College Connections: Celine Vuong at Washington University in St. Louis

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Which university hosted the first American Olympics? In 1904, the Third Olympiad and first Olympic Games held in the United States took place in Missouri, at the Francis Field and Gymnasium of the University of Washington in St. Louis (WashU). Francis Field is still used today as the university’s track, but the gymnasium has been replaced with a state-of-the-art athletic complex. The WashU Bears are part of the NCAA Division III University Athletic Association, and their colors are red and green. Although three-quarters of WashU’s student body participates in intramural sports, the school is internationally known for innovative research, with over 60% of its undergraduates involved in faculty research projects. 

WashU is a private research university with 7,858 undergraduates and an acceptance rate of 14%. One in three WashU students study abroad, and 80% of undergraduates pursue multiple majors or minors. The student body is diverse, with over 90% of undergraduates from out of state, including Celine Vuong (’20), who is majoring in mechanical engineering and hoping to pursue a minor in architecture. Upon graduation, Celine would like to work as an engineer at an architecture firm. Celine candidly shares her freshman experience during the pandemic and provides insight into life at WashU.

What has it been like to start college in the midst of a pandemic?

Celine:  The pandemic has definitely proven to be a challenge for me, socially and academically. It’s simply harder to meet [students] or even professors. At times, I felt simply trapped in my dorm, forced only to focus on schoolwork.

Please describe WashU’s personality and what attributes made it your dream school?

Celine:  More than anything, the people at WashU are supportive and kind. Rather than a sense of competition, I take for granted the overall feeling of support and community from the students and professors. Overall, most students embody a “work hard, play hard” mentality. Even though most are studious, the people at WashU also know how to decompress and have fun. 

Since high school students are not currently allowed to take campus tours, could you please share your favorite on campus spots and why these are your favorite places?

Celine:  The WashU campus is beautiful. I love the East end of campus. Brookings Hall and the surrounding area is very picturesque and frankly more stunning in person. I love studying outside, and the view is inspiring to say the least.

What has been the best part of being a college student, and what has been the biggest challenge?

Celine:  Despite current limitations, the best part of college is probably meeting new people and exploring the big city that is St Louis. The biggest challenge, however, is learning how to reach outside your comfort zone, especially on your own. I quickly had to adapt to new classes and numerous new experiences. 

What extracurricular activities are you involved in, and which one has had the biggest impact on you? 

Celine:  Because of the pandemic, it has become immensely more difficult to join sports, clubs, or other extracurriculars. Regardless, I’ve still grown to love the community within WashU’s Vietnamese Student Association (VSA).

Describe your typical week and what you do for fun on the weekends?

Celine:  My typical week usually is comprised of a mix between virtual and in-person classes in the morning up until lunch. From there, I usually have my afternoons off so I’ll study or do homework. On the weekends, in addition to hanging out with friends or exploring the city, I’ll do more homework to get ahead on the following week.

Do most students stay on campus during the weekend, or, if they do venture off campus, where are some favorite spots to visit in St. Louis?

Celine:  A lot of students will stay on campus during the weekends, but many will enjoy the city during their free time. Most students will visit the Delmar Loop to eat dinner or just to hang out.

What do you enjoy most about WashU?

Celine:  I truly love the people at WashU. Everyone I have met is interesting and approachable. The food and dorms are also pretty exceptional.

What Casady experiences helped to best prepare you for college?

Celine: Time management. Casady has certainly helped me to better manage my workload. I have more time in the week to relax without becoming too overwhelmed.

What tips do you have for Upper Division students who are starting their college application process? 

Celine:  Keep researching and trust the process! Be diligent and patient because everything works out in the end.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the Casady community?

Celine:  I hope everyone stays safe and makes the most out of their current situation. I send my best wishes to all as we navigate through a difficult time.

In 1853, St. Louis merchant Wayman Crow saw a need for an institution of higher learning in the growing midwest and founded Eliot Seminary, named in honor of Crow’s pastor, William Greenleaf Eliot, Jr. However, Eliot did not approve of the name and in 1857 the school was renamed Washington University, in honor of President George Washington. In 1976, the words “in St. Louis” were added to the name in order to better distinguish the school.

Initially, the university’s location was in downtown St. Louis, but fifty years later a new site was developed. WashU is comprised of several campuses that consist of over 2,000 acres and are connected by light rail and bus service. The Danforth Campus is home to undergraduate students and borders the cities of St. Louis, Clayton, and University City. Across the street from WashU is Forest Park with 1,300 acres of activities and free attractions that include museums, a zoo, and an ice skating rink. A five minute walk from campus is Delmar Loop, which is “one of the 10 Great Streets in America” according to the American Planning Association. The Loop has award-winning restaurants and unique shops, and even hosts special events. 

WashU’s expansive campus has a beautiful mix of Collegiate Gothic and modern architecture. Niche ranks WashU as #2 for the Best College Campuses in America and #2 for the Best College Dorms in America. The Danforth University Center, called DUC, is the center of student life. All freshmen live on campus in one of ten residential colleges in an area of campus known as the “South 40,” where forty acres are filled with entrepreneurial businesses that are below the dorms and covered parking is provided for bikes. Following freshman year, students can choose where to live, and they are guaranteed on-campus housing all four years. 

Students at WashU enjoy many traditions, including DUC N’ Donuts, where coffee and donuts are free on the first Friday of each month. The Residential College Olympics is an annual competition with fun events ranging from tug-of-war to dodgeball between ten residential colleges and the North Side. Every April, WashU hosts the nation’s largest and oldest student-sponsored fair, ThurtenE Carnival, where funds are raised for charity and students enjoy three days of rides, food, and live performances. Students also enjoy WUStock, an annual concert with free food held during the spring. A popular festival held each semester since 1973 is WILD (Walk In, Lay Down) where students traditionally bring sofas onto the quad and lie down to view musical performances and enjoy even more free food. Go Bears!