Wednesday, July 8, 2015

We Wish You a WashU Welcome

The United States suffers from a problem in which we have excess and scarcity but lack the ability to balance the two. Today was a precipitation heavy day in St. Louis, full of rain that we direly need over in California. If only weather could be transferred across the country...

Although the weather was overcast, we still had a valuable site visit at Washington University in St. Louis. After checking out of our on campus hotel midmorning, we trekked across the WashU campus to the admissions office. We checked in at the front desk and looked over some informative reading material about the university and St. Louis while we waited for the start of our tour.

The Bunny, a special WashU statue
Our tour group consisted of our cohort and about fifteen other people, led by our tour guide Evan. Evan is a rising sophomore at Washington University who is doubling in political science and economics, and he was a very enthusiastic tour guide. However, I noticed it was difficult to hear what he was saying unless I stayed near the front of the group, as the tour moved quickly and he had lots of information to share. I enjoyed getting a sense of the campus and I really like how it’s a combination of both old style buildings and very modern facilities. I also appreciated all the green spaces and public art throughout the campus.

Beyond showing us the campus, Evan also talked about student life at WashU and the many programs offered. The dorms at WashU are notable because they are mainly “modern” style, which means there are only 3 or 4 students for each bathroom. They also have individually controlled air conditioning, lights, Tempur-Pedic mattresses, and allow appliances like microwaves and mini fridges. This is all very nice, but after Jae-An’s statement that they were ranked first in the country, I was unrealistically expecting some sort of luxury living space with remarkable amenities.

Our tour guide, Evan
Special events were another topic that Evan discussed a lot, stressing that there are lots of opportunities for Washington University students to interact with one another and the faculty through dinners, trips and events like waffle breakfasts and the residential housing Olympics. I was glad to hear that the housing system seems to foster a lot of spirit and create a sense of community. Additionally, all freshmen are required to house on campus and have both upperclassmen residential advisors for supervision and a sophomore WUSA (Washington University Student Advisor) for guidance and assistance in adjusting to college life. Overall, the living situation at Washington University seems ideal and a major asset of the university.

A bonus feature of our campus tour was that we were given a meal card to use at the dining commons. We used this for lunch and it was interesting to get a literal taste of college cuisine. I had a burrito that was decent enough, and I’m curious to compare the WashU food with what we’ll encounter at University of Chicago next week.

In the afternoon, we attended an information session hosted by admissions officer Amanda Garcia, as well as one of our guests from last night, Dana Robertson! I hadn’t been sitting very near Dana yesterday evening so it was nice to hear about her experiences, including her switch from a biology to African American studies major, her involvement with Black Anthology and their annual play, and the experiences her friends had with study abroad programs. Amanda also had a lot to share, both personal experiences and plenty of information about classes and the admission process. One major point that was memorable to me was the involvement of faculty and professors with the students, both Dana and Amanda relayed stories of talking to professors about class work and even going out to public events with them. Washington University has about a 1 to 7 faculty to student ratio, which is impressive. For me, teachers have always been an important part of my education and feeling like they are an accessible resource that I like, trust and respect is a big consideration of mine.

Research opportunities were another subject covered in the info session. I hadn’t thought much about doing research before, but now I think it’s something I’d find intriguing and rewarding and will definitely consider in my college plans. The more we learn about universities, the more I realize there is so much I want to discover in order to prepare for the college application process and college life. I’m grateful that I’m only a rising junior and still have over a year to explore and gain as much information as possible. At the moment, I am unsure if I will apply to Washington University in St. Louis. It’s a great school with a lot of features that appeal to me, but I can’t quite envision myself as an actual student there. Still, I'm very glad we got that we got to learn so much about WashU because it is a stellar school that wasn't much on radar before.

I had been a little disappointed with how our busy schedule had prevented us from venturing into St. Louis beyond the campus, but due to a lucky flight delay today we managed to drive downtown and see the St. Louis Arch! It was truly awesome and monumental despite being shrouded in clouds. We also caught a glimpse of the Mississippi River and the old courthouse in which the Dred Scott decision was made. Our taxi driver, Dennis, narrated our whole ride, which was a nice way to get an abbreviated tour of St. Louis. Even though I know the primary purpose of our trips is to gain knowledge about colleges, the traveler in me thinks that going to new places and not exploring a little is a shame, so I’m glad we got to briefly investigate St. Louis.

Me near the bottom of the Arch
Due to the flight delay, we didn’t get into Chicago until quite late. It was a relief to finally settle into our lovely accommodations at the Omni Hotel and eat dinner nearby, and I’m elated that we are in this big city now! Tomorrow we visit and learn all about Northwestern University, which I’m looking forward to since I did some research on the school and will have more expectations that at WashU.

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