Teresa: Finding City Communities Through Class

For my first five quarters at Northwestern, I kept a pretty streamlined schedule. Specifically, I scheduled all my classes around my language requirement. So when I found myself finished with French, I let myself run a little wild with the class selections. In addition to my two major classes for Communication Studies, I enrolled in both a Neuroscience course and a Poetry seminar. Both have contributed to making this one of the most fun and interesting quarters I’ve had at Northwestern, but this week I had a particularly special experience through my poetry class.

As part of the course, we are required to attend two poetry readings in the community. This involves finding where to go, how to get there, and who to listen to. Because I’m not familiar with the Chicago poetry scene, I found myself scrambling to find places to go.  Hesitantly, I messaged one of the girls in my class and asked if she had any suggestions.

Four hours later I was on a CTA train full of Cubs fans and commuters, chatting with the girl who I had never gotten to know before. We were headed into the heart of downtown Chicago to attend a reading at The Poetry Foundation’s Annual Spring Party. When we arrived, we wandered into a luxurious terrace, masked on a city street by a black façade. I immediately felt like I was walking into Narnia. This feeling continued as we entered the beautiful building lined with shelves of books and full of people modeling fabulous personal styles. Simultaneously, my new friend and I commented on how beautiful the atmosphere was.

As two outsiders stumbling into a new seemingly magical world, we did not feel out of place for long. We found ourselves immersed in the unbelievable stories and exquisite works of the poets. Each of the three readers had come from such different backgrounds and wrote so differently from one another, that each brought a new level of enjoyment to the room. It was not your stereotypical poetry reading. People laughed out loud and clapped loudly. Everyone relaxed and enjoyed themselves, and I found myself speaking more and more with the girl from my class.

While I went on the adventure as a requirement, I learned a lot of new things. First, I learned that while making new friends can be scary, it pays off to go somewhere one- on- one with somebody, even if you only know them from class. It reminds you of the simplicity of kindergarten instant best friends. Secondly, I learned about a whole new community of people in Chicago. My new friend and I have already planned to attend several different poetry readings throughout the city over the next few weeks. I could not be more thankful that a class pushed me out of my comfort zone into new, rewarding experiences.

Sam E.: How I Chose My Academic Path

“This picture is a throwback to my freshman year, studying up for one of our first economics exams!”

A big reason why I chose Northwestern was because I knew I didn’t know what I wanted to study. As oxymoronic as that may sound—choosing somewhere because it is the best place for you because you don’t know what you want—it is absolutely true. I had no idea what I wanted to study, and Northwestern didn’t make me pick just one thing to study. The quarter system allows students to take more classes than the semester system. It’s kind of like a buffet; you can try a lot of things before deciding what you truly love!

Fall quarter of my first year, I began my buffet with Introduction to Sociology. My mom is a sociology professor, so I thought maybe it would be in my genes. I fell in love very quickly with sociology. Learning about how people’s social status affects their experience was very interesting to me, and the variety of classes the major required were expansive and touched upon a ton of different topics. This quarter, I am taking my last sociology class, a course where we conduct our own independent field research. I have loved every minute of going out into the field and practicing what it would be like to be a professional sociologist.

One thing I always felt I was missing with my sociology classes was some math. I took economics in high school and didn’t love it, but I thought I would see if a Northwestern professor could spark some interest in the subject for me. Spring of my first year, I took Introduction to Macroeconomics with Professor Mark Witte and was hooked. I just thought it was really cool using numbers to reach logical conclusions about a variety of things. I knew I loved economics spring quarter of 2016 when I took Economics of the Family. Applying economics to a subject I had studied a lot in my sociology classes was really cool to experience. Who knew there were actually numbers behind the arguments in those sociology papers?

Fall quarter of my third year, I decided to dip my toes in the world of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). Again, this felt like a culmination of all my academic interests. We would take things we knew about people as they lived in the social world, and try to rationally think about how best to market goods to them. It was a really fun exercise! Last quarter, I wrote about arguably my favorite class ever, and if you read that article, you’ll understand how it is so easy to fall in love with IMC.

