Which university is called the “cradle of astronauts?” That distinction goes to Purdue University, which has 25 graduates who have traveled to space, including the first person on the moon, Neil Armstrong. Purdue is a public research university in West Lafayette, Indiana, with the fourth largest international student population in the country.
Catherine Dubé (’19) attends Purdue, and her sophomore class consists of 8,056 students from 135 different countries. Catherine is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Hospitality & Tourism Management with a concentration in Event and Meeting Management. She is also working on a French language minor and studies Mandarin as well. Catherine’s passion is ballroom dance, where her smile outshines her sparkly costumes. She is an inspiring role model who is friendly, reliable, and intelligent. Catherine graciously shares her insight and experiences at Purdue and gives great advice for high schoolers exploring their college options.
Since campus tours are currently not an option for high school students, if you could take us on a tour of your campus what would you show us and why?
Catherine: I would definitely show interested students my route of classes and the places I typically go in a day. When I was looking at schools, what I wanted to know was what my days would be like and how feasible it would be to get to class on time. Included on my route would be a couple class buildings, Stewart Hall (where dance practice is some days), the CoRec (our on-campus gym facility), my favorite dining hall (Windsor), and my room. I would also show them my secret spot on campus. It’s a room with stained glass windows and an old piano, so it’s a really nice place to get some peace and quiet.
How has coronavirus impacted your personal college experience?
Catherine: Covid-19 has definitely made school preparations more stressful. In terms of my personal experience, coronavirus will change my day-to-day life in every aspect. Dance will not be the same, my normal behaviors will definitely be different from last year, and the flexibility to do whatever I want, whether it’s going to the gym or eating dinner with friends, will be almost non-existent. I hope that after the first semester, things will start to be a little more relaxed.
How did you know that Purdue was where you wanted to attend college?
Catherine: To be honest, when I was applying to schools, I had absolutely no idea. In fact, Purdue was one of my safety schools. My mom claims that she knew I would go here as soon as we took a look around campus, simply because I looked so happy. I don’t remember there being a clear answer. Instead, I simply weighed my options based on the four main things I wanted out of a school, which for me were: close to family, good academic program for hospitality, snow, and a good dance program. It honestly wasn’t until I got here that I knew for sure I had chosen a place where I would be so happy.
Please describe Purdue’s personality.
Catherine: While Indiana is relatively conservative, Purdue’s campus has a very liberal and open feel. I went to Casady for about ten years, and I have to say that a large school is a nice change of pace. It is still easy to run into your friends and classmates, but it doesn’t feel like everyone around you knows everything about you. Despite having almost 9,000 people in my graduating class, I have found that getting involved in different organizations, and simply going to class has given me a smaller community to bond with as well.
What do you enjoy most about Purdue?
Catherine: Definitely the freedom. I have the freedom to schedule every single day however I want, and I always do something new or interesting each day. Also, the variety and quality of food is wonderful. We have this place called 1Bowl, and they make whatever sushi you want when you walk in. I also really enjoy spending so much time with my friends and boyfriend. It’s a lot of fun living with people around your age. However, the age range at a large university like Purdue is so wide. Being around people older than me in a university setting has really made me feel like an actual adult, even more so than when I turned eighteen.
What extracurricular clubs, activities, and/or sports are you involved in?
Catherine: I am in a live-in learning community, so I live with other girls in my same major. Lots of us are also involved in the Black Tie Dinner, a totally student-run, black tie event with synchronized service and a silent auction. I am also a member of the Purdue Latin and Ballroom Dance Team, which is totally different from any team I have ever been a part of. The weekly hours are high, and it is a demanding extracurricular. Usually, I practice 15-20 hours a week, or more if there is a competition coming up, which is usually 15-18 hours of dancing a day.
What advice do you have for UD students trying to find colleges that are a good fit?
Catherine: Go and visit if you can, and don’t be afraid to look out-of-state. It’s good to learn about the differences in culture even just between states, and I guarantee that almost any other state you go to will have a totally different vibe. Also, and most importantly, keep in mind what it is that you want to get out of your college experience. For me, I chose the school that checked off my boxes and that had a good feeling on campus. College is a big change, so don’t overdo it when it comes to where you decide to go. Definitely go outside of your comfort zone and try someplace new, but if you feel overwhelmed by a school you thought you wanted to go to, don’t force yourself to go there. In addition, don’t feel bad about picking a safety school. Do research about what schools have the best programs for what you’re interested in and what schools can provide you with the lifestyle you want.
