that there really is something to pique everyone's fancy, right?
Like there's things like movie clubs in the school even offers movie screenings that anyone can come to including community members, all the way to like service organizations on campus to the Greek system to smaller clubs that are more focused on specific social issues to cultural clubs. So there's really something for everyone.
And I found the bigger challenge is just knowing about other resources in terms of clubs and social activities. Because there was not when I was there, a really good, easy to find roster of all the things that existed and sometimes you didn't discover something until like your third or fourth year and you're like, Oh, I wish I had earlier.
The best place on campus to kind of get information is the campus newspaper as well as Bruin Walk, which is like kind of the main thoroughfare on campus where the different organizations will come and set up a table and pass out information about upcoming meetings and activities and stuff. So there is something for everyone.
And the campus has changed incredibly over the last 20 years in so many different, like new buildings and campus activities, spaces and lounges and things just keep evolving. So there's always, always something new to look forward to.
But then there are also some things that I know that were there when I was there and there now so that's also comforting, like the Alumni Association has a really strong presence in terms of organizing activities and opportunities for students.
So that's something and I know that some of the other organizations that I know that have kind of stayed the course of the last 20 odd years, you know, the newspaper is a volunteer newspaper like you don't get paid for that. That's still there, The Daily Bruin. And the cultural clubs that were large when I was there are still continuing strong. Let's see. Yeah. Other clubs that I would recommend.
Venkat Raman 25:26
Yeah, I was curious about the things you did. Now, you know, I think you were pretty involved with Model UN and a few other things. So tell us a little bit about that.
So, so my campus life is actually kind of broken up into before I did study abroad, and when I came back.
And so, the first couple of years on campus, I was heavily involved with my on campus job where I worked at the front desk and River Hall. And that was kind of there was a job, but it was also kind of like a community. So that was where I spend a lot of my time.
I also was part of something called the Peer Helpline where students and community members could call in and talk to someone if they needed support. And I also dabbled in some of the subject oriented clubs and activities. So things that the International Development Studies major would put on or the cultural clubs for Indian Americans I attended some activities with.
And I also spent a lot of time with the International Office just kind of volunteering to be a liaison with incoming international students even back then.
And also knowing that I was going to participate in study abroad, I wanted to be well connected into that whole system. Because even the study abroad program, if you wanted to do it through the UC system, the application cycle for that opens up a year in advance of when you're going.
So basically, by the end of your freshman year, you kind of have to decide that you want to go to study abroad, because you apply in fall of your sophomore year. And then you'll find out halfway through the other organization that I was part of was called UniCamp. And because I did study abroad, my junior year, I was only able to actually go and participate as a camp counselor for one summer. But that was also really cool.
And UniCamp is a camp for local Los Angeles area underprivileged kids who don't normally spend time in the wilderness to have an opportunity to be at camp in the San Bernardino mountains.
So those were some of my pre-study abroad activity. And then being away for a year it kind of puts a break in leadership opportunities in your study abroad experience or in your campus club experience.
So when I came back, I did kind of a different set of things. I had a new on campus job, I plugged myself into being a participant in one of the culture shows, and I kind of was just focusing more on, like internships and finding what I wanted to do after I left UCLA.
Venkat Raman 28:33
Maybe this is a good time to talk about your study abroad. Tell us what you did, and what changed for you.
So I went to Spain, and I studied at the Complutense, which is one of the premier institutions located in Madrid and I went through the UC Education Abroad Program known as UC EAP. And I did the year long option.
So basically, summer after my sophomore year, I kind of left because their school year starts earlier than they used a school year. So in August, I left for Spain, and I was in Spain for both semesters and that was another difference. UCLA has quarters but the study abroad program was in semesters.
And whilst I was there, I taught English and through that, I met a couple of local families, some of whom I'm still in touch with and I spent a lot of time immersing myself not just in my classwork, but the cultural experience of living in Spain, through the family that I was living with.
And so I even stayed back the summer after school ended. So my summer of my sophomore year was already started in Spain and then the summer after my Junior was also in Spain.
