The First 40: Three first-year students record a second of video a day

Meet Rodriguez Scholar Jazmin Garcia, international student Astrella Sjarfi and football player Tim Tague — three members of the Washington University in St. Louis Class of 2021.

Back in August, we asked these first-year students to record one second of video every day for their first 40 or so days on campus. Here, learn more about these students and their first days in college.

Garcia on her video diary: “Going back and looking at the clips has been fun. With so much happening, a lot of time I’ve forgotten that I did something, so it’s nice to have a record of those memories.”

Why did you apply early decision to Washington University?

Actually, I had never heard of WashU, but I had friends tell me they could see me there, probably because I’m kind of a quiet, studious person. So I visited a couple of times and ended up really loving it. I also was really impressed with the Rodriguez Scholars program and that it was a family.

What are you doing when you’re not studying?

I joined the climbing team. I like that there’s a lot of us who are just learning. Walls are called problems. So when you’re bouldering, there’s a correct way to do the route. There are specific ways that you are supposed to solve the problem. Yes, it is a strength thing, but you also need to be able to put your mind to it too.

Has being a Rodriguez impacted your experience as a first-year student?

Yes, in a lot of ways. I am part of Strive for College, which was started by a Rodriguez Scholar and helps local high school students with tutoring and test prep. A lot of students joke that they are only there because their parents make them come, but I think they actually enjoy it. My Rodriguez “mom” helped plan DACA Week, which is an issue that is really important to me. In high school, I started this organization called the Dreamers Club, and we helped raise money for undocumented students to go to college. So I was excited to get involved in that effort here. And I just hang out a lot in the Office for Student Scholars with other people in the program. In Evanston, there is not a huge Latino population. So here, I can speak Spanish with my friends or listen to a lot of Latin music and share our favorite foods. It’s really the first time in my life I’ve been able to be part of a community like that.


Sjarfi on arriving in St. Louis: “Those first days were such a blur. It took 24 hours just to travel to New York. But I’m at the point where I’m starting to think of this place of home.”    

Why did you decide to study in America? 

I went to an IB (International Baccalaureate) school, so I always knew I would go to college in either the United States or the United Kingdom. My family is more familiar with America, and my dad actually went to Washington University. Still, I was concerned about coming here because of the travel ban and because Missouri is a red state. Those fears went away when I got here for international student orientation. We played this game called “Step In, Step Out.” We all stood in a big circle, and someone shouted out a statement like “Step in if you identify as Asian.” So you step in, acknowledge each other and step back out again. We did that a few rounds and then they got to “Step in if you are Muslim.” I realized I wasn’t the only one. That made me feel better. It was nice to be able to acknowledge each other without exclaiming our identities.

What have you learned since you arrived here? 

I’m in the “Designing Creativity” class, and every week a different person comes to talk about the ways designers can improve people’s everyday experience. I could see bringing those ideas back home, where there is a lot of poverty and communication is not conveyed well. I’ve also met so many people with backgrounds so different than mine. One of my roommates is a first-generation student from the College Prep Program, so she’s introduced me to places around St. Louis, and I’ve  told her what instant noodles are best. We’re learning from each other.

Have you joined any clubs? 

I’ve joined Ultimate Frisbee. This girl just came up to me at the Activities Fair and asked me to join. I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t against the idea, but all I knew about the sport was that involved throwing a Frisbee. It turned out I actually like it and I’m not terrible.


Tague on his First 40: “I’ve enjoyed the simple moments and the random moments. Sometimes I’ll pause, look around and take a video. It’s made me realize how lucky I am to be in this place. So much has happened in these past 40 days. I can only imagine what will happen in the next four years.”

Why did you pick Washington University?

If you were to ask me my favorite sport, I would answer football in the fall and baseball in the spring. I couldn’t imagine giving either one up, and WashU gave me the opportunity to play both. And, of course, it’s a really good school. That combination of academic and athletic excellence drew me here.

What’s dorm life like?

I live in a six-person suite. We all play either football or baseball, and one guy plays both like me. We play a lot of “Rocket League,” and we eat together. Whenever someone gets hungry, they shout out “BD” and we all go together. Some of my friends from home talk about all of the free time they have in college, but it seems like I always have work to do or practice to go to. However, I am really enjoying all the time I spend doing this work and the hours spent at practice, so the days go by very quickly. It would be nice to sit on the bed for one day and take a nap, but I guess that’s what break is for.

Have you joined any clubs?

I’ve joined the Bear Cubs Running Team, which is a running club for kids on the autism spectrum. Annie Marggraff (AB 2017), who started the program, lives one town over from me and started a chapter back home that my sister, Nicole, joined. My sister has a rare genetic condition and faces so many challenges, but when she runs — something a lot of us complain about — she always has the biggest smile on her face. She is so positive and happy. I wanted to meet kids in similar situations and learn from them the way I’ve learned from Nicole.

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