Occidental College is situated on a 120-acre campus and is home to just under 2,000 students, giving students the opportunity to get to know many of their peers through classes, clubs and events throughout the years. The tight-knit community, small class sizes and welcoming environment of Occidental define the college’s distinctive features and culture, according to students Yumi Sakaguchi (junior) and Noah Willis (sophomore).
Sakaguchi said she has personally found the college to be a great place to make friends across Occidental’s small student body.
“I think if you’re a nice person, and just like a decent human being, you will do well socially and everyone is generally nice,” Sakaguchi said.
Willis transferred to Occidental from the University Of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a large state school with over 38,000 undergraduate students. He said that by comparison, Occidental does not feel as overwhelming and he enjoys the smaller atmosphere.
“I was expecting [Occidental] to be smaller, to have a relationship with my professor, to know the people in my classes and the floor, and it’s lived up to that pretty well,” Willis said.
Giselle Gatewood (sophomore) said she was happy to find that the college’s social environment — fostered by the small campus and student population — matched her expectations.
“I feel like the campus lives up to what it says in pamphlets, where it’s a small, close-knit community because campus really makes you closer to each other,” Gatewood said.
According to Nico Morales (first year), Occidental’s small size has also helped him foster close relationships in his first year of college.
“I really like the size. I feel like I’ve made really good friendships, and I always pass somebody I know whenever I walk to the Quad,” Morales said. “I feel like if I was at a bigger school, I’d have to go search out everybody. But here I run into people I know.”
Natalia Cuesta (sophomore) said she believes the smaller class sizes allow students to benefit from more individual attention.
“You can make your name known a little better,” Cuesta said. “I feel like you get more help because less people need attention.”
However, several students said that the small school also has its share of drawbacks. In particular, students said there are fewer activities and places to get away from the crowd at Occidental.
After transferring from a larger school, Willis said he appreciates the activities and events on campus, but still wishes there were more things to do.
“It feels like there’s less going on,” Willis said. “There’s always stuff happening at a bigger school, which is not to say that there’s not enough [here] — there’s definitely enough on-campus stuff, but it’s not like there’s something happening all the time.”
According to Paulson Cheung (sophomore), students at Occidental are in smaller friend groups, which can make it harder to meet new people.
“One benefit [of attending a smaller school] is that it’s easier to get to know people,” Cheung said. “A drawback is that it’s harder to make friends, I would say, because everyone’s in a tiny group all the time.”
Kerr Gebreselassie (senior) said he likes knowing people everywhere he goes on campus, but wishes he had a little more privacy.
“There’s nowhere on campus I feel like I don’t really go here or like I don’t know people here, which is nice,” Gebreselassi said. “Drawbacks — everybody knows your business. Everybody knows what’s going on, you can’t do anything in secret, everything just gets around at a small school.”
Sakaguchi echoed that she enjoys seeing familiar faces across campus, but does not always feel in the mood to interact.
“I like the size of Oxy when I’m in a good mood because I know I’ll always run into people that I like, but when I’m feeling like I don’t want to see anyone’s face and not talk to anyone, it’s really hard to find space to be on your own,” Sakaguchi said.
Although there are drawbacks to the smaller size, students still love the tight-knit community the college has created. After spending time back at home recently, Morales said he realized how much missed Occidental.
“It’s really hard to want to leave Oxy. I went home for a whole week and when I got home, I was like, damn, when I look back at school, I kind of want to be back on the campus,” Morales said.