Washington University in St. Louis
BackgroundInterview Date:Summer 2018
Race/Ethnicity: Middle Eastern/Caucasian
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: I went to a private school in San Francisco, CA with a graduating class of 100 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Undeclared, but am on the prelaw track.
Extracurricular Activities: I am in a sorority and a student theater organization.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
I kind of struggled to make friends outside of the group of people I lived with, and the second semester when I joined a sorority and joined that student theater group I made more friends, like really good friends, better than I thought I would. I met a lot of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and they are some of the most impactful people in my college experience thus far.
Favorite class last year?
Hyper-Imaginative Media, Science Fiction Literature and Film. We read sci-fi novels and compared them to the films based on them and saw where directors took artistic liberties and made decisions based on hyper-imaginative media that didn’t really give a lot of instructions for how to make something a film. I had no interest in film before that, but afterward, I saw the beauty of the intersection of literature and film and how making one into another is really an art.
Least favorite in your major?
I took a class that in theory would have been good and I liked the professor a lot. It was called Biomedical Ethics, and it was a philosophy class about the ethics of medical decisions. It was a really good idea for a class, but it was just too big. That’s the thing about 200 level classes at Wash U, like a 200-level philosophy class has 40 people and that’s not really conducive to productive discussions about philosophical issues.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think it’s not competitive at all for the Humanities, but it’s a different story for the STEM classes. The only classes I felt competitive in were the math classes I’ve taken. I took Calculus 2 and 3, and both of them felt a lot more intense. Calc 2 was a lot more intense because the tests were curved. That’s the only class I’ve taken where the tests were curved, so how you did was relative to how your peers did. The Humanities classes are collaborative, some of the best group projects I’ve done in my entire life were in the past year at Wash U.
Has there been anything that you especially like or dislike about the academics at Wash U so far?
For the pre-law track, there are no classes you specifically have to take, you just have to take writing intensive classes, so I like that you can pretty much major in anything and still be on the pre-law track. There’s not a lot of pressure to figure out what you’re majoring in.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Park Residential College in a six-person suite. It was three double rooms, and we shared two bathrooms which was really nice.
Sophomore: Mudd Residential College, which is the sophomore dorm attached to Park. I’m living in a suite of four people with two doubles.
How was transitioning from San Francisco to St. Louis?
It was tough at first. I think it was a lot worse the first semester because [at home] I live in a very urban environment and I don’t have my license, so I’m used to taking public transportation everywhere. I’m used to a lot of things happening at once. The St. Louis pace of life is a lot slower, and it’s a lot harder to get around. I have to take Lyft everywhere if I want to leave campus, but the good news is I never want to leave campus [laughs]. I’ve gotten a lot more used to the slower pace of life in St. Louis. I’m better at talking to strangers now because in St. Louis everyone is so nice that they talk to other people on the street. I used to hate that, but not I love it. Like, I’ll make conversation with my Uber driver and it’ll be normal and I would have never done that before.
Favorite off-campus restaurant?
I really like brunch, and there’s this amazing brunch place by campus called Winslow’s. They have dinner too, but I’ve only ever gone there for brunch.
Favorite place to get away from campus?
Forest Park or the Delmar Loop, but the Loop isn’t really away from campus because all the Wash U upperclassmen live around there. Forest Park is a great place to take a walk and clear your head. The Loop also has this bookstore that is a great place to go if I’m feeling stressed.
Pros and Cons of being in St. Louis, MO?
1) It’s pretty centrally located. A flight to pretty much anywhere in the country will be about the same amount of time.
2) St. Louis is kind of a hip place. I honestly really think it’s going to be the new “it” place. There is a lot of youth culture that is really interesting.
3) Forest Park. Everything in Forest Park is free so you can go to the art museum and the zoo for free.
1) It is landlocked, which for me, after growing up on a coast, I can feel kind of stressed about it sometimes.
2) It’s really hard to get around. The public transportation only goes one way or the other way, so if you’re not able to drive it’s hard to get around.
What kind of nightlife do you like to participate in?
I like going to frat parties and mixers.
What nights of the week do you regularly go out?
