Casey: Career Pressures and Spring Break

When you’re a junior in college, there’s no shortage of things to be stressed about. Midterms, finals, a summer internship, a summer grant, what classes you’ll take next quarter, which quarter you can graduate after, and what role you want to fill in your extracurricular the next year. And Northwestern is no exception, especially with an entire round of finals before spring break. As winter quarter wraps up, we go through a reading week and a finals week, finishing up a set of classes. At the same time, we’re applying for summer jobs, internships, and grants, and going to information sessions, career fairs, and mock interviews. Especially when you’re an upperclassman, the pressure to make career advances and land internships can be almost as overwhelming as academic pressures.

With all of these pressure and deadlines colliding, it can start to seem like if you don’t spend spring break studying for your MCAT, interviewing with corporations, writing a thesis, or visiting grad schools, you’re doing something wrong.

However, I’ve come to find decompressing, de-stressing, and sleeping for a solid week surrounded by family and friends can be just as productive as spending a week working on your career options. As a junior, spring quarter will be my 9th at Northwestern, and I honestly worry about becoming burned out.  I am still applying for summer internships, jobs, and grants, but I’m finishing most of my applications before the quarter ends, and then I’m spending spring break at home.

I’ll be spending spring break with my family in Louisiana. I’ll play cards with my dad, hang out with my younger brother who just started being able to drive, watch Jimmy Fallon with my mom, and we’ll work on fixing up my uncle’s new house as a family. We’ll go to the Irish-Italian parade – a New Orleans St. Patrick’s Day tradition that’s the closest I can get to a real Mardi Gras parade while I’m in college. And then, my mom and I will drive over to Pensacola, Fla., and spend a couple of days at the beach reading, playing cards, and walking through the sand.

And I am ridiculously excited to wake up early and sit on a balcony out by the beach with my morning cup of coffee and a good book, watching for dolphins. In the midst of finals, Northwestern students can sometimes take the fact that we’ll never have spring break homework for granted, but when college life can be so hectic, I’m grateful to have a week free from required readings, research papers, and online chemistry homework. The fact that we can have restorative spring breaks centered around doing whatever makes us happy and taking care of ourselves is a quarter system perk I would encourage no one to take for granted.

Sam E.: Sports Culture at Northwestern

I will probably never forget a conversation I had with my uncle in the summer months before applying to college. I listed Northwestern as my top choice, and his response was predictable. Knowing I am a sports fan, my uncle questioned me why I would pick Northwestern over a school known more specifically for their athletic prowess, citing a bowl draught in football and status as one of the only schools to never make the NCAA tournament. I explained that Northwestern was in the Big Ten, and even if Northwestern never won a game during my scholarly tenure, I would at the least have gotten to see some Big Ten athletics. As my fourth and final year comes to an end, I have begun to truly appreciate the Northwestern athletics experience.

It’s always fun to cheer on a winning team, and for that reason, this year in particular has been amazing to be a fanof Northwestern sports. In the fall, our football team qualified for the postseason, and went on to win the Pinstripe Bowl in late December. Many students went to the game, courtesy of Northwestern. I was unfortunately not able to actually attend the game, but I was drowning in happiness as I cheered on the Wildcats against Pittsburgh in the company of my friends who have frequently bantered me about Northwestern sports. In addition to our football team, fans at Northwestern have been spoiled by our basketball team this season. As the ‘Cats entered the Big Ten regular season games, there was a buzz around campus that this could be the year we finally make the NCAA tournament. As the buzz grew, the student section grew bigger and rowdier, and it was at the final game at Welsh-Ryan arena that I finally learned why going to Northwestern sports events was so fun.

Sports bring people together, but it wasn’t until we really started winning that fans truly began to come in bunches. When we all are jumping up and down during a good run by the Wildcats or trying to distract an opponent’s free throw shooter, you can’t help but notice the unity of our student community. We all work together to support our community. People from different majors, different backgrounds, unique passions, all coming together to cheer on our university. I said it before, but cheering for a winning team is easy. Cheering for a losing team can be tough, but I am confident that after all the success we’ve had this year, students will see how fun it is to cheer on the Wildcats together! Oh, and I forgot to mention another huge perk—tickets are free for students!

Teresa: The Truth about the Language Requirement


I still remember when I chose my fate. It was seventh grade and everyone in our middle school was required to learn a foreign language. While most of the kids in my grade decided on Spanish, my friends and I chose to exercise our need to be different and set out on our French journey. Since then, it’s been almost 8 years now of taking French every semester and every quarter. But as all things come to an end, this is my last week of French class ever.

