First-year farewell

Five first-year students reflect on their first year on campus

During Bear Beginnings orientation, The Record met Jenna Nguyen, Trey Sharp, Kate Sifferlen, Will Smith and Johnny Yeldham, five Washington University in St. Louis first-year students who happened to sit near each other at a soccer game during orientation. They had lived on campus mere days, yet already they felt at home.  

“Even yesterday feels like a long time ago,” Yeldham said back then.

Nine months later, they don’t know where the time went. 

“My roommate just moved and I was like, ‘Wow, bro, it feels like we moved in yesterday,’” Smith recalled. “Our parents were in here and it was so awkward. It’s funny how we got so comfortable and so close so quickly.”

After interviewing the students in the fall and winter, The Record checks in with the five students one final time.

Jenna Nguyen, Trey Sharp, Kate Sifferlen, Will Smith and Johnny Yeldham share snapshots of their first year on campus. To view captions, click to open an image, and then click the ‘i’ in the bottom right corner.

Jenna Nguyen

Hometown: Phoenix

Studying: Biomedical engineering, McKelvey School of Engineering

What are your plans for the summer?

I have an internship through the MARC uSTAR Summer Scholars Program and am working in the lab of Dr. Huebsch (assistant professor at the McKelvey School of Engineering) essentially making mini heart models. I also have an internship with a St. Louis startup called zPods, which makes sensory beds for children with autism or sensory issues. I’m hoping by the end of the summer I’ll have a better idea if I want to do research in an academic setting or work at a company.

How did the year end for you? 

At first, I underestimated the workload, but things got much better in the second semester. I just got my first A+ in “Differential Equations” and in physics, which is wild considering how hard the midterm was last semester. My goal was to improve in every one of my courses and I did.

What would you have told Jenna at the start of the year?

I would tell her to take a step back and appreciate everything around you. Even recently, I just realized that I have so many people on my side — people who are there to help or to listen. Like, when I was moving out, I was so overwhelmed. But my roommate and her mom helped me, and so did Johnny and his family. It’s not like me to ask for help, but I’m learning it’s OK to ask.

Trey Sharp

Hometown: Kansas City, Mo.

Studying: Political science and philosophy, Arts & Sciences

Did the second semester go by fast?

Definitely. One of my professors said on the last day of class that it feels like we’re in a different semester than the one we started online. The last six weeks were especially fun — more walks, more hanging out, just more energy as we got to the finish line.

How have your academic interests evolved over the past year?

When I came here, I didn’t know what a philosophy class was. And it’s been really exciting to understand the topic and take different types of philosophy classes. I’m excited to take a class on the social contract and thinkers like Hobbes and Locke and another class on the theory of knowledge.

What are your plans for housing next year?

I’m living in an apartment in the DeBaliviere neighborhood. I’m not much of a cook, but one of my goals is to transition more and more to adulthood every year so, yes, cooking will be one of the skills I hope to get better at.

Hometown: Indianapolis

Studying: Marketing, Olin Business School

Kate Sifferlen

How are your studies at Olin?

Great. I think I am going to switch my major from organizational management to marketing. I like how marketing is a very social field but also can incorporate a lot of computer science.

What clubs are you interested in joining?

I want to join a business-related club and maybe do rock climbing with my friends. I’m also really interested in working with Planned Parenthood. When the Roe decision leaked, we were all studying for finals. Everyone just stopped and talked about what happened. Planned Parenthood had been on my radar, but that really made me want to be involved.

What was it like to upload your final essay?

Weird. I just felt like it went by so fast. In the beginning, it was hectic, but then you get into a groove. I loved all of the little moments, like hanging out and doing homework with my friends, and the big events, like WILD.

Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.

Studying: Biomedical engineering, McKelvey School of Engineering

Will Smith

What are your plans for the upcoming year?

Like Jenna, I got a really cool uStar summer internship. I’ll be using magnetic nano particles to detect circulating tumor cells in the lab of Dr. Patricia Ribeiro Pereira (assistant professor of radiology at the School of Medicine). Next semester, I’m excited to take some humanities courses like “Free the Land: Black Histories of Environmental Racism” and a poetry writing class. I also will be a calculus PLTL (peer-led team learning) leader, and I hope to inspire other students to love calculus the way my PLTL leader inspired me.

What are goals for sophomore year?

I definitely want to get more involved in the St. Louis community. I definitely got caught in the Washington University bubble this year, but next year I will have more time to interact and explore. St. Louis reminds me a lot of home — it’s got a lot of the same struggles but also a lot to offer.

What were the highlights outside of the classroom for your year?

I really valued the little things and experiences, like walking in Forest Park with friends and getting boba at Corner 17. At the time, I thought I was just getting out, but what I was really doing was building friendships.

Hometown: St. Louis

Studying: Political science, Arts & Sciences

Johnny Yeldham

Did you get to participate in any WashU traditions?

I had a really good time at the Res College Olympics and was actually the co-captain for JKL. We won football and got to the finals in basketball. It was such a great day, and I had a chance to meet some new people.

What’s the plan for the summer?

I’m doing an internship with the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. I think it will be a great way to see the inside of a courtroom and see what lawyers do in their daily lives. I also am working with Greenheart Partners, a sustainability startup that works with local governments that don’t have their own sustainability departments.

What are your sophomore goals? 

I’m excited to branch out and take a Spanish linguistics class and a philosophy class. This year, I got more interested in sustainability issues and am thinking of combining that with my previous interest in political science. But I’m open to new possibilities.

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