One of the best things about attending Northwestern is all of the places that it can and will help you go whenever you’re not actually at Northwestern.

Northwestern has more than 150 study abroad programs. The university can help connect students with programs to volunteer, perform research, or intern abroad. Students can even receive grants from Northwestern to create their own international research projects. Once you find your ground at Northwestern, you can spread your wings to go anywhere in the world, and then you can always come back home to NU.

Within the United States, each year NU runs a program called “NEXT” that pairs Northwestern undergrads with alumni in Chicago and around the country so that undergrads can go shadow or intern with said alumni. However, it’s not just through programs that you can venture outside of Evanston.

Northwestern affectionately calls our alumni the “Purple Mafia,” because we seem to be everywhere, all the time. This is true of alumni who have graduated years ago and now hold established careers, but it even includes alums who only graduated a year or two ago.

I grew up abroad, and I’ve barely ever been to New York City. I visited once for less than 24 hours to look at colleges, and haven’t been back since. I’ve always wanted to visit New York City during the holidays – I want to see the giant Christmas tree, the Rockefeller ice rink, the Macy’s window displays, and a show or two on Broadway. I also want to go see the usual tourist attractions – the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Natural History, etc. As I was planning my trip home for the end of the quarter, I realized I’d be done with exams December 6, and flights run between Chicago and New York several times each day. This could be the year. However, as a college kid I can’t afford to stay in a hotel during the holidays in New York, unless I plan to sneak in Home Alone-style.

This is where the Purple Mafia comes in. When I realized that traveling to New York was something I could possible do this winter, I decided to text a couple of recent alumni who now work in New York – mostly friends I had made through student theatre. Some were seniors during my first year here, some were seniors during my second. My friend Alex, who I worked on the Dolphin Show with, responded and said that she’d check with her roommates, but that she’d be glad to have me. And just like that, I have a place to stay in New York City for a few days over the holidays.

Even if you haven’t spoken to a fellow Wildcat in a few months, or even if you never even attended Northwestern at the same time, the ties of the Northwestern community hold strong. I was able to travel to DC for the first time because I stayed with another Northwestern student, and now I’ll be able to fulfill my dream of visiting New York over the holidays. I meet Northwestern alumni at football games, in airports, and while I’m shadowing downtown in Chicago hospitals. I get to watch as my peers start careers, perform on Broadway, and travel the world. And someday, in a few years down the road, I know I’ll be one of them helping out the new generation of Wildcats, as they figure out what they want to do and where they want to go.

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