Well, as Drake would say, We Made It. Here I am, at the beginning of my eighth semester, only twelve weeks from graduation. Its been an awesome time, and I’m sad to go. Before I do, I hope to pass on things I’ve learned and enjoyed about my time at WashU so that young WashU students can have as great of a time as I did. Also, for context of the picture. That’s me during my senior year of high school, in my triumphant “WASHU! VICTORY!” pose.
Here is the (definitely not definitive) list of things I am glad I did, or wish I did sooner, at WashU. The list will start with the long, heavy-hitters, and progress to the short, lighter tips. I’ve made an effort to omit the cliché things that everyone will say like “branch out” and “work hard” and instead only mention things that people may not have thought of before.
1. Learn how to learn. Let me tell you a story. Last fall, I was walking past the display bookshelves in the library, when a book called “Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning” caught my eye. Unable to resist my curiosity, I picked it up, checked it out, and read it cover to cover. Before I knew it, I’d also read “How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens“. A few weeks later I took an Economics exam, and, for the first time in my college career, I was giggling when I came out because the exam was so easy. Hold on, lets back up. It wasn’t easy, per say. I was just so absurdly prepared that the exam was almost a joke. It was at that moment when I realized how much of a difference learning the science behind learning and memory can make. My studying became infinitely more efficient and far less stressful as I now understood the process behind it. These books went way beyond the usual “study tips” that you can find on Google. Even better, one of the authors of “Make it Stick” is actually a WUSTL professor, so if I was curious or unclear about something in it, I could have just visited his office hours.
2. Don’t be afraid of unconventional classes. If you take away one thing from this point, it is to go ahead and take “Dinosaur Modeling” or “Racecar Driving” or whatever fascinating class that is totally outside of your major but has caught your eye. Note that those two are not actual courses. For me, the two classes that changed my world were Acting I and my first dance class. Here’s the article I wrote about acting, and here’s the one about dance. They both brought out sides of me that I had no idea existed, and got me interested in continuing learning about them. I’m in Acting II now, and on my third dance class. I’d been dismissive of taking them until my junior year because I was worried about taking things that weren’t “practical” or in line with my major. Boy was I wrong. For me, acting was a way for me to learn to appreciate art, get better at expressing myself, and kill my stage-fright. Ever since taking Acting I, work and class presentations have become far easier. Dance was something I’d always wished I wasn’t terrible at. Guess what, I’m no longer a terrible dancer; in fact, I actually love it now. I wish I’d started these classes earlier, because now I’m graduating before I’ll have time to take the most advanced versions.
3. Take a leadership role in a club. During my time here, I’ve seen a feminist organization, a business organization, an art organization, and a social fraternity get founded. Those are just the ones I know of. The wonderful thing is that if you have an idea, you can make it happen, and chances are, lots of other students will want to be part of it too. I was part of the founding of an organization and it was an incredible experience to watch things grow. More than just all the lessons I learned while on the executive board of that organization, being part of creating it was so special because of what it meant. It meant that if I wanted to be part of a club, all I had to do was make it happen. So, dear student, when you think “Wow, it sure would be cool if we had a X club,” just go start it. If that club happens to exist, check it out, improve it. You’ll be glad you did when you get into the postgrad world and realize that while the game has changed, and now the stakes are for careers, the underlying themes are the same. People are still people, whether they’re college students or professionals.
4. Do not miss the snowball fight on the swamp. Whatever you are doing, when the first snow of the fall semester hits, drop everything and run outside. There will be hundreds of your classmates throwing snowballs at each other, building snowmen, and making snow angels. And it will be awesome and unforgettable. You’ll thank me later.
5. Eat at the carvery at least 5 times every day. Yeah, its that good. Try going at off hours (11 when it opens, or after 1:30) for the shortest line.
6. Try the soups. Seriously, the soups that dining services makes are magnificent. Some of my favorites are Kansas City Steak, Chicken Dumpling, and the Chicken Corn Chowder. If you find yourself as hopelessly addicted, you can enable your habit by checking out menus.wustl.edu to see what soup they’ll have for every day each week.
7. Study in different libraries. Yes, of course there’s Olin Library, the main one. But have you tried the Music Library, the East Asian Library, the Earth and Planetary Sciences Library, or the Architecture Library? Try them; they’ll change your life.
8. Take that picture of yourself at the underpass. You’ll see what I mean when you come here. On the first day of classes, you can write a message on a whiteboard to your parents or lover or whoever and pose for a picture with it at the underpass. You’ll want that picture four years from now.
9. Nap in the B-Stacks. If you go to the basement of Olin Library, there is a group of chairs with footrests that happen to perfectly fit the shape of a curled up student. They’re wonderful for a nap between classes.
So, I guess that’s it, everyone. Happy WashU-ing.