Sam: How Northwestern Made My Summer Dreams a Reality


What do President Obama and I have in common? A history of volunteering with Martha’s Kitchen, a DC-based meals-on-wheels service!

Throughout my entire life, I have been drawn to volunteering. When I was in middle school, I volunteered at a meal delivery program in the Washington D.C. area. Preparing brown bag meals and then driving with my mom and best friend to feed less fortunate people became a weekly tradition. Seeing their smiling faces and how grateful they were for the meal drew a smile to my face and showed me the difference dedicating a few hours to help out others can make. A few years later, I got to high school and continued to make every effort to volunteer. I joined my school’s Rotary Club, dedicated to community service. I tutored Somali youth in English and Math. I volunteered at a torture abolition agency and was so inspired by their work that in my final year of school I sponsored events at my high school to educate people about torture and held fundraisers to donate to the agency.

Until my sophomore year, life guarding at my local pool consumed most of my summer. Following my sophomore year, I began to search for internships that would allow me to do something I loved and eventually found an internship opportunity with Isaiah House, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting people experiencing homelessness with psychological issues. Unfortunately, without any money, I would be unable to work at Isaiah House and would have to go back to life guarding. This would be very disappointing for me as I knew life guarding was not what I wanted to make a career out of.

It was at this point that I turned to Northwestern for help. The Northwestern Career Advancement Office started offering grants to students pursuing unpaid internships a few years ago. The only thing stopping me from accepting the internship of a lifetime was money, so I applied for a Summer Internship Grant (SIGP) following my sophomore year, and along with hundreds of other students, was awarded $3,000 to pursue my internship with Isaiah House. At Isaiah House, I pursued a passion, working with homeless people and testing life as a social worker. Without the grant from Northwestern, I would never have been able to intern at Isaiah House. After working at Isaiah House, it has become clear to me that community service and social activism are not just activities I enjoy, but are activities I would like to integrate into my future career choices.

Justin: Real World Experiences at Your Fingertips

tepperAt Northwestern, one of the things that I like about our curriculum is that we really prioritize real-world experience. What do I mean by this phrase “real-world experience?” I mean that as a part of the curriculum, I, along with my peers, have had an opportunity to gain exposure to working with others off campus in preparation for life after graduation.

As I’ve said in other blog posts, I’m taking part in the Theatre for Young Audiences Module. This is a relatively small program within the School of Communication that offers an opportunity to really get specific in my theatrical interests. For me, I’m very interested in the ways drama can be used to help children. As part of the program, one has to fulfill an extracurricular internship requirement.

To fulfill this requirement, this fall, I am shadowing Betsy Quinn at Haven Middle School. Betsy is a former president of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education and teaches Advanced Creative Drama here on campus. Knowing this, I knew I was bound to have a great time. Working with 8th graders, I’ve been able to witness really eloquent conversations and how drama can allow students to express themselves. In the class, they are devising a play based on big issues. It’s absolutely inspiring! I’m able to give some direction and I’ve been told that I might even lead some lessons! Through this experience, I now know that teaching is something I have to have in my life in some way.

There are many programs across Northwestern that provide students similar opportunities to gain real-world experiences. The first that comes to mind is the practicum quarter in the School of Education and Social Policy. This is a quarter you spend off-campus working somewhere that relates to what you’re studying. My friend Avi was a social policy major. For his practicum, he worked at the Chicago mayor’s office for class credit. After graduation, he was actually offered a full-time position there.

Other examples of real-world experience exist in specific classes. One class that exemplifies this is “Design, Thinking and Communication” within the McCormick School of Engineering. This class pairs first-year engineers with a client off-campus to help solve a problem. My friend Amelia’s group was assigned to work with a man in Evanston who had suffered a stroke. They created a device that connected to his arm. It made him more mobile in his day-to-day life and allowed him to play piano again, one of his greatest passions.

Real-world experience is something that I think every student has to have as an undergraduate. Therefore, I’m super happy about the opportunities that I have received here at NU and I take pride in hearing the stories of my friends having similar experiences.

Casey: Where are you from?


