Meet Alyssa Oertwig!

Meet Alyssa Oertwig! She is this week's Campus Profile, and she discusses the pros and cons of her experience studying abroad in London during Fall Quarter as well as her experiences with Greek Life on campus.



Year: Second

Major: History

College: Thurgood Marshall

What did you like about studying abroad?

I lived in a flat with people from all over the world so I was able to meet a lot of new people and become friends with them. I also met people in hostels who I went sight-seeing with! I was able to discuss cultural differences and international issues which was so interesting.

I also grew so much as a person in every way possible. As a student, I was challenged by a new education system, lecture style, grading system, and different culture regarding the student-professor relationship. Because I was only abroad for fall quarter, instead of exams I was challenged with writing papers far longer than I ever had before. From these academic challenges, I feel more confident back at UCSD this quarter about finishing assignments I used to think were beyond my intellectual comfort zone. As an individual, my confidence grew enormously. For the first time, I felt completely independent, facing daily challenges on my own and “adulting” on my own. Going away to college, I never felt completely independent because I would turn to my parents for help fairly often. Thousands of miles and an eight hour time difference eradicated that option and forced me to take the initiative to take action, ask for help, and problem solve on my own. As a woman, I felt empowered by studying abroad and travelling alone. I learned to be more confident in my own skin, how to stand up for myself, and how to present myself in a way in which I was respected as an equal and not looked down upon for being on my own. People asked me if it was safe, whether it was smart for me to be walking alone at night, and why I was travelling on my own. I wanted to prove to myself I could do anything I want to do, and I did that. As a historian, I got to see the places where the world’s greatest triumphs and tragedies occurred, and my life was changed. My passion for history grew and my perspective expanded greatly. Europe’s museums and sights became my classroom. I had amazing opportunities as a student at UCL to handle antiquities oncampus and go behind the scenes at the British Museum.

In addition to the amount of growth that I underwent, I also had so much fun!! I was able to travel to five countries outside of the UK. explore my cultural heritage, experience real seasons (no more SoCal seasons!), go to Christmas markets and special traditional celebrations, and became engulfed in British culture. I definitely felt like I belonged by the end.

Lastly, my perspective changed. I became more culturally aware. I was more conscious of cultural differences and respect for cultural traditions/languages. From experience at a concentration camp I visited, my life was changed and my perspective on issues regarding gender, race, and religious difference (AKA current political debates, Trump) revolutionized. I have a new motto:  “Never is not in my vocabulary”-I broke so many “rules” or constraints I thought I had as an individual.

Is there anything you didn't like about studying abroad?

London is so expensive and the exchange rate destroyed my bank account, but I tried to live in the moment because I don't know when I'll be back. I also got lonely sometimes, and got homesick too. It was especially hard during the holidays. I oftentimes when sightseeing alone, so it was hard to see others in groups of friends experiencing it together. But overall, I made great friends with the people who I lived with.  

How is it being a humanities major at UCSD?

I definitely can tell I’m a minority in number. I can count how many other humanities majors I know well on my hands. In lower division especially, could tell how many people were taking the class as a GE and did not take the class seriously-gets annoying, especially when I care so much. I enjoy how relevant to current affairs the issues discussed in humanities classes are. Registering for classes is relatively nice and there is a nice diversity of option. Overall, I enjoy it and recommend it to people genuinely interested.

Why did you join Greek life?


I was a relatively shy person coming to UCSD. I know I made my friends in high school through campus orgs, so wanted to get involved right away to make sure I was out of my dorm and into the greater campus community. I wanted to meet girls who also wanted to be social and involved. I wanted to meet older, experienced collegiates who could help mentor and inspire me to grow. I came to college without much direction, unsure about my major, with significant reservations, so I looked forward to an environment encouraging interaction between all years. I also wanted a way to volunteer and get involved in San Diego’s local community, so the philanthropy aspect was attractive as well.

Is there anything about Greek life that you would change?

There's not a whole lot I would change, but I would say maybe more Panhellenic/IFC interaction outside the competitive atmosphere of sports and philanthropies. Competition is fun but can spark petty conflict or create an aura of hostility or grudge between chapters. I think we need more opportunities to interact, and intermix most importantly, without feeling like a competition. Possibly more integration of the councils, more interaction with MGC too.