Casey: ‘Holidaze’


College is full of traditions – new traditions, old traditions, traditions you’re carrying on from alumni who came years and years before you. Once such tradition is “Friendsgiving”, the tradition of making and eating a Thanksgiving meal with your friends, either before everyone leaves for Thanksgiving break, or over the break itself if you’re staying in Evanston.

As someone who grew up in England, I didn’t have strong ties to Thanksgiving when I came into college, and I didn’t participate in or attempt to create a Friendsgiving either of my first two years at Northwestern. However, this year my friends had different plans.

I’m a part of a group on campus called Young Life, which is a Christian group that ministers middle school and high school kids in the area. Altogether we have about 30 to 35 Northwestern students either currently leading or going through training, and my friend Jonathan decided to gather all of us for a Friendsgiving of epic proportions. We are a large and yet tight-knit group of friends, and a group of us all live together in this one house we call the Treehouse off-campus, and so the plan was to meet the Sunday before Thanksgiving and eat at 6 p.m. The gathering would include all of us, plus some of Jonathan’s family members, including his baby nephew, and most of us were bringing at least one dish.

The Saturday night before Friendsgiving, the preparations were already well under way; Jonathan was chopping up what seemed to be a grocery store’s entire stock of celery and the 20-pound turkey had been taken out to defrost. The next day I arrived around 1 p.m., and several friends were already over, with everyone in different stages of cooking their own dishes. In the end, by 6 p.m., we had enough food to feed our coalition of friends and more to spare.

It was, everyone agreed, the most “real” Friendsgiving they had ever attended. There was a giant turkey, gravy, two different kinds of stuffing, two dishes of macaroni and cheese casserole, two kinds of bread, Brussels sprouts, carrots in brown sugar, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and a whole host of desserts. We were all, I have to say, quite proud of ourselves. With only a college kid’s cooking supplies, provisions, and skills, we had assembled a very legitimate and delicious Friendsgiving. Together we cooked, we ate, and we took “family photos.”

And while I am thankful for an evening break from my homework and while I am eternally thankful for apple crumble, throughout the evening I was most thankful for this group of friends who had somehow become a family. College is a wacky place and for most of us it’s the first time we’ve lived away from home, and sometimes it feels like “going home” is the only way you can find family or a home-cooked meal, but at Northwestern this isn’t necessarily the case.

Northwestern students are big on traditions. We’re big on community. And we’re really big on forming families with our peers. And so, if you go to Northwestern, you just may find that you end up with a second family, in none other than Evanston, Illinois.

Tomas: Farewell to Another Season of Tailgating


My friends and I (on the left) tailgating together for the last time this football season.

Like everything good in life, Evanston’s tailgating season came to an end two weeks ago. The early mornings filled with food, friends and drinks will be a distant memory until next year.

Walking up at 9 a.m. and meeting up with hundreds of other students around the city of Evanston before a game is one of Northwestern’s greatest traditions. It’s something that brings all students together for a couple of hours on gameday.

As an international student, the concept of tailgating was completely foreign to me until I came to Northwestern.  It is one of the great American traditions, and a really fun one at that.

Northwestern hosted its last football game of the season against Wisconsin. Normally this game would’ve had a pretty empty student section; however, the weather forecast was perfect for Saturday. Sunny and 70 degrees in November? This can’t be true. That’s what every Northwestern student thought. And so, when I realized that my phone’s weather app was not lying, I knew that Saturday would be memorable day.

As early as 9 a.m., hundreds of people flooded tailgates around Evanston. From freshmen to seniors, engineers to art majors everyone was out there cheering for the ‘Cats.

One of the things that I like the most about Northwestern is that even though we are a school with 8,000 undergrads, you still recognize many faces as you walk around campus and around town. Saturday was no exception, especially since it was a family weekend at Northwestern. The sight of parents with their families walking around tailgates and remembering their time in college was pretty common throughout the day.

It is after these types of experiences that most of us remember why we chose Northwestern, and why we like it so much.

Jim: At My Table

In one of the great Northwestern traditions, the Northwestern Alumni Association annually organizes Dinner with 12 Strangers, an evening for community members to come together and share a meal at the home of an alum. This week, we asked Jim to describe who he would want at his table. 

It seems rather odd to pick an ideal list of strangers. Northwestern has so many successful and interesting alumni that it seems a bit shallow to say that I want a Dinner with 12 Strangers event to include Seth Myers and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, just so that they can listen to me gush for a few hours (Seth and Julia, if you’re reading this, I promise I can hold interesting conversations with you if you want to hit me up for dinner sometime!).

