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Reflections of a Graduated Husky

Story by
Valeria Koulikova
June 2014

DONE! With four years and 181 credits behind me, I can finally say that I have graduated from the University of Washington. Last Monday, I marched up the stairs of the Communications Building to turn in my last exam, closing one of the biggest chapters in my life. Walking back to my car, I found myself smiling.

I always knew that I was going to college, it was just a matter of where. I was lucky enough to move to a city with one of the best universities in the country and the world. The UW was the only university I applied to and I was very happy and relieved to know that I had been accepted four years ago. But getting into the UW turned out to be the easy part compared to choosing a major.

I always wanted to study film production and was disappointed to find out that UW didn’t offer such a program. So, I decided to try cinema studies to still be connected with the world of cinema. My first course was about the director David Cronenberg. I was fascinated by the insights, themes, and revelations one can find in a single scene, but at the same appalled by some of the films that were shown. If you’ve heard of the films “They Came from Within” and “Rabid,” you know what I mean. While I continued to take cinema courses out of interest, I started to think about what I would do with a cinema studies degree. I decided to pursue something more practical and got started on DXARTS prerequisites.  After a painful quarter of physics and computer programming (which I turns I’m not that good at), it turned out DXARTS wasn’t accepting new students into its program that year. I wasn’t happy.


There I was, closing in on the end of my sophomore year with no declared major. I always loved the idea of journalism but with English as my second language, I thought that I wouldn’t be able to excel in the field or even be accepted into the program. I decided that no harm could come from turning in my application and giving it a shot, and was pleasantly surprised to get the news of my acceptance with a scholarship attached. I embarked on a journey that would end with me publishing my stories at the Seattle GlobalistSeattle TimesQueen Anne & Magnolia News, and other publications. I’ve covered everything from the local Russian community to the Seattle salsa scene to the Seattle International Film Festival. It’s been exciting to learn the art of storytelling, network at various department events, and work on a research project that was then recognized by the Communications Department at the Excellence Awards.  Most importantly, journalism helped me to get out of my comfort zone and realize that if you are really determined it is quite possible to reach for ambitious goals.  It was hard at first but most definitely worth it.

I’m a perfectionist when it comes to grades (with a really bad case of procrastination), so I was one of those students who would bury herself in homework. I wasn’t very involved inschool life until this last year, where I started to attend drama productions, educational forums, galleries, and school-wide events such as Philanthropy Day. I also attended a UW hockey game, and would have gone to more games had I known about the Husky team earlier. One of my suggestions to current and future students is to be more active in school life and get yourself out there. You might be surprised by some of the incredible things you can find on campus.

Besides academic work, I was able to get a glimpse of how the UW operates by working first at UW Advancement and then at the College of Arts & Sciences Marketing and Communications. I got to work with some of the nicest people and co-workers I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. I learned about the important work that these people do with alumni and donors, and how this work helps students and the University prosper. The staff have always supported and encouraged me, and I deeply appreciate all of their insights.


Listening to four different commencement speeches last week, some inspiring, some less so, I was glad to hear one of the student speakers vocalize what I’m feeling right now after graduating. It’s scary. True, you’ve got no essays to write and mathematical problems to solve, but now you have to make real and not hypothetical decisions, solve everyday problems, and pick up a pen and write your own story. Like I said, it’s scary, but absolutely exciting as well.

I congratulate the class of 2014 and wish the best of luck to the upcoming seniors. And while you guys are exploring the dozens of opportunities at the UW, I will be out there following Steve Ballmer’s advice given at the commencement. I’ll make mistakes, grab opportunity after opportunity until I find the right one, and stay hardcore!