Sam E.: Four Years Later

Teresa, Tomas and me (on the left) at the Segal Visitor Center.

Not too long ago, I was in a similar spot most of you likely find yourselves in now. Anxiously writing essays trying to put your best foot forward, nervously pleading to your favorite teachers to write that glorious recommendation that will convince admissions counselors you’re the one, and studying religiously for those standardized exams—not too long ago, I was doing all these things in hopes of getting into this school off Lake Michigan because of how welcomed I felt upon visiting this genuinely tightknit community. Four years later, and I can attest that it was all worth it. These four years have been some of the best of my life.

Now, I know it may sound cliché to refer to college as “the best years of your life,” but I actually got exactly what I wanted out of Northwestern. What I sought was a community that I could grow with socially, academically, and personally. What follows is some vignettes of some of the communities you can find at Northwestern and how they helped me become who I am today.

I did not know who I was going to room with going into freshman year. I picked a room with air conditioning in what I later learned to be a residential college. Little did I know, this community would be the foundation of my social life for the next four years. I made friends I still live with to this day, and together we have developed great friendships. Whether it be watching the NBA Finals or hanging out on the rocks staring at the Chicago skyline, these people have been my rocks socially.

Besides the tightknit social community, I was also drawn to Northwestern for its amazing academics. As someone who typically preferred to study alone, I didn’t expect to find an academic community, but per usual, Northwestern made finding a community easy and beneficial. In my classes in the Integrated Marketing Communications program, I worked with the same four people on two different quarter long projects and became great friends along the way. And who could forget the countless hours I spent studying for my Economics classes with the same couple of friends? Without these ‘Cats, academics would not have been the same.

Finally, I grew personally. People here at Northwestern are great by themselves, but the benefit of community is you have people to challenge you. My friends will not hesitate to call me out when they think I can do better, to challenge me to expand my boundaries, and to praise me upon my successes. With them, I have grown.

So, four years later, it was all worth it. Thank you, Northwestern, for seeing in me what I didn’t always see in myself and for letting me grow with this community. Go ‘Cats!

Casey: Why My Advisor Is One Of My Best Friends

As a student, I swear by my paper planner. Everyone has a system, and mine is a floral planner from Target that I use to track my homework, student orgs, meetings, and work. But even when armed with a host of color-coding pens and post-it notes, sometimes things fall through the cracks, and that’s where my advisors come in.

Each Northwestern student ends up with around 5-7 advisors – sometimes students jokingly compete for who can have the most by graduation – and I’m no exception. I have a Weinberg advisor, a Neuroscience advisor for my major, a Theatre advisor for my minor, a career advisor, a pre-med advisor, and I’m pretty sure someone in the Office of Research and Fellowships is looking out for me. Like all Northwestern students, I also had a first year advisor, who helped me with my college transition.

Both my formally-assigned advisors and the professors who have informally advised me along the way have been amazing resources. I try to meet with my advisors at least once a year, except for my pre-med advisor Mel, who I see more often. Most of the advising offices have drop-in hours where you can stop by with short questions, but you can also book appointments online. In order to meet with Mel, I just go online, enter in my schedule for the next week, and it matches my schedule with Mel’s schedule for an appointment time!

As I finished my junior year this spring I met with three of my advisors. We looked over what classes I have left before graduation and which quarter I’ll take each class. Even though I didn’t decide on my major until the end of my sophomore year, I’ll still be a part time student my last two quarters, which will be perfect as I take the MCAT and send in my med school apps.

When Mel and I met, we talked with about classes, the MCAT, med school applications, which professors I might ask for letters of recommendation, and what I could do during my gap year. But most importantly, she reassured me that I’m going to get where I want to go, and I’m going to be okay. I won’t lie – as a Northwestern student and especially as a pre-med student, I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well and get good grades, and on occasion, this pressure leads me down a rabbit hole of freaking out. But whenever that happens, I know I can go to Mel or any of my other advisors and they’ll help me plan, point me to resources, and reassure me that I’ll be okay, which is sometimes what I need most.

Casey: Professors (and their pups) are here for you

When I spotted Professor Regan Thomson down the hallway I called out, “Does your dog live in your office?” He saw me, laughed, and said, “Yes, he does.” I asked if I could come pet his new puppy, and when he said yes I followed him down the hall and into his office. As I played with Kermit, the puppy Regan had told my chemistry class last quarter he’d hoped to adopt, the professor went through emails and had a graduate student stop by with some questions.

While this interaction might seem to informal for a university professor and a student, it’s a actually good representation of the relationships I’ve formed with professors at Northwestern.

Northwestern professors prioritize getting to know their students to an extent that continuously surprises me. All of our classes are taught by professors, and all of our professors have office hours each week. Every professor reassures students that they don’t need to have questions prepared to come to office hours; students are welcome to just come and chat. Many professors will even bring snacks to their office hours to encourage students to come – my Sociology 101 professor would always have tea and biscuits on hand. Even though I didn’t usually have questions to ask, the sociology building was next door to my residential hall, so I went to office hours almost every week.

Many professors also adopt an open-door policy. Whenever their door is open students are welcome to stop in. The professor who runs the organic chemistry laboratory is well-known for this, and students will stop by his office and lab all day long.

Professors are also always willing to meet with students outside of office hours. Before I declared my major and minor, my English professor and I got coffee to talk about what I wanted to study. My macroeconomics professor and I have the same favorite coffee shop in Evanston, and when I saw him there a few days before a midterm, I asked him if we could talk about a few questions from class. He agreed and walked me through the content I found confusing until it made sense. I once even Skyped a faculty member from our research office –he was out sick but knew I had an application for a research position due in the next few days, so he offered to Skype with me to go through my application.

Across the board, Northwestern professors will go above and beyond to connect with and help their students. They’ll get coffee with you, offer to write you letters of recommendation, help you apply for grants or find internships, and even let you hang out with their puppy. Northwestern professors are uniquely invested in their students which is one of my favorite things about NU.

Tomas: The One Thing That Every Northwestern Student Has In Common…

Being part of a student organization is something that most Northwestern student have in common. There are so many options with the more than 500 active organizations that it is hard not to find something that you are interested in. From pre-professional groups to the Northwestern magic club, everyone has a space on our campus.

My personal experience with student organizations at Northwestern has been very positive over these past two years. I have been part of the International Students Association (ISA), Moneythink and Students Consulting for non-profit organizations. All these clubs have allowed me to meet very different people from across all six schools at Northwestern and to learn about their different perspectives. In my opinion, the single most important thing form participating in a student club is that it allows you to be exposed to people outside of you regular friend group. College is about learning and exploring and the best way of succeeding in that is by being active in organizations on campus.

Personally, there is one organization that played a major role in my sophomore year. As a member of the executive board of ISA, I was able to participate in a variety of activities for the International community on campus. From our “food for thought” series (basically free dinner with a cool speaker) to our very successful spring formal. Being part ISA allowed me to get real experience in organizing some of these events while also getting to know some amazing people.  Overall I would say that my time at Northwestern would not have been the same had I not joined ISA at the end of my freshmen year.

Student organizations at Northwestern are an important part of the student experience on our campus. As I said before, something that Northwestern is really proud of is the fact that almost everyone on campus participates in a student group or organization. These groups not only create a vibrant campus culture but they also allow for a better integration of students that would otherwise not participate in many campus events. Many organization also provide spaces for students to develop personally and academically.

Teresa: Finding City Communities Through Class

Rendering of the Chicago Poetry Foundation (Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing).

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!