I would mostly go out Thursday through Saturday night but take one night off. Those are the nights that frats usually have stuff going on. The biggest frat night is Friday. Thursdays there are only a couple of frats that regularly have stuff on Thursdays unless they’re mixers. Mixers tend to be on Thursdays and Fridays, and open frat parties are on Fridays and Saturdays.
Can you describe a typical night going out freshman year?
The first semester, when I didn’t know anybody except for the people I lived with, we would typically get back from classes, do homework for a little bit, get dinner, and then go back to someone’s room to pregame and then as a huge group go to wherever the party was. The first semester you have to be on an invite list for most parties to get in so you would make sure you had enough invites and your boy to girl ratio was correct. There were times that you would go out and not know if you would get in anywhere, but that was part of the fun and the adventure.
How did the nightlife differ before and after you joined Greek life?
After joining a sorority, it changed because more of the events I went to were mixers with other people in my sorority and a specific fraternity. I would gather with some of my sisters beforehand. There was a lot less stress with those because you knew you were going to get in and you know more people in Greek life generally so you know guys in frats and that’s more fun. There’s just less stress when it comes to getting into events once you’re in Greek life, at least that’s how I felt.
How happy are you with the nightlife at Wash U? Is there anything you would change if you could?
Personally, no. I know a lot of people complain that the party scene at Wash U is kind of lame, but I think that it’s like the perfect amount. There’s no pressure to go out if you don’t want to and there’s a lot of time to get your work done. It’s what you make of it, you can go out or not go out as much as you want.
How did you meet your closest friends?
The peopled I lived with, a few of us became really close really fast. That was my main group first semester. The second semester I met my closest friends through my sorority and student theater.
How would you describe the social scene?
It is what you make of it. I hated Wash U first semester but by second semester I loved it, and that was mostly because I wasn’t doing anything for a semester except hanging out with the people I lived with. There are so many events happening on campus and so many opportunities to get to know people that I didn’t participate in. Second semester when I started going out with other people and going to other events and trying new things, that’s when I started to be happy. I don’t think [the social life] will come to you, I think there is some effort that needs to be made. If you’re not happy with the situation, you need to do something about it.
To what extent do you think international students mix with domestic students?
That’s a problem that people talk about a lot at Wash U, but still not enough. I think there is separation. In some cases, I think the separation is through [socioeconomic status], and that happens to have a correlation with race. Wealthier people tend to stick together and people who knew each other from before. [The median family income of a student from Wash U is $272,000.] My roommate was from New York City, and she already had a bunch of friends. In terms of sexual orientation, I think that’s less of a factor. People are more likely to mix. [The undergraduate population of 7,715 is 8% Hispanic, 30% Black or African American, and 51% White].
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
Something you wish you knew about Wash U before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew how many people would know each other before coming in. I figured everyone would be starting out not knowing anyone, and that was very wrong.
Something that a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The law library and the law school. In general, it’s beautiful. A bunch of undergraduates work in the law library all the time. They don’t take tour groups there because it’s impolite to the students, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
Reasons to attend Wash U:
1) The people are great.
2) There are so many options of how you can spend your time. It’s very much a Choose Your Own Adventure kind of place.
3) There are so many things happening on campus. The first semester I saw Anderson Cooper speak and the second semester I saw Angela Davis. I would never have had that opportunity if I had not been at Wash U.
4) It definitely pushed who I am as a person in a way that college should. I have become a lot more outgoing and sociable because I have to be.
Reasons to not attend Wash U:
1) If you’re really opposed to Greek life. I never thought I’d join a sorority and was kind of opposed to Greek life before Wash U, but then I got over it. If you’re really opposed to Greek life then this is not the place. It’s a lot bigger than they advertise. [It’s advertised that 35% of Wash U students are members of a Greek organization].
2) If you don’t like Missouri don’t go to Wash U. I actually really like it.
3) If you need class requirements to guide you. We have some requirements, you don’t have to take certain classes you just have to take classes in a certain field. I like that there’s some structure but there are no classes you have to take, but I know some people needed that structure so the open curriculum wasn’t for them.
4) If you’re a big sports fan, we have no school spirit in terms of athletics.