College can be tough. Suddenly, you’re responsible for nearly everything in your life. Being alone for the first time can feel incredibly daunting, even impossible at times.
I’d heard stories about how homesick college students can get and how hard the transition from high school to college can be. Despite this, I was convinced I wanted to move away from home. I applied to quite literally every school that seemed remotely interesting to me. In fact, I had just two requirements for my target schools: they need to offer my desired business and academic programming and be as far away from St. Louis as possible. While applying to college, I never thought that I would end up in the very city that I was once ecstatic to leave.
YOU DON’T NEED TO GO FAR AWAY
I got a call during the spring of my senior year of high school from the director of the Danforth Scholars program. Not only had I been accepted to Washington University in St. Louis, but I was also being considered for a spot with Danforth Scholars. As a part of the program, I was invited to spend a weekend on campus with a current Danforth Scholar to interview for the program and experience what life could look like as a WashU student. This was an exciting experience, and honestly changed my entire perspective of going to WashU.
The scholar I stayed with also had very similar experiences as me. She was also from St. Louis and hadn’t necessarily wanted to stay in-state for college. Through our conversations with her — and my entire experience with the WashU community that weekend — I was able to imagine a life for myself at this school. The students that I met, especially within Olin, were so friendly. Seeing the collaboration that existed and how kindly that Olin students treated each other, I started to rethink my decision—maybe staying in St. Louis wouldn’t be too bad.
For many college students, leaving their families and hometowns is meant to be a liberating experience. If I stayed in St. Louis and went to WashU, I was worried that I would miss out on such an integral growth and development opportunity. This dynamic even led me to create a pact that ensured that my family and I would maintain our distance while I was at college. As part of the pact, we would only see each other as often as a normal college student who attended college in a different city would. I would only come home — or they would only come to campus — when I would ask them (or on special occasions like parent’s weekend or my birthday).
My parents kept up on their end of the deal. I, however, didn’t.
BECOMING A ST. LOUIS SPORTS FAN
For someone who was as close to my family as I was, I knew that leaving them was going to be tough, whether that was moving 30 minutes or 3 hours away. Still, I didn’t quite realize how much I would miss them while I was away. Everyone goes through a hard time in college, whether that is taking a difficult class, finding little success at a particular extracurricular, or simply not being able to balance the often-difficult task of being an adult for the first time. Honestly, it was nice having my parents and sister around to stop by campus, grab dinner, and let me step away from college-life…even if it was just for a couple of hours. At WashU, I took them up on that more often than I had originally intended.
Even without the familial connection to St. Louis, this city offers an incredible amount to offer to residents and visitors alike. I think a lot of people, myself included, didn’t appreciate that. Even those who have lived here their entire lives, don’t take advantage of the city’s amazing offerings and the rich culture and history it holds. Realizing that during my first year at WashU, I made it a priority to explore the city and share what it has to offer with other students.
One of the most publicized attractions that the city has is our amazing pro sports teams: the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Blues. Both enjoy quite the prominent fan base, both in St. Louis and beyond. Not only are the teams extremely popular, but they’ve also collected many national titles. Growing up, St. Louis sports weren’t something that I associated myself with significantly. I had been to a couple of games, but never truly immersed myself in the community that it created among the citizens of St. Louis. However, after coming to college, a new sense of St. Louis pride was instilled in me; I began to follow our city’s sports teams much more than I had before. Although attending a game was difficult during COVID, my friends and I would watch both Cardinals and Blues games from our dorm rooms. We kept up-to-date with the players, and I finally even made it to a baseball game this past year when the stadiums opened back up. Safe to say, that the Cardinals won their game that night and even gained a couple of new fans!
DIVERSITY AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Another one of my personal favorite parts of St. Louis is our diverse community and the culture that it brings. St. Louis is currently one of the fastest-growing cities in terms of its foreign-born population and is home to a wide variety of cultures. As an immigrant myself, it was exciting to be in a city with those who shared stories like my family’s, and it was inspiring to learn through the diverse perspectives and experiences of those around me. Growing up, it was invaluable being able to work with organizations like the International Institute of St. Louis, an organization devoted to helping refugees and immigrants settle in the US. I even had a couple of St. Louis immigrant pen pals growing up, whom we could share our identities and experiences together. I am a strong believer that unique backgrounds lead to a wide array of thought processes — and this describes the effect on the WashU community and the city as a whole. The vibrant immigrant community that exists in the city truly makes it special and contributes to why St. Louis is such a great place to live.
Finally, St. Louis has such a strong business community. Not only are there eight Fortune 500 companies headquartered in St. Louis (many of which hire directly from Olin), but there is a strong entrepreneurial presence as well. Throughout my time at WashU, I have worked closely with multiple start-ups within the St. Louis area. I even worked with a couple start-ups through structured courses within Olin. This gave me an intimate view of how start-ups operate and progress through those early key stages of growth. I especially enjoyed some of my projects with start-ups during the onset of COVID-19. Learning first-hand some of the struggles that business owners were experiencing and working to alleviate them served as such a productive creative outlet. It also gave us practical and applicable real-life work experience.
It honestly ended up being a happy coincidence that I ended up going to WashU. Looking back, I identified that the reason I wanted to leave St. Louis so badly is because I never truly gave it a chance. During the past two years at WashU, I have learned more about this city than I did in my entire childhood growing up here. I can, with full certainty, say that I don’t regret going to college in the same city I grew up in, and in fact encourage other students who are faced with the same option to be more open-minded toward the opportunity. Who knows, you might not regret it (like me)!
Kashish Gupta is a current Junior and Danforth Scholar at Washington University in St. Louis. Despite being raised in St. Louis, she has yet to run out of places to explore and things to do in the glamorous Gateway to the West! As a Finance and Organization & Strategic Management student, she hopes to pursue a career in restructuring investment banking after graduation and is excited to share her favorite memories and experiences from the Olin Business School.