The Meaning of ‘Family’

When I toured WashU in April of my senior year, I knew it was special. I’ll admit I tried to remain neutral for the first day I was there, but I still had an inkling that WashU was the right place.

It is impossible to resist St. Louis’ charm. The weather was nice, we got some delicious Ted Drewes custard, and the admissions officers we spoke with were kind and welcoming. It was altogether a lovely experience.

We explored inside Olin Library and saw students studying or power napping on giant bean bags. My mom, the effervescent lady that she is, stopped two kids just to tell them that I was an admitted student (which really bore zero relevance to their Thursday night studying). But they turned around, and with genuine smiles, asked if I was enjoying my visit. They stopped to talk. Really stopped, neither of them checking watches or making moves towards the door.

They said that college was challenging, but that they never got bored, never plateaued. Eventually they did have to go back to their dorms, but they wished us a nice visit and hoped that I would pick WashU in the end.

It was such an unnecessarily personal moment. Ever since getting to WashU, I’ve felt like life at this school is made up of perfectly personal moments. It’s easy for people not to care, to get wrapped up in the chaos of their own lives, but WashU students take the time out of their day to protect one another and support one another.

Even still, it’s hard to imagine that even the best people will be able to respond with so much readiness and warmth when abject tragedy strikes. In a definite contrast from the bliss of April 2016, I woke up on October 2nd, 2017 to a flurry of concerned text messages. At 6 AM in St. Louis and 4 AM in Las Vegas, it was too early for me to understand what had happened or to get a response from anyone at home. I got ready for class and Googled.

As soon as I figured out what was happening back at home, the texts and calls started rolling in. Over the course of 11 hours, I got over 60 texts and calls, a bunch of emails, and a myriad of Facebook messages from people at WashU asking if I was okay. A couple of friends brought over food and hugs.

An affectionate, but not relatively touchy person, I was taken aback with the love everyone expressed through their words and actions. 

I cannot imagine what it would have been like to be at school, desperately trying to figure out what was going on at home, if I didn’t have the support and love of this community. It would have been impossible for me to live my life as both a Vegas native and a college student that week if it hadn’t been for the people at this university and their ability to come together in times of tragedy.

Reflecting a month later, I realize that the people of WashU rose up to impress me as a potential student, but they did not fail to support me once I arrived here. For that I am infinitely grateful.