That said, what I’d really like to do is meet with some Northwestern alumni who have taken unexpected paths to success. I know we have them; George R.R. Martin is an alumnus of our journalism program, not creative writing. That’s not to suggest that journalists can’t be authors or vice-versa (my fellow tour guide Tyler Daswick, studying Journalism and Fiction Writing, can attest to that), but perhaps it’s not quite the path you’d expect. For that matter, noise rocker and recording engineer Steve Albini also holds a journalism degree, and he also did not take the career path one would expect either. These are a couple of famous examples who come to mind, but I have no doubt that we have others, and I’d like to meet them! I’ve heard that our generation will work a greater number of jobs in a larger variety of fields than in any generation before us. As a music major spending more time this summer in a soldering room than a practice room, and more likely to be found mixing a musical than performing in it, I’d like to know how these alumni took the skills they learned at Northwestern and applied them in different ways to be successful. Hopefully I can apply that to my own life too.

I’d also like to see similar students in that mix. I know lots of people with interesting ad-hoc majors or cool clubs that they’ve founded, but it’s always great to meet more of them. Northwestern students are doing really creative things, and I’m always glad to hear somebody else’s story.

–Jim Alrutz

Taylor: Chat With Elder Hall’s RA

College housing can be a bit of a maze given new terms that new students quickly have to become familiar with. From residence halls to residential communities to residential colleges, it can seem overwhelming at first. Thankfully one of our student publications, North by Northwestern, created a housing guide for incoming students (found here). For the purpose of this post, I’ll refer to all on campus residences as ‘dorms.’ The people who help you navigate the world of on campus housing are the wonderful Resident Assistants (RAs). Regardless of the type of housing, there are two to three upperclassmen RAs who live on each floor with the residents and help to enforce rules, resolve conflicts, and overall increase the camaraderie of the dorm. One of my friends, Ryan Dahlberg, after living off campus the year prior, has become a first time RA for his final year at NU. As a senior living in the halls of an all-freshmen dorm, I was interested to learn how he’s liked it so far.

Taylor: So why did you decide to be an RA for your final year?

Ryan:  I wanted to find a way to stay engaged in the Northwestern community and felt that living on campus would be a great way to do so. I looked to the RA position as a way to meet new people, impart my three years of knowledge onto my residents, and give back to a community that has already given me so much.

Taylor: I feel like there would be a lot of challenges as a first-time RA. What has been your greatest one?

Ryan: So I live in Elder Hall, a residential community made up of solely freshman. I’m a senior. This makes for a very large age/maturity/knowledge/experience gap between the two parties. I think bridging that gap and forming positive, meaningful connections with my residents was probably the most difficult but also the most rewarding and fun aspect of my job.

Taylor: So to help with that, what’s been the best bonding activity with your floor?

Ryan: I’m trying to think back to some of my favorite moments during the year. One tradition that stands out to me was our consistent excursions to Cheesie’s, a staple restaurant in downtown Evanston. Every Wednesday night, Cheesie’s would have half priced sandwiches. Many of my residents and I would religiously make the weekly trip to this fine dining establishment and consume what can only be described as health reincarnated as a sandwich (note: he’s being sarcastic here, pictures of the creations can be found here).  More than these trips though, I think my floor really bonded through much simpler activities. Hanging out in the lounge playing darts, grabbing lunch in the dining hall, and chatting in each others’ rooms have really brought us much closer.

Taylor: Aww you love your residents. This may be kind of obvious now, but how/do you think it’s affected your senior year?

Ryan: At the most trivial level, it has been nice not having to clean or maintain an off campus apartment or house. As a young male in his early 20s trying to enjoy college, that just doesn’t sound appealing. However, it goes much deeper than my inherent laziness. I’ve been able to make connections with people that I never would have met had I not been an RA. Whether it’s the members on my RA staff or the freshmen in my hallway, I can honestly say that I have formed many lasting and meaningful relationships. I often get made fun of by my peers for “only having freshmen friends.” It’s partially true. It has been difficult maintaining friendships with those outside of my Elder bubble. However, I still try to remain active in the upperclassmen social scene when time permits.

Taylor: That’s awesome. Anything else I should know? What else do you do on campus? Anything you’re looking forward to after you graduate?