So when it comes to like, activities and things that people would be doing during summer, like many of my peers, some things, I was still in Spain and doing things there.
But it kind of changed my perspective, in many ways, like I was already erring on the side of wanting to either work for the UN, or go into diplomacy, learn about other places, things like that. But that just really kind of solidified the path that my future work would go. Knowing that there's a whole world out there, it's really important and how much I enjoy interacting with people from different cultures.
And being that bridge between culture is something I really enjoyed my time in Spain definitely spoke to that, and kind of made it a pivotal experience for the work that I chose to do in the future.
Venkat Raman 30:57
So, so when you came back, what did you do? You said, You got an award and a few other things. What, how did that impact the final year at UCLA?
Well, one way to impact it is I had to find housing in a different way, because most people already had their housing and their roommates squared away because when they left the dorms after their sophomore year, they kind of already had roommates. And most of the time, those roommates worked out for both years.
So luckily for me, I was able to find a friend who was just leaving the dorms the year that I was returning from Spain, so she was able to find housing for us. And that was really lucky for me. And it was just the two of us, which made things a lot easier.
But I also had to come back and I was looking for a new job. And I actually worked as a community service officer, which is someone, which is actually a really neat program that I haven't mentioned. UCLA does this for anyone who doesn't want to walk by themselves between classes or to the parking lots at night. Yeah, you can call the community service officers and they'll walk with you. So that was kind of cool. And it's a good way to kind of get some exercise and when you weren't walking anyone you could study. So I was a cool job. Different from my time at the front desk.
Yeah. And I think Yeah, I already mentioned the culture show, I spent some time doing that when I came back because it was my last year. And I just wanted to see what that was about kind of a big deal on campus at the time. But really, I was focusing on what I was going to do after I left.
Venkat Raman 32:49
I want to talk about your majors. But before we do that, what about the summers? Of course, one summer, you were in Spain. Did you do anything The first couple years that…?
So the first summer after freshman year was kind of the only really free summer I had. Yeah. And that was where I actually spent the summer interning in Washington, DC. through one of the fellows program.
So I was an intern at the Department of Commerce. And through that experience, I learned that I was not terribly interested in that work. Yeah. So that was, that was good to know.
But in addition to the work that I was doing, I also got to experience DC as a city. And that was really cool, because DC just has so many museums and opportunities to engage with different cultures through the MSD programming and the Smithsonian's and there's always something to do. So. That was a really great experience. That was my summer after freshman year.
Yeah, summer after sophomore year and junior year were kind of taken over by Spain. But I did at one point in time think I might want to be a lawyer. So when I came back from Spain, I also ended up taking classes that summer. Not the most exciting thing is how I spent my summer. And those classes are also at UCLA. They were not provided by UCLA. They were not UCLA classes, but the LSAT coaching organization was renting classes at UCLA for that to happen.
So I was on campus but not really on campus for the rest of that summer. And then that was kind of my last summer because after graduation, I didn't really stick around campus.
Venkat Raman 34:51
So you picked your majors, you mentioned, International Development Studies. How, where did that interest thing came from and how did you end up majoring in that, and I think you had a Geography. So give us some color on this.
I always wanted to do internationally focused work, I wanted to travel, I wanted to help people who were not having the same opportunities that I had. And I thought that the best way for me to do that was to help someone in another place. And that's where the aspirations to work with a UN organization like UNESCO, or something like that came to play. And so International Development Studies was the best fit major for those kinds of aspirations at the time, that also matched my interests.
And it was an interdisciplinary major. So I was able to take a lot of different classes in Anthropology, Sociology, International Development Studies, PoliSci, Geography, just kind of get a really big overview of how different disciplines think of the same issues, which was really eye opening.
And through that process, I actually also discovered my love for Geography. And so I ended up double majoring in Geography. And the interesting piece about that is I only had considered Geography as a major my final year at UCLA. So all of my geography coursework that I needed to complete, the major was really done my final year after I returned from Spain.
So that's another tip for students. Like, if you find something at the very end, it's still possible, or at least when I was there, it was still possible to fit it all in. And I think I actually took the unit max my senior year where most people are taking the unit minimum, graduate, I really wanted to complete that Geography major, because the classes were so fascinating.
