The Friends That Study Together Stay Together

Friday night parties took on a whole new meaning when Kailey Kluge, a pre-junior international area studies student, and Alex Sevit, biomedical engineering BS/MS ’15 and Goldwater Scholar, were filling out their respective scholarship applications.

“We would snuggle up in PJs and bake cookies and review each other’s essays,” said Kluge, who also minors in Russian and political science.

But the friend-reader, rather than peer-reader, idea was instigated long before the winter of 2012-2013. Sevit and Kluge, along with close friends Claudia Gutierrez, a pre-junior biomedical engineering BS/MS, and Nick Stropko, a pre-junior communications major with a concentration in corporate and public relations and minors in marketing and business administration, all became friends freshman year while living in Millennium Hall, Drexel’s Honors dorm, and have been urging each other forward ever since.

While it’s extraordinary for four friends to remain as close as they were three years ago, it’s even more remarkable that they motivated each other to study abroad, apply for international scholarships and fellowships, and maintain their good grades.

“We’ve obsessively compared GPAs since we became friends. It’s a little unhealthy,” Kluge said.

“I get teased for having a 3.91 GPA,” Stropko said, adding that it would have been higher if he hadn’t taken two engineering calculus classes freshman year instead of basic introductory math classes.

Stropko and Kluge usually review or look over each other’s essays for classes, as will Sevit on occasion. Kluge, who was an English major freshman year, helped Gutierrez with her English classes when they first met.

From left to right: Alex Sevit, Kailey Kluge and Nick Stropko.
From left to right: Alex Sevit, Kailey Kluge and Nick Stropko.

“We all reviewed or looked at someone else’s essays,” Stropko said.

The comparisons and essay parties have paid off, as three of the four friends have received prestigious scholarships and awards.

As reported on DrexelNow, Kluge will study and work abroad in Russia for the 2013-14 school year with funding from the Boren Awards for International Study, spending two terms studying at St. Petersburg University though the CIEE St. Petersburg study abroad program and then working in Moscow for a co-op. As a Boren Scholar, she will also spend a year in government service post-award in agreement with the terms of the award.

Sevit and Gutierrez won the Whitaker International Award, which allows biomedical engineering students to design a project that will enhance their careers within the field while living and working abroad. Sevit will study at the Denmark Technical University in Lyngby, Denmark, in the fall of 2013. Gutierrez is currently completing her second co-op as a Whitaker Undergraduate Scholar in the Laboratory of Lymphatic and Cancer Bioengineering at the École Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“This is not an exchange program or a study abroad program,” Gutierrez said. “It was an opportunity that I created myself by networking with a professor in the College of Biomedical Engineering. He had completed his post-doc in this lab and I asked him if it would be possible to work there as a co-op. He recommended me to the principle investigator, Dr. Melody Swartz.”

Though both students share the same major, are in the same program, and won the same prestigious scholarship, Sevit was motivated to change from mechanical engineering to biomedical engineering’s BS/MS program and then later apply for the Whitaker because of Gutierrez.

“When he was applying I would sit with him and edit his essay. Because I had known him for so long I knew exactly what he was trying to say and it made the editing process in terms of content very easy,” Gutierrez said.

“Claudia’s a pusher,” Sevit joked, but he is very appreciative of the help and advice he received.

And as for Gutierrez, whose Costa Rican immigrant-turned-U.S.-citizen parents taught her to believe that everyone is capable of achieving great things regardless of background, that’s just what friends are for.

“As I went through the application process for Whitaker, and being so close to Alex, he stuck out to me as someone that would be an excellent candidate. I knew he had never been outside of the country and it just made sense for me to encourage him to apply,” Gutierrez said.

Claudia Gutierrez in Montreaux, Switzerland, which is near where she is currently working as a Whitaker Undergraduate Scholar.
Claudia Gutierrez in Montreaux, Switzerland, which is near where she is currently working as a Whitaker Undergraduate Scholar.

Stropko and Kailey also have close working relationships, as Stropko pointed out an error in the first paragraph of Kailey’s Boren scholarship application that she didn’t notice until she had sent it to Drexel to be approved, and she raced to the Fellowship Office.

Though Stropko, who won the National Merit Scholarship in high school, didn’t apply for any international scholarships, he still plans on studying at Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey while Kluge is in Russia and Sevit is in Denmark.

Back at Drexel, the students are able to balance their studies with extracurricular work—and promise they have a life outside of schoolwork and their core group of friends.

Stropko has been a DJ at Drexel’s WKDU radio station, where he currently acts as the PR director and hosts a jazz show once a week. Sevit has been a violinist in Drexel’s Chamber Ensemble since freshman year and a peer mentor for the Foundation for Undergraduate Sexual Equality (FUSE) since sophomore year. Kluge is an editorial writer for the Center for Cultural Outreach, where she has written feature articles for, the Philadelphia Daily News, and numerous Drexel blogs.

Gutierrez became the president of Drexel’s Salsa Club her freshman year, and is the president of the Drexel chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, where she frequently forwards members different opportunities, including scholarship information, that she hears about. She also has worked as an engineering design and biomedical engineering peer mentor, and recently accepted an invitation to join Drexel’s new Student Global Advisory Board on the international research/co-op committee.

That these students can balance grades, scholarships, and each other seems gold star-worthy as well.