If you had asked me my senior year of high school what I would end up majoring in, I would have been speechless, but that is just why I picked this school. I knew I would not be forced to rush into anything, and just like going through a buffet line, I could taste a few things before having to decide what I loved!

Casey: Taking Advantage of the Windy City

When I was looking at colleges, I wanted a school that had a vibrant campus and wasn’t in the center of a major city. However, I also wanted to be close enough to a big city so I could partake in the events and culture that are part of urban life. Twelve miles from downtown Chicago, Northwestern met those criteria and ended up being the perfect school for me.

We have three ways we can get into the city using public transportation from campus: 1) a free Northwestern shuttle, 2) the “L”, or 3) the Metra, so there’s no reason not to head downtown once every week or so. Even during the winter, I usually go downtown once every two weeks.

This past weekend, my dad was in town and we took the L downtown. We went to the Art Institute (where Northwestern students get in for free), to the Berghoff Restaurant (a Chicago classic), and to a show at Second City. Last month, I went downtown to participate in a 24-hour theatre festival with students from different colleges in and around the Chicago area. And for my birthday, my friends and I created a dessert tour around the city – definitely the best way to celebrate turning 20.

Last quarter I was downtown every Friday when I took a theatre practicum class at Broadway in Chicago’s office. Every Friday morning, the students in my class and I would take the L downtown together.  We would usually pick up coffee or breakfast from the cafes and bakeries we were continuously discovering and then head to the office together. After class, some weeks I would head back to campus for various meetings or commitments, while other weeks I would head to the Art Institute, go to an event, or simply go shopping.

I’ve traveled downtown with other classes as well – fieldtrips don’t end after high school! The Introduction to Shakespeare class always goes downtown to see a show at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and my class saw The Tempest which included magic tricks created by the magicians Penn & Teller; it was one of the coolest productions I’ve ever seen. The show sold out months in advance, and none of us would have been able to see it if Northwestern had not purchased tickets for the class.

I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a bustling city every day for class and I love community that is found on Northwestern’s campus, but I think we’re so lucky to go to college close to such a big city. I love being able to head downtown for theatre, class, or just for fun, and with the public transportation options available and Northwestern’s shuttle, there’s no reason not to go into the city. When you can see the skyline of a city like Chicago from campus, the opportunities for adventures are endless.

Casey: Time to Try Defying Gravity

Summer internships are considered essential for finding a job for after graduation, but the application process can be a daunting one.

I want to work in theatre management after graduation, so I decided to pursue a theatre internship for this summer. I started my application process by meeting with Diane Claussen, the professor who taught my theatre management class this past fall. She talked me through different fields in theatre management, explained possible career tracks, and we discussed the differences in working in profit vs. not-for-profit theatre companies. After we started to work out what areas of theatre management I might want to work in, Diane suggested a list of companies for me to reach out to.

Around the same time as this meeting, Diane also facilitated a discussion between a Northwestern alumnus and producer in NYC, Tom Casserly, and a group of undergraduate students who are interested in producing and management in New York, myself included. Tom Casserly and I talked after the meeting and exchanged a few emails, wherein he suggested I reach out to the company where he first started, 321 Theatrical Management.

Over the course of the following weeks, I reached out to several theatre companies. I was going to NYC for the first few days of my winter break, and Diane had suggested that I try to set up some informational interviews for while I was there, since I might not be in New York again before applications would be due for the summer. I ended up going to interviews with two companies, one of which was 321.

When I returned from winter break, I finalized the list of companies I wanted to work with, and created cover letters and a professional resume. Diane went over each of these with me and taught me how to tailor my cover letters for different positions. She also wrote me letters of recommendation for the companies that asked for them, and was listed as a reference on my resume. During this time, I also met with Northwestern’s Career Advancement office and did a practice interview with my career advisor.