While not every major has a language requirement, Communication Studies most definitely does. And for those of us who did not get AP credit, we enter into college continuing on our long road of conjugations, new vocabulary words, and movies with subtitles. At first, the idea of “wasting” a class block every quarter for a year sounded like maybe the worst thing ever, but I have to say that looking back, I’m going to miss some of the experiences I had fulfilling my language requirement at NU.

First off, I loved my professors. Every single one of them was wonderful and I even had a few twice. While they run the classes completely in French, they somehow manage to keep my mind from exploding. My favorite instructor, Professor Dempster, brightened my day even when I was navigating through a language I knew almost nothing about despite studying it through all of middle and high school. Her fun, bubbly personality made class interesting.

Outside of class, French opened the door for a few interesting cultural experiences. Because we were required to go to two language events per quarter, I found myself doing things on campus that I otherwise would not have even thought about. I attended panels on the use of foreign language in the workplace. I spent time in Allison Hall eating free food while practicing my French with other students, professors, and native speakers. I even enjoyed going to the Block Museum on campus, where they screened French films each quarter through the Ciné-Club. While I showed up to fulfill a requirement, I always found myself laughing, crying, and overly invested in what was happening on screen.

The best part of the past year and a half of French, however, has been my classmates. Because I take most of my classes within my major and certificate program, I rarely have distribution classes with the same people. French was the exception. I am finishing this quarter with the same people who sat in class with me on my very first day of Freshman Year. Throughout our time together, I have gotten to meet students of all majors and find out more about their specific Northwestern experiences. My little French family has reminded me of what interesting and inspirational people I get to work with every day.

While I may not have a fabulous French accent, I have to say that coming out of my language classes I have gained much more than I expected. New friends, cultural immersion, and a colorful community of speakers made “The Language Requirement” not so bad after all.

Casey: Thoughts on Weed Out Classes

I’m a tour guide for Northwestern, and one of the most common concerns I hear from prospective students surround Northwestern’s rigorous curriculum and a fear of weed out classes. And while our curriculum is challenging, I’d argue that “weed out classes” don’t exist.

When students refer to “weed out classes,” they usually mean challenging classes that have a reputation for being dropped; classes that may instigate students into reconsidering their area of study. The concept is that in weed out classes, professors are working to make the class as challenging as possible in order to “weed out” the students who aren’t smart enough to pass.

But I’d argue that weed out classes along these lines don’t exist. Sure, you’ll encounter challenging classes at Northwestern, but professors are never actively working against their students. I’m a pre-med student, and NU’s chemistry classes are known to be some of the hardest, but on the first day of my Organic Chemistry class, my professor stood in front of the room and said, “This is not a weed out class. My goal is not to stand in the way of your dreams.”

Students will drop out of difficult classes, but not because they’re not smart enough. Students might drop General Chemistry because as they encounter college chemistry, which is more challenging than high school chemistry, they may realize they’re not actually interested in the subject itself. Students may realize the hours a class takes isn’t worth it for them – they don’t love the topic that much. And here’s the thing – that’s okay. If you come into college thinking you want to study something, take a class in it, discover that it’s not for you – that’s okay. You haven’t been “weeded out” – you’re on the journey of finding what you’re passionate about, and if that’s not what you thought it would be, that’s okay.

Sometimes students don’t love a challenging class enough to make putting the work in worth it, and sometimes doing a college course in a subject catalyzes the realization that that subject isn’t what they thought it was, and isn’t what they actually want to study. But you will never have to drop a class at Northwestern because you “aren’t smart enough” or have been “weeded out.” If you love something, and you’re willing to put work into it, Northwestern will throw its support behind you – through tutoring programs, organized group study sessions, TA and professor office hours, and the collaborative nature of the student body itself.

I’ll spend 30 to 40 hours just on organic chemistry on any given week. So I can completely understand why some of my peers encounter organic chemistry, don’t like it, and decide that the pre-med life is not for them. But the students who stay in the sequence stay because we love it – we love chemistry and we don’t mind the hours our classes take, because we enjoy the work we’re doing. There are difficult classes, and challenging classes, and classes that will ask more of you than ever before, but if you really love the subject matter, the hours you need to put in are worth it. So, if you love it, and if you’re willing to put the work in, you can’t really be weeded out of a class.

