Thursday, July 7, 2016

(R)- So Long St. Louis

Today was full of unexpected twists and turns.  As I write this post, I am sitting next to Mauricio on an Amtrak train headed to Chicago.  The story of today begins at 7 AM however when I woke up to go for a run.  The university has a track that is a two-minute walk from the Charles Knight Conference Center where we were staying.  After scarfing down a Nutrigrain bar, I popped on my shoes and headed down the elevator.  I walked outside and thought to myself, "Seriously?"  At 7 in the morning, it was already 75 degrees with 60% humidity.  I believed I would beat the weather that early but, of course, I could not.  So I jogged over to the track and ran my workout all while sweating enough to keep the Mississippi flowing for the next week.  

Francis Field.  Perhaps where I will run in a few years time.
Then the cold shower brought me back down to normal temperatures.  I let the water flow on my shoulders a little longer than I would have in California because there is plenty of water here in Missouri, unlike my drought-stricken home.  Breakfast filled me up and then it was off to our information session.

The weather had changed in the hour I was inside to get ready and eat.  Now, the sun was gone, and rain was pouring down with thunder louder than a plane engine.  As we scrambled to find our destination, the rain let up slightly, and we made it to the safety of inside.  The information session started with admissions officer Nancy and current student Sankalp from Bombay, India.  They gave us tons of information about admissions, campus life, and the school itself.  The university has students from all 50 states and U.S. territories and from across the world, as shown by Sankalp. The 6,700 undergraduate students travel abroad, become involved in clubs and sports, do research, and live on campus all four years.  These things are somewhat standard now. I have seen a bunch of colleges with 23 student class sizes, guaranteed 4-year housing, and faculty that really care.  So as I sat through the information session, I kept thinking about what would sway me to choose this school over the others that offer nearly identical stats.  

Just before the downpour of rain that would cancel our tour. Had a mini tour of
my own on the way to the field from our hotel.
The rain had picked up again, and we could not go on our tour, so the tour guides came into the room and stood for us to ask them questions.  Throughout my college search, I have kept feeling there was one thing missing.  The schools all have a great picture and sound amazing.  So I asked them how often the weather was like this, and they laughed while reassuring me it was not like this normally but I still kept feeling like something was missing.  Question after question was spewed at them and the main thing that stuck with me was that they have an advisor for literally everything.  When they were admitted, they got a four-year advisor. When they choose their major in their sophomore year, they get a major advisor. If they choose a minor, there is an advisor for that.  If they want to go abroad, do research, or plan for after college, they get an advisor.  That seemed kind of cool to me because I have not seen a school with this much support for the students to make sure they are successful.  Another thing was the fact that WashU is on the semester system.  The students like it because it leaves more time to delve into the subject, they stress less over tests and become closer with people in their classes.  Obviously, quarter system schools, such as UChicago, have the same positive look on their way of taking classes, so I have to keep that in my mind. Which system will help me learn the most?  I will hopefully soon find out.

Finally, the mind blowing question came from a gentleman in the front who asked, "What was the deciding factor in choosing WashU over another school?"  Rose, a rising sophomore from Vermont studying Biomedical Engineering, cracked open my whole point of view.  The thing I had been missing was focusing on the people. The most important thing is the students and faculty because they directly influence how much you will enjoy the college experience.  I can go anywhere to learn engineering or law but not every school will make it the most fun for me.  So I came away from today realizing that I have to find the school where I mesh the most with the people at the school. With so many schools offering the small class sizes and financial aid, this will end up being the deciding factor.

So overall, I think WashU is a beautiful school with everything I might want in a school.  I could see myself attending the school, but I am not sure about how well I fit into St. Louis.  Obviously, the food is AMAZING, and the city is a nice medium size, but it is a lot different from the Bay Area.  Coming to St. Louis I thought it would be super lame, and I would rather be in New York visiting Columbia, but my expectations have been fully surpassed.  Sorry for doubting you St. Louis.

Once we left the enlightening information session, we found out our flight had been canceled due to the weather, and now we would take a 5-hour train ride to Chicago.  Enough time to write this unusually long post, do some reading, and nap.  So that is where we are at this point, and I am done for the day.  As I look to my left and see the rows of corn stretching to the horizon, I can not imagine how Chicago suddenly pops up from this sea of green but it will, and I am ready to live it for the next three weeks.

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