Senior Staff Q&A

Whether a three-year veteran of Washington University or just 12 months removed from the first stay on campus, every member of Student Life’s staff has been a new student at some point. We have all had our highs and our lows, and we are eager to share our thoughts on surviving—and enjoying!—the freshman experience. Here are some of our memories, experiences and warnings for you to keep in mind during your first year on the Danforth Campus.

Q: What was your favorite memory of freshman year?

“Skydiving with my three best friends on my 18th birthday was the best memory from freshman year. There’s a place about 45 minutes south of campus that is safe and fun (parent-approved). It was a great way to get off campus and away from work and live a little!” –sophomore Zoe Kline, Senior Photo Editor

“My favorite memory of freshman year was the first time it snowed. I bonded with my freshman floor and residential advisors and other friends and had my first snowball fight ever (it doesn’t snow in Hawaii).” –senior Georgie Morvis, Senior Cadenza Editor

“Some of my freshman floor walked to the Great Forest Park Balloon Race because someone in our group was observing Shabbat and therefore couldn’t ride the Metro. No one in our group had gone before or even had the slightest idea where the race was other than that it was in Forest Park somewhere. After a few wrong turns and a lot of help from Google Maps, we found the Balloon Race, got our photo snapped by a photographer from the Post-Dispatch and spent the rest of the day walking around with pink Energizer bunny ears on our heads. We capped the day off with dinner and root beer floats from Fitz’s.” –junior John Schmidt, Managing Editor

Q: What one class would you recommend taking this year?

“I think everyone should try taking a class outside his comfort zone. I’ve taken classes like Nomadic Strategies and Extreme Ecologies, Introduction to Sexuality Studies, and Western Civilization. I’d especially recommend Nomadic Strategies and Extreme Ecologies, but really I think it’s important just to take classes you know nothing about.” –junior Andrew Catanese, Art Director

“If you can get into it, take Colin Burnett’s freshman seminar on James Bond. Because it’s in the spring, it’s usually full of January Programmers, but now that the program doesn’t exist anymore, you might have a decent shot. You watch James Bond movies, read comic books and play video games, and that counts as class time. Plus, you actually learn something about film in the process. Take it.” –junior Kayla Hollenbaugh, Senior Cadenza Editor

“Introduction to Archaeology is a great class to take as a freshman if you’re looking to fulfill your social sciences requirements. Dean Darla Dale is an amazing professor, and her ebullient and humorous personality makes lecture enjoyable and engaging. The workload is very manageable, and the course gives you a good taste of anthropology.” –junior Derek Shyr, Managing Editor

Q: What was the worst advice you received going into your freshman year?

“I was told to avoid early classes (mainly by my friends), but waking up for 9 a.m. intro French was a great decision. It was filled with a great group of freshmen, and we studied together and spoke in broken French every now and then. If there is a class you really want to take, wake up for it because chances are you won’t be the only freshman in that class, and maybe you’ll find a breakfast buddy.” –sophomore Billy Jacobson, Senior Online Editor

“Probably that everything that I did for the rest of my life depended on these four years. That’s a lot of pressure and honestly probably not true; these four years are about figuring out who you are and what interests you. They’re the time to try new things and most likely will not dictate the course of your entire future.” –junior Divya Kumar, Senior News Editor

“‘Throw yourself into everything.’ Instead, try lots but focus on what you love. Don’t overload yourself.” –sophomore Caroline Ludeman, Senior Scene Editor

Q: Why did you choose to attend Washington University?

“I didn’t make my matriculation decision official until April 30, a mere day before the deadline, but I had had a gut feeling for a month that Wash. U. was the place for me. When visiting campus, I could easily picture myself tossing around a Frisbee on Mudd Field or waiting in line at the 1853 Diner. It’s probably not good news for my writing career that I’m incapable of putting that feeling into words, but such is the issue with gut feelings: they’re hard to explain but ultimately right. And attending Wash. U. was right.” –sophomore Zach Kram, Copy Chief

“I applied to Wash. U. early decision. I remember sitting on the front steps of Brookings Hall as a high school junior and saying to my dad that this was the first school I had visited that I could see myself at. I thought about which schools I could call home for four years, and Wash. U.’s quality of life was unparalleled: Tempur-Pedic mattresses, free cable, Bear’s Den, etc. And it all came with a top-notch education! This school clearly had money, but what made me feel great was that the money was spent on its students. And while there isn’t the big-time sports culture that I always thought I needed, I am perfectly happy with a more intimate setting that comes with Division III athletics.” –senior Sahil Patel, Editor-in-Chief

“I got in. Also I was looking for a school where I could pursue multidisciplinary interests and be part of a supportive community. I love the hard sciences and was worried I would find myself in a cutthroat environment that would steer me away from studying topics I was interested in. Also it’s really pretty.” –senior Michael Tabb, Senior News Editor

Q: Are you happy here at Wash. U.?