And Geography, I feel like gets overlooked. But really like the study of the piece of Geography that was most interesting to me, what everyone thinks of is Geography, like maps and cartography, which is also a piece of it. But what I found really fascinating is how are people and communities shaped by the location that they are coming from, and the place that they're coming from? So I had a cultural Geography focus. And that was super fascinating.
Venkat Raman 37:32
Okay, so how has all this and UCLA shaped your career? I mean, you spent four years there, and I know you spent a whole bunch of time after that at UCLA, studying more, but how did that initial grounding, kind of, take you where you are today?
I think that UCLA was, at the time, one of the best places for someone to stay on the west coast and have a lot of international experiences available to them, even whilst they were still staying in Los Angeles.
Most of the International opportunities and internships and especially the development work, internships and opportunities tend to lie on the east coast. But when I was going to college, UCLA at least, was one of the places on the West Coast that you could actually kind of cobble together meaningful international experiences, and stay on the west coast.
So it was super instrumental in like developing the course of study, but also kind of my future work plans, in terms of having the opportunities accessible while staying on the west coast to engage with a lot of entities in the Asia Pacific, as well as just on campus who they were able to bring in, because they were such a good institution, that people wanted to come to them from all over the world. So even if I couldn't get to that international opportunity, the opportunity would often find its way to UCLA.
So that was pivotal. And of course, that's ultimately what brought me back to UCLA, as you mentioned for my graduate school and a couple of jobs as well.
Venkat Raman 39:28
If you were to go back to UCLA and spend those four years all over again, things you would do differently, things you'd keep the same?
I think if I was able to go back, I would try to stay a little longer. I know the typical degree everyone is saying is four years but I ended up double majoring and double mining and studying abroad for a year all in four years.
So I actually was not on campus for all four years, I think I would maybe choose if I was supported to do so, stay for the fifth year, so that I could take a little more advantage of what the campus has to offer. Because there are a lot of resources that are open to students. And once you graduate, and you're not a student, those opportunities are unavailable to you. Right.
And a lot of folks in the workforce are much more likely to talk to a student about certain issues or offer you an internship or a part-time job, when you're a student, and you need to do such and such project for class, as opposed to when you're a fully fledged working individual who's trying to get a full time job.
Students are less threatening, I guess, in some ways. And so I think I would have liked to stay under the student umbrella a little longer, and specifically the undergraduate student umbrella.
Venkat Raman 41:04
Yeah. Well, that's that's a fair point. And that's pretty good observation about opportunities, and resources, you know, to honestly.
Venkat Raman 41:18
Okay, so let's sort of segue over and address the aspiring students directly. I know, you do a lot of this for a living. But what kind of advice would you give students who are looking to apply to college maybe specifically to UCLA?
That's a tough question, because the whole college admissions arena has changed so much in the last 20 years.
But I will say this, that if you are really stuck on attending a certain dream school, for example, if UCLA is your dream school, and you don't make it in your first shot, for whatever reason, don't give up on it, you can always try the Community College route, which at the time of my undergraduate experience, I don't think was as popular, like in terms of like, the wider knowledge, especially for international students, like people didn't really realize that you can consider the Community College option and then have a second shot at entering your dream school if you didn't get in, immediately out of high school. So that's one thing I would say, consider Community College, it's kind of people often say it's the best kept secret of the United States. I'm thinking though nowadays, it's not as much of a secret anymore, but I think there are still plenty of students, especially international students who don't take advantage of that opportunity.
And then the second thing is kind of countering what I just said. I think the idea of a dream school is really challenging, especially where you are in life as a graduating senior, your life and your ideas of what you want to do. And the person that you want to be are going to change so much over time that being stuck on one school as the pivotal place for you to develop into a worthy adult is really hard for me to tell students like that's - a dream school isn't gonna make or break you write more about what you do with your time there. There are people who went to their dream school, but didn't do much when they were there or didn't take advantage of all the things that they thought made it their dream school and didn't get the full value out of that experience.