So don’t shy from applying to colleges with challenging curriculums. Don’t worry about “weed out classes.” If you’re motivated, they don’t exist.

Tomas S.: Springing Forward to a New Quarter

Dillo Day

Photo credit: Justin Barbin

With only 1 week left of classes for winter quarter, it is easy to forget that we still have to go through finals before Spring Break. With days getting longer and warmer, it becomes harder to stay that extra hour in the library instead of going out to the lakefill with some friends.

Because of Northwestern’s location, the end of winter quarter marks the start of what is probably the best time of the year for students — spring break followed by spring quarter. Many students will spend their breaks with friends, family or fellow students. Northwestern offers many options for students that want to do something meaningful during their spring break through an organization called Alternative Student Breaks. The student-run group plans trips to different parts of the country in order to do volunteer work with other students.

In my case, my spring break will be a little bit less about actually doing something productive and more about laying on a beach. I will be traveling with my roommate back to his hometown in Dominican Republic to spend some days in the island. It’s my first time traveling to the DR, so I am excited for the opportunity to get to know a completely new location.

Spring quarter is an amazing time to be in the Chicago area, specially on our campus in Evanston. The warmer days set the stage for many outdoor events, including our student-run festival, Dillo Day. There are few things that will get Northwestern students as excited for something as Dillo Day. The festival brings really good artist each year and it is the perfect opportunity for hanging out with your friends on a sunny day on the lakefill.

Overall, the combination of Spring break and Spring quarter is something that every Northwestern student looks forward to every year. The many outdoor activities both on campus and off campus is definitely something that we look forward to throughout the winter. However it’s week 9, so enough with the spring days day-dreaming, it’s time to get back to the books.

Justin T.: Community at Northwestern

The night before the inauguration, faculty, staff and students gathered in the Barber Theatre lobby and held a camera light vigil as part of the national effort to promote inclusivity.

As a tour guide, I field many questions about what it’s like here as a student on campus. I think one thing that I don’t get to stress enough, though, is the community that you get being a Wildcat. It’s incredible to be able to walk down Sheridan Road and see many faces who you don’t know and then also many faces who you do know. You feel community walking to class. Maybe you’re like me and are two minutes late from Norris because the Dunkin line was a little bit long but you needed your coffee. Then, walking to class, you see someone you know. In that moment even though your life is pretty frantic, everything is okay. You hug, you jump for joy, you high-five… you something. But that something, at least for me, really brightens my day and is a typical example of a Wildcat-to-Wildcat interaction.

As a senior, I’ve continued to notice these little moments where Wildcats are there for one another. I saw it when my friend and peer Allie Woodson did a reading of her self-written play, “These Days” in Shanley Pavilion. The theater was packed to the brim. At the end, we all gave Allie a standing ovation and you could tell how much the experience meant to her. I saw it when the Cubs won the World Series. While I’m not from Chicago, the excitement that my friends from the area felt was contagious. The celebration that I was able to share with my peers was amazing.

My Wildcat community has become more and more important to me. Personally, I’ve struggled this year with how frequently I disagree with our new President. I’m grateful for how this community continues to lift me up. The morning after the election, I felt the community in my acting class. Usually, the black box theater where we have our class is filled with noise and excitement. That morning though it was eerily quiet. Our professor walked in and the conversation that proceeded was cathartic. These moments of collective emotion are what make this community so special. You might not agree with your peers on every issue, but the empathy that Wildcats are able to show to each other is something truly unique.

The moment that solidified what this community meant to me was through a theatre project called The Ghostlight Project. This was a project that theatres across the country participated in. While it took place the night before the inauguration, it was not a project of protest. This was a project where you, as a theatre, could reaffirm your support to people of all races, genders, sexualities, abilities, religions, etc. by adding light into the world. As a co-chair of The Waa-Mu Show, we were approached by the Wirtz Center and the Theatre Department to participate in the project here on campus. Students, faculty, and staff gathered in the lobby of the Barber Theatre. Many of us had had a long day, many of us had many other things to do that evening. But, together, we gathered. We sang, we laughed. We all turned on lights at the same time and it was a sight I will never forget.

The Northwestern community is strong and resilient. We stand together for each other through it all. Being a Wildcat is a special part of my identity that I share with many other students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Having that one thing in common allows for a special community to be created here on campus. It’s something that, through the highs and lows, has made me love my Northwestern experience.