Throughout the process of applying to other theatre companies in both Chicago and New York, I kept in touch with 321, and they asked me a few additional questions. Last week, 321 Theatrical Management officially offered me a summer internship, and after a final meeting with Diane that mostly involved me freaking out, I accepted.

I also applied for and received a grant through The Office of External Programs, Internships, & Career Services (EPICS) and the School of Communication, which will cover my housing and transportation costs for the summer!

While the internship process can be daunting, competitive, and time-consuming, I can’t express how grateful I am to have professors who care about me as an individual student. Diane was by my side through my entire application process with me, to such an extent that I now feel confident when presenting myself professionally.

Sam E: Dialogue at Northwestern

In today’s society, it seems impossible for anyone to effectively express a dissenting opinion. If you look at Facebook, Twitter, or any social platform, you’re almost certain to find people expressing opinions and people expressing disagreement with the opinions of others. Unfortunately, as we all have seen, these discussions often display anger and stubbornness, characteristics that are certainly not conducive to friendly debates. Personally, I have never felt comfortable entering into these type of discussions on social media, but I do appreciate an engaging and friendly debate.

One of the benefits of going to Northwestern is the people. As cliché as it may sound, the people at Northwestern all come from different backgrounds, and with different backgrounds comes a diversity of opinions and viewpoints. These differences among us make for fantastic conversation both in and out of the academic setting. Of course, people on social media platforms also come from diverse backgrounds, but what makes Northwestern unique is the civility of the debates. For example, I am currently in a sociology class about ethnography. Earlier this week, we were discussing how ethnographers have become more and more aware of how their research comes across, especially related to studying marginalized communities. One person in the class noted that researchers who don’t come from marginalized communities but study marginalized communities may be problematic. Other students in the class disagreed, but were able to express their opinions freely. Watching this kind of debate unfold was awesome to me. Not only was I fascinated by the thoughts of my classmates, but I was also proud to be a part of a university that values this kind of dialogue.

As I enter the “real world” and begin my job this summer, I am extremely confident that Northwestern has prepared me to contribute my thoughts honestly and reflectively during any discussion. If I have an opinion that is different than my colleagues, I know it is okay to express it, and if my colleagues have an opinion, I know how to listen and reflect upon what they’re saying. These are skills that have become far too rare in today’s society and Northwestern instills these good communication skills into its curriculum.

Tomas S.: Go Abroad!

At Northwestern there are many different opportunities for people that want to study abroad as part of their college experience. With more than 130 different study abroad partnerships around the globe, there is an experience for every type of student.  I had the opportunity to study abroad in Berlin over the summer, and I will be doing it again in Hong Kong next fall. Although not too many people study abroad twice, going abroad during your junior year is pretty common for a NU student.

Northwestern has two primary offices that offer study abroad programs: the International Program Development Office and the Study Abroad Office. Most programs are exchange opportunities offered through a partner school where Northwestern students are able to register as regular students at the university of their desired location. There are also specially designed programs taught by Northwestern faculty overseas. One of them is the Berlin program that I attended this past summer. During the almost 2 months that we spent there, we had the opportunity to take classes taught by Northwestern faculty in Berlin and by local professors from Humboldt University. During my time there, I took an international economic law class that explored the modern free trade agreements system. Also, I had the opportunity to do some short weekend-long trips to Hamburg, Copenhagen and Potsdam with other Wildcats in the program.

Studying abroad is definitely one of the highlights of my experience at Northwestern. The opportunity to travel with your friends to a foreign country and spend time learning about culture and language is something that everyone should do. The opportunity allows you to broaden your perspective both academically and culturally.

Being a Northwestern students opens up many different opportunities while you are on campus from interesting classes, to research opportunities and summer internships. However, studying abroad is the only experience that will enrich your college experience in ways that you can’t even imagine around the world. GO ABROAD!