The three most common questions you’ll hear at any given college orientation ask what your name is, what you want to study, and where you’re from. All three are hypothetically simple questions, but I’ve moved over ten times in my life, so I don’t really know where I’m “from.”

Where I was born, where I lived the longest continuously, where I lived the longest altogether, where my parents live now, and where I live now are five entirely separate locations. Instead of having one place to call home, I identify as a Third Culture Kid. A Third Culture Kid has the culture of their parents, the culture they grew up in, and the third culture is the combination of the first two. I was born in America, and I’m at Northwestern for school now, but I spent a lot of time growing up in England. Instead of identifying as American or as British, I identify as simply International and exist between identities.

The high school I went to in England was small and about 95 percent international. When I was looking at colleges in America, Northwestern stood out to me as a school with 10 percent of its students being international – high numbers for an American university.

Upon arriving at Northwestern, I went through the International Students’ Orientation before the beginning of Wildcat Welcome. During ISO, all of the international students move in early and spend a few days together. We are assigned International Peer Advisors, older international students who gave us advice and went to a series of activities with us each day. In groups we go through a lot of the basics – we are taught common American terms and how to use the public transport system, but more importantly, we started forming bonds and friendships with other international students before Wildcat Welcome even started.

I knew that when I went to college I didn’t want to stand out as the girl from England, and I didn’t want to be one of the few international students. I wanted friends who understood where I was coming from, both literally and emotionally, and I found that at Northwestern. I had a network of international friends right from before school even started, and that network continued to grow throughout the school year as I was able to attend events through the International Student Association and other student groups.

My college transition included culture shock, and that’s a transition that I can’t imagine having gone through without my international friends. Going to college far from home can be a challenge, but I’m lucky to be able to go to a university where I’m not the only one jet-lagged at the start of the quarter.

– Casey Norlin

Alex: The Happiness Club

I already touched a little bit about my Wildcat Welcome experience in an earlier blog post, but there was definitely something special about the activities fair. It spanned not one, not two, but three large areas in and around Norris University Center, with hundreds of tri-fold boards and sign-up sheets posted at every station along the way. Music blasted from different stations, which added to the overall liveliness of the activities fair itself. Everywhere you looked, someone was sporting club merchandise, someone was exclaiming how amazing a club was, someone was giving a demonstration of what the club does. To say it was overwhelming being in that activities fair would be an understatement, but I’d be lying if I didn’t enjoy the feeling of being lost in the sea of activities.

Of course, one caught my attention right off the bat, and to this day, it still interests me. This would be Northwestern’s Happiness Club. Sure, there are groups on campus that raise millions of dollars for charitable organizations, while other groups focus on politics and social activism. We even have a Trash Talking Chess Team. But out of all five hundred some student organizations, Happiness Club has always caught my eye. Maybe it’s the free candy that they give out, or the high fives given out by members posted around campus. Or the bubble blowing. Or the sight of the bright yellow shirts decked out with smiley faces. There’s something about the group that just always makes me smile; there’s always a little pep in my step after I pass them on my way to class.

And the Happiness Club lives purely for that feeling of joy and that sensation of laughing or smiling. This organization has only been around since 2008, but they have gained quite a reputation for themselves as a student group dedicated to boost happiness among Northwestern students. My personal favorite thing that they do happens during finals week. During this time, when student morale seems to be at its lowest, the Happiness Club pulls out all the stops and goes full out with their activities. One of these activities involves members dressing up in dark hooded clothing and running around University Library late at night, while throwing candy at students busy studying. These “candy ninjas” throw sugary sweets to those they deem too unhappy to study, in hopes of raising their spirits and the students around them, as well as providing them with a sweet sugar rush to keep studying.

Happiness Club is one such group that is guaranteed to always take your mind off of whatever is stressing you out, even if just for a second. And for us, that one second is crucial.

Besides, who doesn’t like smiling and spreading joy?

–Alex Rothfield

Justin: How I’ve Changed

There are many great aspects to the Northwestern experience. I think for me, though, what Northwestern has allowed me to do is transform. Obviously I’ve gotten older and have matured in many ways. But, I also think that fundamentally, Northwestern has provided me an environment to grow.

