Ellen Paik ’18 is constantly changing. She has gone from a WSA member to Senior Class President, crew recruit to squash star, and intended music major to earning degrees in economics and sociology. Nominated not only for her presence in nearly every facet of campus life (did I mention she also serves as Rush Chair for co-ed fraternity Psi U?), Paik is known for her outgoing and friendly personality. In fact, as she walked into the Exley Lobby to speak with The Argus, she enthusiastically greeted and stopped to briefly chat with two individuals. In our conversation, Paik reflected on her diverse experiences over the past four years, in addition to discussing some exciting future plans.
The Argus: Why do you think you’re a WesCeleb?
Ellen Paik: Oh gosh, I don’t really know. I think being a senior interviewer helped. I know a lot of [my] fellow senior interviewers got featured, but otherwise, I don’t know. I really like to meet people, I guess I try to involve myself in a lot of things while at Wesleyan.
A: Speaking of being involved in a lot of things, you’re a not only two-sport athlete, but a two-sport athlete at two different times?
EP: Yeah, it’s a pretty strange series of events. I rowed crew for three years and then played squash for the first time this year. They were willing to take me on and teach me. My experiences with both teams were absolutely phenomenal. And it’s pretty weird because I played neither sport in high school.
A: What prompted the change from crew to squash?
EP: I didn’t anticipate joining another team when I left the crew team. I pretty much left because my life got super busy with all sorts of things: applying for internships, schoolwork, and outside of schoolwork I was on the WSA at the time. I had to cut something out of my life and unfortunately, it was crew.
And then joining squash was really spontaneous. It wasn’t an intentional switch, it just kind of happened.
A: What has your experience at Wes been like as an international student?
EP: I went to boarding school 20 minutes away from here, so I guess I’ve been pretty accustomed to just Connecticut. This is my eighth year in Connecticut, so my transition wasn’t so bad, it was pretty seamless. There are a bunch of [Choate Rosemary Hall] kids in my grade, so there were people I knew here.
I guess a big thing is that I get made fun of for my [British] accent, which is weird to me, because every time I’ve been to England, people always think I’m from the U.S., and people always point out my accent while I’m here, so I’m always in this weird being-made-fun-of stage.
A: How has your experience been as a senior interviewer?
EP: It’s been really awesome and eye-opening. It’s been incredible being able to tell what types of students apply here and getting to talk to them, learn about them. I guess it’s also nice just being able to talk about Wesleyan and my good experiences here and try to really vouch for this place, because every time I sit down with one of these kids who wants to go to Wesleyan, it makes me realize how much of a great experience I’ve had here, too.
A: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had happen to you at an interview?
EP: There was this one kid who was really friendly, but I think felt too comfortable in an interview setting, and at one point started talking about how much he loved to smoke weed, and that was a little bit of a red flag, because I just don’t think that’s something you bring up in an interview, so that was funny.
You get some interesting folks that come in. Another girl that brought in her portfolio of hand-painted drawings, and she pointed to one and I asked, “Oh, what was your inspiration for this piece?” and she said, “Oh, I just Google-image searched, you know, Indian village pouring water or something like that,” and I just thought, how profound!
A: I’ve also heard that you’re a member of Psi U. Were you in the first pledge class?
EP: Yeah, I was. It was the first group of women. I was fortunate enough to have served as Rush Chair this year, so that was a cool experience, getting to have a leadership role in the group. It’s been an amazing time, and very, very unique as well.
A: How have you fared this year without a house? What has the impact been?
EP: I think it really forces Psi U to reassess itself and what being a part of this group means. I mean it’s definitely hard because the house was, for so long, an integral part of Psi U identity. But for the most part, I’d say it’s been working out fine. We still hang out as a group a lot, still have events, and still have a pledge class this semester, and they’re all great.
A: Yeah, I see them around in their suits. What was the gender make-up of this year’s pledge class?
EP: I believe right now there are, I want to say, ten women and nine men pledges, which is interesting. We didn’t necessarily choose at all based on gender, so it’s kind of cool to have a more female make-up this year, especially with the recent switch to coeducation.
A: All of your roles on campus are really social in nature, and you mentioned that you really like to meet people. How has that impacted your time at Wes?
EP: One of the reasons I came to Wesleyan was that on my visits here I was approached by lots of people asking who I was, and everyone was just so friendly. I think that’s made me into a friendlier, more open person as well. So many people here seem interested in you, even though you may not know them that well.
A: And you’re also the Senior Class President! How has that experience been?
EP: It’s been amazing. I spent three years on WSA, and being Senior Class President has been a different kind of leadership-slash-organizational role, and this one is a lot more like event planning. I’m really pumped for Senior Week. The senior class officers and I have put a lot of time and effort into it, and I think it’s really going to pay off. There are two concerts. We have all sorts of things going on. We booked our artist.
A: Is it a secret?
EP: Yeah, sure. We haven’t really decided or not whether it was going to be a secret. There’s going to be an outdoor concert as well, and we haven’t decided who that’s going to be, but there will be a carnival involved, free food, free Senior Week T-shirts for seniors.
A: What are you studying?
EP: Interestingly, I came here thinking that I was going to be a music major, so I was really into songwriting, and I was really fascinated by Wesleyan’s music scene, and kind of almost accidentally, ended up as an econ and sociology double major. I don’t know why I’m an econ major, honestly.
A: Any thoughts on what’s next?
EP: I’ll be moving to New York after graduation, and I’ll be working in investment banking.
EP: Thank you! So I’ll be a zombie for the next couple of years, running on fumes and doing work into the wee hours of the morning. I’m a little nervous, but we’ll see how it goes. I really didn’t see myself going into finance after college, but I guess it kind of happens sometimes, where things don’t go as planned.
This interview has been edited for length.