So I really also like to tell students like try to have multiple realities and multiple places that you think you'll be happy with. Because also, if you were one of the privileged individuals who went to campus for tours, and you know, attended info sessions, and so on and so forth, so many factors influence whether or not you think that school is a good fit for you, even outside of the academics. Like your campus tour guide was like extra enthusiastic the day they gave you the tour, versus the next school you visited where you didn't really vibe with the guide who was showing you around, you might think, you know, like school a is better than school B because you identify with the person that you met there. But then there's only one small glimpse into that school. And you're not really going to know what it's like until you live it as a student, not a visitor.
So that's the other piece of advice that I would say like the concoction of a dream school in your head as a high school student doesn't always match the reality of what your dream school will give you, when you're actually at that school as a student, as a full time college student.
So I often want to tell students to not have dream schools but have multiple subject areas and places that they would be happy spending four years of their life learning about and living in.
And I feel like that's a healthier concept in terms of, you know, the ups and downs, you'll face through the admissions process of the extra elation that you feel if you get into your dream school versus like, settling on another school like, pick a college list, that's not going to be settling anywhere, like always have something each of the schools that you're applying to, that you'll be really thrilled to be a part of, if that's where you end up going.
Venkat Raman 46:04
Okay, so we're kind of coming to the end of our podcast, I always like to ask, if you have anything that you want to share that either we haven't talked about, Or do you want to expand more on something we've done, or, honestly, just some memories, some fond memories from your UCLA years, or some tradition that you really want to share?
Well, I will close by saying that UCLA is an amazing place, but you know, it's what you make of it.
So if you find yourself on our campus, but you're not really vibing with either your roommate, or the specific class that you're in, like, there's always some other place where you'll fit in better. So just keep that in mind.
And as far as traditions, UCLA also has tier one, college athletics, NCAA tier one. So there's a huge sports community as well. And even coming from someone who's not a die hard sports fan. During my college years, I really made an effort, especially my last year to go to all of the football, home games, and the basketball, home games. And the brand spirit is really evident in those arenas.
So I would encourage all students, even those who are not into sports, to definitely try to go to Bruin home games, check that out.
And just really spend time on campus. engaging with as much of it as you can, like, take classes that you would never think you might take. Just audit things, if you can, in terms of even if it's outside of your major, still take it for fun, and do it pass no pass, but do it for the sheer joy of learning. Because there really is so much knowledge there.
And there are things that I discover every day, even 20 years later, that the campus has that are so amazing. And I'll just, you know, give a shout out for example, we had our 100 year anniversary, and I went back for that Alumni Weekend. And I was able to finally check out the archaeology area where they do VR archaeology experiences. And it was just so cool. But at the time, like I didn't even know that existed. And sure some of that technology probably didn't exist 20 years ago, but I keep going back because of all these amazing new developments.
And so on that day, when I was checking out the department, I was able to do a virtual reality tour of the Temples in Luxor in Egypt. And that was so cool. So like there's always something and there are amazing museums on campus. Take advantage of that.
We have the Fowler Museum on campus itself, and then the Hammer Museum that's in Westwood. Just like a five to 10 minute walk away from the main campus. There's so many amazing opportunities to do things and learn about places and cultures that you might not get a chance to engage with after you leave. So do it all as much as you can but don't fail your classes. That's my advice.
Venkat Raman 49:36
Fantastic! So Miloni, this has been a fascinating sort of conversation. Thank you for your time and your generosity. I and I'm sure it will help students listen to this and I'm sure we'll talk again, for now. Take care, be safe.
Thank you so much.
Venkat Raman 49:58
Take care. Bye.
Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Miloni Gandhi on UCLA.
Miloni’s story is one of great interest and passion, for all things International.
Her pursuit of International Development Studies, and her year-long immersion program in Madrid, created a foundation for her future career.
In hindsight, her study abroad deal with her parents paid off big time!
Miloni’s involvement on the UCLA campus and traditions enriched her college journey.
I hope Miloni’s story inspires you to dig deeper into UCLA and see if it is for you.
For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [email@example.com].
Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.
Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].
Till we meet again, take care and be safe.
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