What advice would you give your 17 year old self who was preparing for SAT/ACT’s and beginning to write college essays?
Catherine: Take the standardized tests more than once, especially if you aren’t the strongest test taker. You never know when you’re going to have an off day or get too many questions you just don’t know how to solve, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. In terms of writing college essays, you don’t need to overthink it. Your idea doesn’t have to be earth shattering or groundbreaking, it just needs to be genuine. Also, talk about your idea with someone who knows you really well. Admissions officers don’t want to read what you think they want to read, so just be honest and be specific.
What do you wish you would have known about college before freshmen year?
Catherine: It is sometimes hard to go back and forth between school and home because it might make you feel uncertain as to where home is. However, getting involved, having lunch with a friend, and making more time to interact with others is a great way to overcome that feeling of uncertainty. I wish I had known what I am discovering now: it is okay to have more than one home. No one is going to be upset with you for feeling at home in more than one place. Yes, definitely look forward to going home for the holidays, but also know that it is alright to see school as home.
Describe dorm life and any tips you have for freshmen adjusting to life away from home.
Catherine: Be ready to make lots of friends right away and don’t be afraid to open up about how you feel. I can guarantee someone else is just as nervous as you are to be in a new place, living with other people no less. One of my best friends that I’ve made here at Purdue was actually my orientation group leader. I remember him reaching out to me before I even got there. The day I got to Purdue, his was the first face I saw, and he even helped me move in. Also, set ground rules with your roommate. Obviously, it is important to be nice, but I would suggest making your own contract if the school doesn’t make one for you. The room you are staying in should be a home for both of you, so being respectful and considerate is key. Also, don’t worry about getting lost on campus for the first week. You will learn where you need to be so quickly, and you might want to take some time to just explore before classes start and within the first week you could end up finding your own little secret spot.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the Casady community?
Catherine: I am extremely happy here. I have met so many wonderful people from around the world, and it makes it so easy to learn about different cultures and perspectives. I have a friend from Paraguay, the Philippines, and multiple friends from around Asia, including my boyfriend that I met the first week of classes. I was very surprised how early on things happened to me that I think will affect the rest of my life. Right away I was able to start thinking about what I really wanted and where I would like different opportunities to take me. I am constantly surrounded by people that will support those decisions and priorities I have made for myself. I know that I am very lucky to have found such a wonderful fit, and I hope that as more students start to begin this process of applying and deciding, they won’t worry too much. It’s not about looking for the perfect place, and you may not even get that feeling when you walk onto campus. However, that feeling will come the longer you are there and the more you explore. I thought that graduating from high school would be one of the most important accomplishments in my life, and it is, but I keep finding more each day. If you don’t know where you want to go, just think about the main things you want. Do you want to go somewhere near family? Somewhere totally new to you? Do you want a school with warm weather or cold weather? Is it important to you that the school you choose is big or small? Just answer some basic questions and look at the pros and cons of each choice, and you will figure it out. For those of you that have decided where to go, I give you my heartfelt congratulations. I am so happy for you that you have chosen where the next big stage of your life will be.
Purdue has 32,672 undergraduates, and nearly 1,000 student clubs and organizations. One advantage of a large university is the diversity of students, activities, and opportunities. Each year there are around 2,000 undergraduate research projects conducted, and there are study abroad opportunities to 60 countries.
Purdue is known for its academics and its athletics. Founded in 1869, Purdue’s mascot is the Boilermaker. Evidently, the steam-powered locomotives used during Purdue’s early days required the fire in the coal box to get hot enough in order to run the engine, at which time the fireman would yell, “Boiler’s up!” This saying has become the Boilermakers’ chant.
Currently, the Princeton Review ranks Purdue #3 for Best Athletics Facilities. A fun football tradition dating back to 1891 is the annual Purdue versus Indiana football game, when the rivals compete for the Old Oaken Bucket trophy. The winner gets to add a bronze “P” or “I” chain link and keep the trophy until the next game. Boiler Up!