Interview with Andrea from MTV’s College Life
Andrea MTV College Life
Andrea, a nineteen-year-old Wisconsin native, is very confident: about her friends, her faith, and her choice to star in MTV’s new reality show, College Life. As I talked to her on the phone, I couldn't help but notice how bubbly and enthusiastic she seemed about everything. As a journalism major, Andrea was intrigued by the idea of participating in a documentary, and despite the ups and downs she has had to capture on film over the past few months, she doesn’t regret her decision and chooses to focus on the positive aspects of her experience so far. She clearly prides herself in having strong, if sometimes unpopular, convictions, and in the fact that she has not let the turmoil of college compromise her beliefs—such her choice not to drink, to remain a virgin until marriage, and the value she places on her Christian faith and on her academics. Despite the stress of filming her every move, Andrea has loved her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin.
So, right off the bat…when did you apply to be on the show? What do you think set you apart in the application process?
A: I applied about 2 weeks into school, and it wasn’t really an application. There was an application, I believe, but I went in for a walk-in audition, told them, you know, what I stood for, who I am. I’m a Christian; I have really strong beliefs: I don’t drink, I’m saving myself for marriage, and I really live my life for Jesus Christ. That’s different than a lot of other students.
What was your main reason for doing the show?
A: My main reason was really that I’m a journalism major so when I first heard “documentary,” I was interested. I’m the kind of person who has always wanted to “live out loud,” in that I have a story and I always want to tell it. I get in trouble sometimes with my girlfriends when I’m like, “listen to this,” “listen to this.” As an only child, my parents would listen intently to a story about me raising my hand in class, or something little like that. I’m really excited about the feedback about the show so far. Granted, there will be people who aren’t interested in my story.
How did MTV contact you?
A: About 3 days after my walk-in, I had a call saying, “we want you to come in and get a camera.” It was really last-minute—I had to call my parents, and talk to my roommate and everything.
So you had already started school when you applied?
A: Yeah, about 2 weeks into my freshman year, so I came here with no idea that this would be happening or that they were even doing this show.
What was your first reaction when you found out that you were picked for the show?
A: I was really excited…I was that girl that watched Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen on TV, and was convinced I would be an actress or singer, but I always knew to go to college, to follow a realistic path, so the opportunity in general was the direction I wanted to go. I was ecstatic. I was avoiding the call because they said they wanted me to get some paperwork in after my walk-in audition, and I hadn’t gotten it done because I had a lot of schoolwork. So I kept ignoring their calls thinking they were gonna ask for paperwork and I didn’t have it yet. Finally, my roommate and I were at Jamba Juice, and I decided to call them, expecting they were going to yell at me, trying to come up with excuses about not having the paperwork in. But instead they were like, “come get a camera,” and I was so excited.
How did you manage to film yourself while you were out? Did you have to ask friends for help a lot of the time?
A: Most of the people around me and in my life were really supportive. A lot of it I was filming myself, and now that I’ve seen in on TV, as far as looks go, those close up shots aren’t so pleasing. My roommate was awesome about filming. Very rarely, we’d set the camera on a tripod if we were playing a game or chatting. I got creative, setting it on a bookshelf or a TV; it was kind of fun.
Did the MTV crew ever interrupt you filming or do the filming for you?
A: No. They had field producers on campus to get us tapes and stuff. Like if we needed new batteries, they’d be there. They were never there to film. Sometimes I wish they were, though. Like at parties and stuff it would have been way easier having a camera crew around at some points.
Do you know any of the other kids doing the show?
A: At first we didn’t know each other, but through the process we’ve gotten to know on another a little. I wouldn’t say we hang out, except Josh Dixon, the sophomore. He’s my ex-boyfriend, who got a camera later in the show, so he could show the other side of our relationship.
How did College Life impact your relationships with your friends? Did you censor what you said on camera because you knew the whole world would see it?
A: It did put stressor on many situations. The biggest example with the camera making things more stressful was with my roommate. We knew each other before, but it just adds that extra tension when you’re talking and you know its there. Sometimes you forget it’s there and it doesn’t matter, but when you get into a heated conversation, it matters. I had to decide whether my relationships or letting America see the drama was more important. In that case I chose my roommate—we live in the same like 4x2-foot box, and that was more important to me. There is obviously some roommate drama we did capture. Also, sometimes I would meet a guy and I wanted to have that pre-conversation, like, “this is me, this is you…I’m gonna be filming, but lets be real.” You have that conversation off-camera first so everyone is on the same page.
Yeah, I noticed while I was watching the show that a lot of people’s faces were blurred out. So I guess some of the people who you met probably said they didn’t want to be on camera?
A: Definitely. It’s hard when you meet people who don’t want to be on film. It kind of puts a damper on how far the relationship is going to go.
Did you ever discuss what you’d be talking about and what conversations were off-limits with your friends before filming?
A: No, it actually was a free-for-all. The editors and producers were nice. They want to show an honest portrayal and everything that happens. Up and down, good and bad, they want it. They want to use it all, but they were willing to discuss things that wouldn’t be used if we felt strongly about it. Honestly, through the whole thing there wasn’t one time I had to go to them and say, “don’t use that.” Even though it’s hard to see the bad stuff on there sometimes, it was important to get both the good and bad for my story: the lessons I learned, how I got here, who I am now. I would be hurting my story and myself by taking anything out.
Are you happy with the scenes chosen for the first episode?
A: Yeah. It was fun, and it was interesting watching. It was weird though because you watch and are thinking, “wow those two scenes happened so far apart.” There are so many other things that happen in life, like the random college moments that they don’t put in there, and I remember every moment that happened between the ones they end up showing.
Do you think your life was accurately portrayed, or was it misrepresented through editing?
A: So far it’s been pretty accurate. I know there are 7 or 8 more episodes coming. I’m giving them free reign to do what they want with my footage. A little nerve-wracking, but it is my footage. They can take it out of context, and I realize that.
What’s your favorite thing about college so far?
A: I’m gonna sound cheesy but, it’s meeting new people. I love going to a big school…you just meet so many people!
And your least favorite?
A: Least favorite is probably exams…for a lot of my classes, only the exams count for your grade, which is different from high school, where there are all these little things, like quizzes and participation, that I thrived on. Here, there’s a class and then one big exam that counts.
How many hours do you spend studying per week on average?
A: I wanna say 16…I try to get a lot of studying in. If there’s an exam on the weekend I throw in those extra 4- or 5-hour days and it adds up. Academics are really important to me, and I came in wanting to get a good GPA.
What are some tips you would give other students about getting along with roommates?
A: Put everything out there. Don’t talk to anyone else about your problems, talk to your roommate. That was the most stressful thing. I was finding out from other people about problems that we were having. Make it about you.
Any other advice for incoming freshmen?
A: Just in general? Yeah, let’s see. Know who you are before you get here. A lot of people think that you discover yourself in college, but I disagree. I think you should know who you are before you come, know what you stand for, because once you get here there are so many people pulling you in different ways.
Final question: in retrospect, are you still happy that you chose to do the MTV show? Would your freshman year have been very different if you hadn’t?
A: Both yes. My freshman year would have been a lot different, to be honest, but I’m still happy with my choice. I can’t pick out what would have been different…maybe less stress. But there also wouldn’t have been that excitement, knowing it’s not just me enjoying it. In the long run, I’ll have a tape of my first year and be able to show my kids some day. But I would have given up the stress, I think.
Want more? Our student bloggers break down the first episode of College Life and share their first impressions of the show.