by Quinn Welsch
College isn’t just about falling asleep on top of a textbook every night. According to Sydney Ratzlaff, a recent scholarship recipient, college is about making memorable experiences and having fun.
Ratzlaff, a bubbly 17-year-old Running start Student, was recently awarded a $2,000 scholarship for Western Washington University’s Multicultural Achievement Program. The award developed last fall, when Ratzlaff and her friends spotted a sign for a chance to go to a Huskies football game at the University of Washington. The experience proved to be an excellent investment of her time.
The trip to the game was hosted by the International Friendship Club, which Ratzlaff didn’t know existed at the time. At the rendezvous for the trip, she and her friends were the only “Bellinghamsters,” she said, while the rest of the students were international.
In her application to Western, Ratzlaff described her experience at the game:
“While we were walking up to Husky Stadium, some people were handing out samples of 5-Hour energy. One student from Indonesia asked me something along the lines of, ‘Are we required to drink this to go inside?’ That was when I realized that the international students have never experienced anything like this before. Most of them weren’t accustomed to huge tailgate parties or stadiums crammed full of ardent fans… The students are eager to share their individual experiences in their home country, and that is something you just cannot learn from a textbook.”
Since her trip, Ratzlaff has become one of the few domestic members of the International Friendship Club. The club’s purpose is to “promote cross-cultural awareness” through education and special events.
“You can’t learn about what these other countries really are, or what they really do in these countries,” said Ratzlaff. “You have to experience them, and that’s what I think the International Friendship Club is all about.”
“She’s really interested in trying new experiences,” said Naomi MacDonald, 17, a long-time friend of Ratzlaff. MacDonald is also a domestic member of the International Friendship Club, and was with Ratzlaff at the Huskies’ game.
Ratzlaff had no idea what a great effect the trip would have on her in the long run. “Before then, I don’t know what I would have written about, probably seeing all the different cultures at Whatcom, Bbt that’s not a huge thing, and that probably wouldn’t have won me $2,000,” she said with a laugh.
This wasn’t the first scholarship she applied for, but it was the first she won. “For me to make $2,000, I would have had to work all summer,” she said.
Ratzlaff is a 4.0 student and admits to being a bit of a perfectionist, but her advice is to make your application essay personal. “You’re not just a number and a name, you’re a person, and you have stories.”
Ratzlaff will be attending Western this coming fall with plans to continue a degree in education. She and MacDonald will both be graduating from high school this spring.
“Back when we were younger, she was crazy,” said MacDonald, but since her enrollment at Whatcom she’s changed. “Now she’s a bit more serious. She’s a bit more sincere.”
“Sitting in a classroom we might not remember our professors’ names 20 years from now,” said Ratzlaff. “But what we do retain is what is important to us, and the things that are important to us are the fun memories we have with friends.”