Finding your bear-ings: New students chronicle their first days on campus

What’s it like to be a member of the Washington University in St. Louis Class of 2022?

We asked first-year students Ella Holman, a dancer and member of the Deneb STARS, and Marissa Kalkar, a soccer player, to show us by taking a snippet of video every day for their first weeks on campus. Here are results.


Have you joined any clubs?

I’m a cheerleader, and I’ve joined WashU Dance Collective and WashU Dance Theatre. It’s funny because I was supposed to “retire” from dance after high school. I loved dance but I wanted to explore new things. But my body missed dance. And my heart missed dance. Dean Diallo (Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo, assistant dean in Arts & Sciences) was the first to reel me back in. She said, “Oh, I hear you dance. So you’re doing Black Anthology?” And I said, “I guess I am now.” Then I went to my adviser and said, “Help me. I really need to get in a dance class.” So I got into Cecil Slaughter’s dance course. I guess I’m not retired after all.

Ella Holman

Hometown: St. Louis
Major: Undecided but interested in dance, African and African-American studies, sociology and mathematics, all in Arts & Sciences

You also are a member of Deneb STARS. Tell us more about the program.

It’s a program that builds community for low-income, first-generation students and it has been great. We meet and have mentors and learn about resources and opportunities. It would be easy to get lost in such a big place, but being a Deneb gives me a family.

Have you explored any subjects that are new to you?

I took a philosophy course and, if I can be totally honest, I didn’t like it. In the end, I decided to withdraw, which was unusual for me. Once I try something, I stick with it. But it was gratifying to say, “Oh, OK. I’ve tried this new thing and I’ve discovered it’s not for me.” It has all been part of me learning about myself. In high school I was very focused on getting into college — go to class, get the As, do the extracurriculars. Now that I’m in college, I get to ask myself, “What’s next? What do you want to do? What do you like?”


Last year, sophomores Astrella Sjarfi and Tim Tague kept a video diary of their first days as first-year students. Find out what has changed for them in the past year. 


Why did you pick Washington University?

I applied because WashU has such a good soccer team and such strong academics. It has been a great experience so far. On Wednesdays we have 6:30 a.m. practices, which can be tough. But when we practice at night, it’s so much fun to get out and play and leave everything on the field.

What has been the biggest challenge about college?

This school is hard. I didn’t have to try that hard in high school, but after the first exams I was like, “Wow. I’m going to need to step up my game a little.” I’m thinking about time management for the first time. It can be hard to do everything and still have time to do things like laundry and call home. But one of the great things about being part of a team is that we can rely on upperclassmen who have been there. They know what it’s like and have been so supportive.

Marissa Kalkar

Hometown: Plymouth, Minn.

Major: Pre-medical track in Arts & Sciences

How is college different from what you expected and how is it like you expected?

I don’t know why, but I thought college would be really cliquey like in high school, but everyone here is so welcoming. I’ll just sit down next to a random person and have a conversation and find out about what’s happening in their life. I love being around so many people with different backgrounds and from different cultures. In terms of my expectations, I chose WashU because of the academics, and I like how everyone is here to learn and to work hard. It’s exactly the sort of environment I wanted.

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