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.

Justin: My Academic Journey

Everyone has a different academic journey at Northwestern. However, I do always like to point out on my tours that I feel Northwestern is a place for exploration. That is why you’ll find so many students doing so many different things. We are never stuck with one major or program. The transition of one major to another or just declaring something new is simply done through signing a piece of paper. It’s that easy! I think I can definitely say I’ve become quite familiar with that slip of paper.

I came to Northwestern knowing that I would be a Theatre major. This wasn’t some big dream I’d had all of my life. Full disclosure, I actually visited the Bienen School of Music when I first came to Northwestern. At that point in time I really had no idea what I wanted to do. What I did know, though, was that I loved to sing! Bienen obviously has a great Vocal Performance program, but the idea of having to audition and having to do opera scared me away. That’s just something that didn’t appeal to me. By the end of the day, we knew I would have to come back to look at the Theatre program.

Therefore, a few months later, I came back to campus with my mom. We were prepping to go visit a techniques class taught by David Bell when I met Justin Schuman outside of the Wirtz Center. We immediately hit it off. He was from Long Island, like me, and he offered to show us the way to the classroom. The class was amazing! People were just singing musical theatre songs and acting them in front of each other…and it was a class! It was incredible to see something I love in a classroom setting. We didn’t have anything like it in high school. I knew at that moment that I wanted to major in Theatre at Northwestern.

Once I got here, I knew that I had to double major in something. There were so many good things to do and since I had so many interests, theoretically, this was the perfect opportunity. The first thing I set my sights on was Psychology. Since I loved my AP Psych class from high school, I felt this was something that would really fit me. The first class I took was a cognitive psychology class. Of all the classes for me to take, this was just not the right one. I’m definitely not the type of person who loves the scientific side to anything. I was more interested in the psychology used in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

I pushed through that class, but didn’t declare a double major. The next stop I took was in the French department. I took French throughout high school and Paris is one of my favorite places in the world. I loved the French classes I took, but I soon realized these were not necessarily classes that I wanted to spend my time doing either. So, after my second French class here, I once and for all decided that I did not want to be a French major or minor.

I should mention by this point in time, I had auditioned for the Musical Theatre Certificate program. After receiving acceptance, I began to work on what I loved. It was why I had come to this school in the first place after all. With my continued involvement in the program, I continued to question my wavering interest in Psychology. I declared my major finally in the middle of my second year, but I knew it wasn’t my love. Eventually I realized how little interest I had in it.

I decided at that point in time that I did not want to have a second major. It was a hard thing for my parents or myself to accept. I mean, a huge reason I came to Northwestern was the many academic opportunities! However, after some soul searching, I realized my time dabbling in other areas allowed me to realize how right I was to major in Theatre.

During the winter quarter of my second year, I was cast in James and the Giant Peach, which was part of the Imagine U Theatre for Young Audiences series. This changed my view on theatre. Rives Collins sparked a passion in me that I’d always had. I wanted to do theatre for children! That spring, I decided I wanted to take the Theatre for Young Audiences class during the fall.

Over the summer between my second and third years, I did some calculating. I only needed two credits in order to graduate with a Psychology minor. This was shocking to me, but interestingly enough, they were two credits I also needed for my Theatre major. Well, there was the answer to everything I’d been worried about! I was going to be a Theatre major and Psychology minor with a certificate in Musical Theatre! I was doing multiple things at Northwestern. I finally thought I had satisfied that itch to explore and learn. However, there was one thing that was missing.

In the fall, I took that first Theatre for Young Audiences class and I fell in love. After a meeting with Rives, we both felt that the Theatre for Young Audiences module would be the perfect way to truly narrow down what I wanted to do with my life. Being a teaching artist now really seems to be a career I’m interested in. All of these revelations were made possible by Northwestern and the quarter system. As I said already, Northwestern is a place for exploration, and I think with my major, minor, certificate, and module, I finally am able to say I am pursuing all of my passions here. And fun fact: I’ll be graduating on time!

–Justin Tepper

Sam: Chemistry, Dancing, Halloween

Painting the Rock. Dancing the night(s) away in the dance marathon tent. Northwestern isn’t exactly shy when it comes to huge campus traditions. However, we have plenty of lesser-known campus quirks. One more obscure but equally eccentric campus story would be the esteemed Dr. Eberhard’s Halloween show.

Imagine, if you will, a lecture hall filled with students for a Chemistry class. Okay, that sounds normal enough. But every Halloween, this lecture hall magically transforms into a concert venue, as student groups from across campus join forces with Dr. Eberhard himself to put on a dazzling show filled with colorful pyrotechnics, dancing, and live music.

I’ll be honest – interacting with this show is the closest I’ve ever come to being in a Chemistry lecture. But if other Chemistry classes are anything like what I saw during my time in the show, please excuse me while I go meet with my advisor to change my major.

I walked into the lecture hall as it had begun to fill with excited first-year students who had clearly heard rumors about what was about to happen. Wearing my green jersey and tap shoes, I was representing TONIK Tap, the tap dance group I perform with on campus. TONIK was continuing a longstanding tradition of dancing in the show, but I was a bit nervous due to the nature of our dancing: every year, TONIK tap dances on contact explosives.

As a first-time Eberhard dancer, the image of blowing up as I shuffled along in front of hundreds of students wouldn’t leave my mind. No other members of TONIK had explained to me what actually happens, so I sat there completely unknowing as different worst-case scenarios filled my head.

In the lecture hall waiting to dance, I watched as groups like the Northwestern Marching Band entertained students with their music. With the lights turned off, Dr. Eberhard’s lab assistants filled the room with a dazzling array of colorful lights and fire from various chemical mixtures. To me, this is the essence of Northwestern – incredible collaboration between student groups and academic departments to bring the pages of textbooks springing to life on any given day.


Finally, it was our turn to dance. Lab assistants started putting a chemical compound all over the top of a table that we’d be tapping on. My friend much more knowledgeable in Chemistry told me she thinks it was Nitrogen Triiodide. We got up on the table, and as we danced, there would be loud pops under our feet. It reminded me of those little firecrackers that you’d throw to the ground as a kid. I have to admit, it wasn’t quite as intimidating as I’d imagined it would be – I lived to tell the tale.

–Sam Shankman