“I’m very happy at Wash. U. I not only have a major that’s not offered at other schools and a balcony in my dorm room but access to Fitz’s Cream Soda at almost any location I go to.” –junior Divya Kumar, Senior News Editor

“I could not be happier at Wash. U. I have made great friends and have had some great experiences. I love the quality of life I lead here. While school can sometimes be stressful, there is a wealth of opportunities at every corner to distract myself from a big exam if I just need a break. There is plenty to do in the St. Louis area as well, so there is always something going on.” –senior Sahil Patel, Editor-in-Chief

“Absolutely! Wash. U. has a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere that keeps most people very happy. I have some really close friends at Wash. U., and there’s always something happening on campus, so I’m never bored. The academics can be challenging at times, but they are quite manageable for the most part. Wash. U. professors generally make lecture engaging and interesting, which makes learning and studying much easier and more enjoyable.” –junior Derek Shyr, Managing Editor

Q: What do you think are the keys to being successful at Wash. U.?

“1) Get out from behind the computer screen. The Internet is awesome, but it’s also a frighteningly effective distraction from both academic work and real, human interaction. 2) Join a club. With a plethora of options to choose from, there’s almost literally something for everyone. 3) Find out early on how to deal with stress, and don’t let it build up on you.” –senior Leah Kucera, Associate Editor

“1) Remember why you’re here. In some way, you earned your acceptance to one of America’s most elite colleges. Yes, you will be joined by hundreds of other elite peers who may be even better than you at singing a cappella, acing chemistry tests or just being outgoing and sociable. Don’t lose track of your passions just because somebody else might be more recognized for them or no one seems to care about them. You earned your admittance and will continue to earn your place by developing the skills and interests with which you entered college. 2) Learn from others. At a national institution like Wash. U., it’s a guarantee that you will meet dozens of people from different backgrounds and with different life experiences than you. These may be cultural, religious, racial, political, psychological, etc. It’s a gut instinct to dismiss others and reflexively defend our own experiences and viewpoints. Make every effort to avoid this—one of the greatest learning experiences in college, if not the most important, is education from our peers.” –junior Alex Leichenger, Senior Sports Editor

“Wash. U. isn’t an easy school—being successful means being motivated and eager to study and learn. Time management is also important, so be sure to find a way to balance academics with extracurricular activities.” –senior Rahee Nerurkar, Senior Photo Editor

Q: What part of St. Louis should freshmen check out during their first year?

“Having grown up close to two downtown areas both blessed with a baseball stadium (Baltimore and Washington, D.C.), I was shocked to learn how many of my Wash. U. friends had never attended a ballgame. If you’ve never before feasted your eyes on the lush green grass surrounding a baseball diamond or joined 40,000 fans in cheering for a home run (or heck, even secretly enjoyed the Kiss Cam), you’re in luck: Busch Stadium is a few convenient MetroLink stops away and happens to be one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country. Throw on your Cardinals red and catch a game.” –sophomore Zach Kram, Copy Chief

“Areas outside of the Wash. U. ‘Bubble.’ Though it may be difficult to reach some neighborhoods without a car, your Metro Pass is truly your ticket to just about every area in St. Louis you could want to go. Classics include the Delmar Loop and the Central West End, but don’t be afraid to visit less familiar places. In Soulard, there’s a great farmers’ market, the largest Mardi Gras parade outside of New Orleans and a ton of good restaurants like Molly’s in Soulard and Chava’s Mexican Restaurant.” –junior John Schmidt, Managing Editor

“Any part of St. Louis that isn’t the Loop. Don’t get me wrong—the Loop is great (and you should still explore it), but it’s so close to campus that it doesn’t really count as exploring the city. Try different neighborhoods—the South Grand neighborhood has some of the best Asian food in St. Louis, Tower Grove Park hosts the monthly gathering of all the best food trucks in the city (Food Truck Friday) and Midtown is another great option.” –junior Emily Sybrant, Managing Editor

Q: What was the biggest mistake you made your freshman year?