First off, coming from Long Island, I grew up in a relatively homogeneous community. It was definitely a great place to live, but I think back home, I wasn’t encouraged to talk about things. It was either that we were ignorant or just didn’t care enough, but there were many important things that we never discussed as a community. So, when I came to Northwestern, it was somewhat shocking to learn about a lot of issues that, unbeknownst to me, were affecting others. I learned about microaggressions, privilege, and that it was important to have sustained dialogue. These were phrases that I had never considered before. It got to a point in the beginning of my time here that I almost found the emphasis on these things in conversation to be annoying. But, quickly that changed.

During my time in college, many things have happened in the world, good and bad. As I’ve been confronted with these world events, I’ve been forced to truly think about them with my peers. Whether it’s a friend posting a link on Facebook or having a tough discussion in one of my classes, here at Northwestern I’ve learned how important it is to have an opinion. In life, there’s no neutral. You can’t just ignore something; that is a choice in itself. What I’ve learned instead is how to talk about things. Northwestern definitely has provided a safe environment for that. Therefore, I came to appreciate the amount of dialogue that occurs on campus.

I also think what I’ve learned here is that you’re not going to agree with everyone else on every issue. At Northwestern, I’ve met so many different types of people who come from tons of backgrounds, different from my own. I think having friends from all around the U.S. and world has allowed me to begin to understand other people’s experiences. It has made me change my mind about certain things, but also see areas in which I may not agree with someone. These differences shouldn’t divide us, though. By having dialogue and engaging with people who have different opinions or different upbringings from yourself, you become a more whole and informed person. That has definitely been the case for me.

Northwestern has not only provided an environment for me to form my opinions, but it’s allowed me to find myself. Since coming here, I’ve learned about the many ways I can have a career in theatre, not only through performing. I’m grateful to my teachers for that. I’ve also learned that it’s totally fine to ask for help. Whether I’m going through something emotional in my life or am working really hard on a project, here at Northwestern I’ve really learned to source help in others. For example, as a co-chair for The Waa-Mu Show next year, I’ve seen that it’s much better to collaborate with others than to struggle on my own.

Overall, I really feel like Northwestern has created a new Justin in the best possible way. I don’t think I understood how much I would change in coming here, but I’m so glad to be in a community that allows for me to do so with support and love.

–Justin Tepper

Casey: A Day In Northwestern Food


8:30am I swipe into the dining hall, pick up a muffin, grab an apple, fill a
tubberware with dry cereal, pour some coffee into a take-away
cup, and dash out to class. While it’s not the most well-rounded
selection of food, I try to get up early enough to grab something to eat before my 9am class.
8:45am I manage to eat the muffin while walking to class and only almost
drop it once – an art that took a full quarter to perfect.
9:00am I drink my coffee through my morning econ class. Econ, while a lovely
subject, is always better with coffee mixed in.
9:50am While I walk from econ to chemistry I devour the apple. Gotta get
those fruits and veggies in, even when in college!
11:00am I discretely snack on the cheerios I had packed earlier today during
my sociology class. My professor doesn’t mind, and its something for
my hands to do between taking down notes that’s not texting!
12:30pm I go get lunch in on of our dining halls. I put together a salad with
chicken, tangerines, lettuce, boiled eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, and
vinegar and oil. For dessert, I grab a purple cupcake. #GoCats
4:00pm Finished with classes for the day, I use points to buy myself sushi at
Norris, which I snack on while doing a problem set for bio class.
6:35pm I meet up with friends at Plex dining hall, where we swipe in and
stand in line for stir fry. The chef makes us each a personal pan of stir fry! We get to choose exactly what we want in it.
10:15pm I’m back at Norris before a meeting with my theatre company, and it’s
going to be a late night, so I grab a chai tea latte from our on-campus
11:30pm I pop a bag of popcorn in my residential hall’s lounge and watch an
episode of Parks and Recreation with the girls on my floor before I
head to bed.

Photo: Northwestern Dining.