Ryan: As of the moment, I’m just crossing my fingers that I graduate (another note: he’s lying. Ryan is already in med school and graduating a quarter early). But no, in all honesty, I’m really just looking forward to using these last couple months to revisit old friendships and spend time with people before we all embark on our own journeys. My next four years are to be consumed by medical school. I’m definitely looking forward to this rewarding opportunity but at the same time, am intimidated. Oh well, should be fun.

–Taylor Billings

photo source: scb.com.

Ava: Interview with DM’s Co-Chair

If you’ve read anything about Northwestern’s campus traditions on our various websites or brochures, you’ve probably heard about Dance Marathon. NUDM is one of the nation’s largest student-run philanthropies, and campus is buzzing because it’s less than a month away!

Dance Marathon is a 41-year-old tradition here on campus that involves hundreds of NU students dancing for 30 straight hours one weekend at the end of Winter Quarter. All the dancing goes down in a giant tent behind our student center, but before they dance, students spend all fall and winter quarters fundraising for NUDM’s beneficiaries. Every year NUDM splits its proceeds between the Evanston Community Foundation and a philanthropy NUDM’s executive board has chosen; this year the Primary Beneficiary is the Starlight Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving health and overall quality of life for children around the globe.

For the students who work to make Dance Marathon happen, NUDM is a yearlong commitment. This year, my friend David Ryan (Picture: top right) is one of the organization’s two co-chairs, so I talked to him to find out how he got involved in Dance Marathon and what his life has been like as an NU student.

(Now here’s my shameless plug: For the past three years I’ve covered Dance Marathon weekend for The Daily, so if you want an idea of what NUDM weekend is like, check out our coverage from last year!)

Name: David Ryan

Major: Computer Science, Class of 2015

How’d you settle on Computer Science? My freshman year I had my heart set on a political science and economics double major, and thought I’d just pursue computer science courses for fun on the side. I started making websites for some student groups like A&O (a student group that brings speakers and musicians to campus) and NUDM and fell in love, and after a few more courses in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science I made the switch.

Did you get to do any computer science work outside of school? I had the chance to work on the Obama re-election campaign back in fall of 2012 as a front-end web intern while I spent the summer on campus taking classes. I’m lucky that NU is close enough to Chicago that I was able to juggle my time there along with a 3-class course load.

What are your post-grad plans?  I’m happy to say I’ll be staying in Chicago and working as a software engineer at Groupon! I worked as an intern there last summer after talking with them at a McCormick School of Engineering Tech Internship Fair. I learned so much and enjoyed the work there a lot, so I’m happy they’re allowing me back!

Any interests or hobbies outside of computer science? I’m a huge NBA fan, especially with the recent analytics revolution that is taking place in the sport. I also like to read weird long reads (like this ESPN article on the Iditarod Trail).

How’d you get involved with NUDM? A few sophomores in Willard (the Residential College I lived in freshman year) encouraged me to sign up in the fall of my freshman year. I realized how incredible the Be Positive Foundation (NUDM’s 2012 Primary Beneficiary) was, and next year, I joined the Tech Committee, went to events, and gained a better understanding of the advocacy work and community that can come out of Dance Marathon. I was lucky to be on the Executive Board as a Tech Co-Chair last year, and it has been an unbelievable privilege to serve as an Executive Co-Chair of NUDM 2015.

What are your duties as Executive Co-Chair? I, alongside my co-chair, lead an Executive Board of 20 other amazing individuals who spearhead all the components of NUDM as committee leaders. We assist them in taking their job to the next level and bring their goals into a more unified vision for Dance Marathon. We also serve as the main liaisons to both the University and our beneficiaries. It is so immensely rewarding to work alongside such passionate and committed students here, and I have just loved working with the Starlight Children’s Foundation, the Evanston Community Foundation, and Northwestern faculty and administrators.

Did you know about NUDM before you came to NU? I was aware that NUDM was a big deal on campus and briefly mentioned it in my application, but didn’t really explore its mission. Don’t do what I did! Take a look at Dance Marathon, as well as the hundreds of other student groups on campus. While participating in NUDM is not necessary to have a fulfilling Northwestern experience, there is just so much you can do to explore your interests and engage in different communities through student organizations on this campus.

Were you big into philanthropy in high school? I participated in Relay for Life during high school, but never served in a leadership capacity or got really involved. College was a great opportunity for me to branch out and try new things, and I think NUDM came along at the right time so I could explore how to better engage in philanthropy.

–Ava Wallace