“I was afraid of my professors. They were so much more knowledgeable and poised than I could’ve imagined, and it kept me quiet in a lot of classes that I should’ve spoken up in. Sophomore year, I quickly got over that and ended up doing a lot better academically.” –junior Kayla Hollenbaugh, Senior Cadenza Editor

“I think I overcommitted sometimes, and that was hard while trying to keep up with schoolwork and extracurriculars, but I think I managed to find a balance in the end, but that will be thrown off soon as I can’t help but sign up for new clubs and groups constantly.” –sophomore Billy Jacobson, Senior Online Editor

“I got really swept away by the whole pre-medical school scene here and felt that if I didn’t take classes like General Chemistry, I’d be missing out on the essence of a Wash. U. education. That ended up being entirely untrue, and I spent a semester trying to fit into classes that didn’t really suit my interests, which made the transition to college life a lot harder.” –junior Divya Kumar, Senior News Editor

Q: What one piece of advice do you have to offer incoming freshmen?

“The key to being successful at Wash U is taking breaks. Go out! Have fun! Party a little bit. Don’t get caught up in the absurd amounts of work that you will get. I made this mistake first semester, and I was miserable. Enjoy the time you have here by meeting everyone you can and making friends on your floor. Friends are what will make you happy, not homework.” –sophomore Zoe Kline, Senior Photo Editor

“Find your niche. College isn’t like high school—you’re not supposed to join three honor societies and play a varsity sport and volunteer on weekends to look attractive to colleges (that’s not an exaggeration—I was told to do all those things in high school). Instead, devote yourself to just one or two activities for which you feel a passion. Once there, you’ll meet people who share your interests, make lasting friendships and find ways to enjoy your spare time that don’t necessarily require imbibing illicit substances.” –sophomore Zach Kram, Copy Chief

“Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, don’t wear a lanyard around your neck. It may be a temptingly convenient way to keep track of your ID card/room key/Sanrio frequent shopper card, but it looks tacky, and I will make fun of you.” –senior Leah Kucera, Associate Editor

“There’s no ‘right’ way to do college. Be as involved in things as you want, take classes that you like and find friends who enjoy the same things you do. There’s not enough time here to do things you don’t like.” –junior Divya Kumar, Senior News Editor

“When academics, personal issues or something unexpected get you down, do not be afraid to seek out help, and do not waste your time sulking. So many new things are coming at you at once, and it can be overwhelming to deal with all of them. Be active in confronting them rather than retreating, and always seek out new activities or ways to enjoy yourself on weekends or even weekdays for a study break.” –junior Alex Leichenger, Senior Sports Editor

“Do your best to get along with your roommate. While there is nothing that says you need to live with him for four years, you are stuck with him for one. You may have fundamental differences, such as bedtimes, majors and eating habits, but a healthy living environment is really important for your sanity. You don’t have to like each other; just be respectful of each other. You can make friends in the strangest of places, and while you and your roommate may be incompatible in the same space, you could be great friends in different contexts, so make sure you don’t immediately burn that bridge.” –senior Sahil Patel, Editor-in-Chief

“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! No one is perfect, and you’ll come out of it stronger and more mature. Take advantage of the resources that college offers you, and remember to follow your dreams and passions!” –junior Derek Shyr, Managing Editor

“It’s easy to get stuck. You’ll get stuck in your routine of going to classes and studying and hanging out with your friends on campus. At some point, everything will feel like it revolves around Wash. U. When you’re on campus, you’re surrounded by people who are very similar to you—similar age, similar problems, similar experiences. When that happens, go out into the city and be around some real people. At times, Wash. U. will be stressful, and it will feel like stress and sleep deprivation is all there is. Go out and see other aspects of life. It will make you feel like a real person again.” –junior Emily Sybrant, Managing Editor

“Get hot sauce on the side; it really doesn’t matter what you’re eating. Chicken club? New York strip steak? Pizza? Everything tastes better with some hot sauce. And unless you’re getting your half-and-half tossed in the stuff, you have no excuse not to.” –senior Michael Tabb, Senior News Editor