For the fourth year, the Source has asked a group of first-year students to track their first 40 days on campus, one second of video at a time. They captured walks on campus, Zoom classes and masks — lots and lots of masks. The Source also checked in with previous vloggers to see how COVID-19 has impacted their studies, friendships and themselves.
A lot of other schools have a pressure-cooker environment with a lot of students competing to get leadership positions in clubs or to stand out in clubs. That’s not what I wanted out of my college experience. When I was still looking at schools, a friend said to me, “Justin, do you know how you have your three, four friends who you do homework with? That’s your entire class at WashU.” That got me.
Have you joined any clubs?
I am pledging Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity. I’m really excited to learn personally and professionally from people my own age and upperclassmen. I’m also involved with Tamid, which works with entrepreneurs in Israel. And I’m going to be a mentor for Moneythink, which teaches financial literacy to high school students. And in the future, I hope to play intramural soccer and join the rock climbing club.
Where do you live?
I’m in Eliot B, which I think is the best dorm on the South 40. Each floor has a common room. One floor has a ping pong table. One floor has a TV. And we’re also connected to Bear’s Den, so I don’t even need to go outside to get to BD. I think the fact that we can’t go to other people’s dorms has made me really close to the people in my dorm. We have a group chat for the building, so I’ll just post, “Anyone who wants to play this board game, come to the common room.” Sometimes we’ll play spike ball or eat outside in a big circle. Three months ago, I was concerned about how it would be, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the bonds I’ve been able to form with restrictions.
I was a QuestBridge Scholar and I wasn’t even aware of WashU and didn’t know much about St. Louis. I had a chance to travel and as soon as I stepped foot on campus, I was like, “This is it. Hopefully they accept me.” Everyone was really nice, and I felt the collaborative nature here.
What is your favorite class?
I am in the Law & Society first-year Ampersand program. I really like our fall semester class, which is about the American legal system. Professor (Mark) Smith (associate vice chancellor and dean of career service) is great and keeps the class really interactive. He will be like, “I’m walking down the street and you hit me with a baseball bat. What can you be charged with?” We will go back and forth with him to discuss the different legal issues. Yesterday, we went through a case that involved Title IX and we got to be the jurors. I want to be a civil rights lawyer, so this has been a great introduction to legal issues and other people in my class who also are interested in the law.
What’s been your biggest surprise so far?
There are so many. First, I appear to get lost on campus easily. Because most of my classes are online, I’m usually on the South 40, so I’ve started to take different routes on campus so I can get to know it better. Also, St. Louis is cold. No one prepared me for that. And, I guess I would say the social aspect of college can be hard. One one hand, you want to be social. On the other: COVID. I’m treading very lightly. Big groups scare me, even without COVID.
Top 20 schools didn’t get advertised to my high school ever. I would have never thought to come here. Then my mom heard about the WashU Pledge, and I knew I had to apply. I’m very thankful that I got it and that I was valued more than I valued myself. It’s not just that the financial burden is gone, it’s everything — the great professors, the beautiful campus, the resources.
What is dorm life like?
I have a double suite and I really like having my own space. I’ve got my TV and my guitar. I’ve noticed I keep my room a lot cleaner than other people. I mean, I still have a big clothes pile, but one friend has more clothes on the floor than carpet. I usually do all of my classes from my room, but when I can, I like to study in the Butterfly Garden. It’s a really nice place to just sit.
What has been the hardest part about the transition?
School is hard. There seems like there is always more reading to do. And it’s been really challenging to make friends. The week classes started, I had a good friend who died of a fentanyl overdose, and that’s made the transition even rougher. I wrote a poem about him for my college writing course to immortalize his name in some way that’s not a horrible obituary. My professor really liked it and wants to submit for the “Emerging Voices” competition (of the College Writing Program). I can’t say that writing it made me less sad, but it did help me cope.