What I Loved About Wash U in St. Louis
August 31, 2018
What I loved About Wash U in St. Louis
Washington University in—St. Louis? Sometimes I see a puzzled expression cross the face of a stranger when I finish saying the name of my alma mater. But to me, Washington University IN St. Louis makes perfect sense. After all, my undergraduate experience at Wash U was shaped by the school community and the city surrounding it. I would not change one thing.
A Midwest Sensibility
When you visit Wash U, you will immediately notice the beautiful buildings and the idyllic quad. But second, and perhaps most importantly, you will notice how nice everyone is. The school culture of Wash U centers around a Midwest sensibility that values warmth and friendliness.
My classmates were smart and interesting, but the vibe was more collaborative than competitive. At the library coffeeshop, we’d meet up to chat and procrastinate, just a little. And professors demonstrated genuine interest in getting to know students and sharing their enthusiasm for their areas of expertise. I visited my British Literature professor regularly during office hours to get book recommendations, and at the end of each semester, my Italian teacher had our class over for a delicious dinner. Wash U bubbles over with the energy of people who love engaging in intellectual pursuits not only as individuals, but as an open and kind community.
A Community on Campus
At Wash U, I joined a community of people who had come from all across the U.S. and more than 100 countries. My friends were from New York, North Carolina, Indiana, California, Japan, and Spain. Our majors ranged from Engineering to Architecture to Psychology, because friendships weren’t determined by major or department. I loved visiting local galleries with my friends from the art school or hearing about the research on diabetes another friend conducted at the medical school.
Wash U’s medium-size, with about 7,500 undergraduate students, meant that I always saw familiar faces around campus, but still found new people to meet senior year. Most of my classes were small, with the average class size at Wash U at 18 students. I could ask questions and voice my opinions freely, while also learning from the questions and opinions of my classmates.
Campus life revolves around a few key sites: the quad, where everyone tries to hang out as much as possible; the Danforth University Center, home to the 300 plus student groups on campus; the “South Forty,” the area of campus where all freshman and sophomore students live. Students gather to eat dinner at Bear’s Den (which has surprisingly good food) and then head to club meetings, movie nights, or a cappella concerts. There is always something to do on campus, and then there is another awesome aspect: St. Louis. Wash U definitely encourages its students to explore and become involved in the broader community.
St. Louis and Beyond
St. Louis has tons of charm, including amazing Italian food, famous music venues, and quirky antique shops. Wash U’s campus perches on the edge of Forest Park, which as anyone who has spent time in St. Louis will probably tell you, is bigger than Central Park in New York. It is a great place to go running, boating, or exploring, and the art museum, history museum, and zoo inside the park are all free.
Wash U helps connect students with the local community and emphasizes service and civic engagement. As a student, I explored different and meaningful ways to be involved in St. Louis. I took a seminar class that studied St. Louis through the lens of history and anthropology. I became a Big Sister for a student at a local middle school, did art therapy at a retirement home, and helped run an afterschool program in a juvenile detention center.
Even as Wash U encourages students to engage with St. Louis, the school also fosters an expansive and global approach to learning. Wash U’s tradition of hosting presidential and vice-presidential debates brings national politics to life on campus. One in three students at Wash U also chooses to study abroad. I actually studied abroad twice during my time at Wash U. I loved discovering new places and developing a sense of myself as a seer, a thinker, and a doer. And every time I returned, I was excited to come home to Wash U.
Wash U gave me great opportunities to pursue my intellectual interests, become part of a community, and strengthen my engagement with the world. I am so happy that I found my way to Washington University in St. Louis.