When she first arrived on campus, Sheilly Moreno thought she wanted to pursue premed, but WashU helped her explore multiple academic interests that took her all over the world.
During her four years as an undergraduate, Sheilly studied in four countries: China, Japan, South Korea, and Spain.
In the spring of 2021, she earned bachelor’s degrees in both East Asian studies and Spanish, with a minor in speech and hearing sciences; the following May, she completed a master’s degree in East Asian studies.
Her academic path wasn’t what she had anticipated. “I came in to WashU on the premed track,” she explains, laughing a little. “But I was also hoping to take Spanish and Chinese classes, and I was interested in many different subjects. I feel like that’s the narrative at WashU.” She’s right — 80% of WashU undergraduates pursue multiple majors, minors, or both.
My scholarship allowed me to go above and beyond, to actually do all the things I wanted to without thinking, oh no, I can’t afford it.”Sheilly Moreno
Plentiful, flexible opportunities to study abroad are what first attracted Sheilly to WashU. She visited campus as a high school freshman through Upward Bound, a federal program that helps prepare high schoolers from low-income families to attend college. “I learned that the university has so many connections around the world. Everyone I talked to said that classes I took abroad would count towards my major or minor. WashU is a school that allows you to do everything at once without requiring you to follow a strict four-year curriculum.”
As a first-year student, Sheilly participated in the Global Citizenship Program in Arts & Sciences. During spring break, she visited Japan with her class. That summer, she studied Chinese in Shanghai for eight weeks. The following summer, she traveled to Madrid to study Spanish and then lived in Korea for the entire spring semester of her junior year. “I have gotten to see so much of the world, and because of my scholarship, I didn’t have to figure out how to pay for these amazing experiences,” she says.
Sheilly received a full-tuition Enterprise Holdings Scholarship at WashU. She has four younger
siblings and was the first in her family to go to college. Sheilly is from Chicago; her mother is from Mexico and her father is from El Salvador. She says, “With five children, my parents didn’t have the resources to fund everything I’ve done at WashU. My scholarship allowed me to go above and beyond, to actually do all the things I wanted to without thinking, oh no, I can’t afford it.”
She reflects that coming to WashU was a culture shock at first. “A lot of WashU students are second- or third-generation college students and their parents helped them apply, helped them pay for college. It was just me on my own,” Sheilly says.
She found a community in Deneb STARS, a program through the Office for Student Success that supports first-generation or low-income students. Named for the farthest star that can be seen with the unaided eye, the program provides incoming students with an orientation experience, a peer mentor, and other resources to foster their academic, professional, and personal growth.
“Being able to make friends through the program and discovering that we may not be from the same place, but we can relate and build a network — that was really important to me,” Sheilly shares. In her sophomore year, Sheilly became a peer mentor for the program, advising a dozen first-year students.
Over time, Sheilly’s academic interests became focused on language learning and cultural exchange. After earning her master’s degree in East Asian studies, Sheilly joined AmeriCorps and worked at Cultural Leadership, a St. Louis nonprofit that educates middle and high school students on U.S. history through Black and Jewish cultural lenses. Currently, she works at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in university housing. “I get to combine my love for working with students with my multicultural background, serving people from more than 70 countries,” Sheilly explains.
Sheilly encourages current WashU students to keep an open mind academically. “WashU taught me to take that step forward and change my career path. You might not know how you’re going to get there, or what’s going to happen, but there are definitely people supporting you.”
She emphasizes the role of the Enterprise Holdings Scholarship in her WashU education. “Receiving that scholarship meant so much to me as a 17-year-old. At the time I couldn’t imagine leaving Chicago, let alone stepping foot outside the U.S., but my scholarship made all of the experiences I’ve had possible, and I’m eternally grateful.”
You can help adventurous and civic-minded students like Sheilly pursue their passions and discover new ideas with a gift of any amount in support of WashU undergraduate scholarships.