BackgroundInterview Date:December 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Graduation Year: 2021
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
High School Experience: Public high school in the suburbs of Chicago, IL with a graduating class of 500 students. There was a strong culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Russian Language in Literature. Is on the pre-med track.
Minor: Global Health Studies
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in a choir, Northwestern Emergency Medical Organization, and a Public Health Club.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
Choir has been a big part of my college experience. I’ve met a lot of my friends in choir, spend a lot of my time doing it, and it’s now a big part of my identity of Northwestern.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
My major is a lot of reading and writing because it’s language and literature. I also do pre-medical course work which is a lot of problem sets, reading of the textbook, and math. My work seems to consist of both reading and writing, but also problem-solving. Mid-terms and finals are the major grades, and homework doesn’t have a big impact on our grades.
Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or especially poorly?
They do a good job of developing a culture of inclusiveness and introducing students and faculty to each other. Last year we had a dinner where everyone involved in the department was invited to eat Russian food with their professors. We also had open houses with opportunities for students to get to know each other and the faculty.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
In general, the university is very competitive. For me, my department is super collaborative, and I’m good friends with my classmates. We work together and form study groups. But, it’s very different on the pre-med side where everyone is trying to be at the top of the class. Everyone wants to outdo their classmates, saying they have more work to do or got less sleep. Everyone is trying to be the one doing the most, but it does depend on what department you are in.
What has been your favorite class in your major?
Russian Language. I’ve taken this series of classes with the same students, so I feel close to them. Forming these lifelong relationships is an important part of college in my opinion.
How accessible have the professors in your department been?
Very accessible. For the most part, my professors say you can come to office hours or Skype them, and every email I’ve sent has gotten a response in a reasonable amount of time. I’m lucky to have professors that actually care if their students learn. They talk like they want to engage with the students, and help them with any questions anyone has.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I knew I wanted to be pre-med, and everyone seems to take biology or chemistry. Every counselor I’ve talked with has said to take something I really want to learn. I was taking different courses and decided I wanted to learn how to speak Russian. It’s something I never delved into before, so I took the class on a whim and fell in love with it. I knew I’d be taking a lot of science courses anyway, so I wanted to have both sides. I’m super satisfied I was able to do that, instead of only getting to study one subject. I’m going to be able to go abroad to a Slavic country this summer and get credit toward my major. It’s cool to be able to explore all corners of college.
How has being on a quarter system impacted your coursework?
Part of it is really nice because you get to take as many classes as you want, and you aren’t just limited to classes in your major or minor. You get to explore, but the pace of the course is a lot faster than it usually would be. For the more difficult classes, it can be hard to keep up sometimes. You essentially do an 18-week course in 12 weeks.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived during college?
Freshman: Ayers College of Commerce and Industry with 2 roommates
Sophomore: Ayers College of Commerce and Industry with no roommates
How was transitioning from your hometown in Batavia to Evanston, Illinois?
It wasn’t difficult at all. I’m from Batavia, which is a suburb of Chicago close to Northwestern. It’s about an hour and a half drive so I can go home on the weekends if I want. The suburban life seems to be similar to my hometown, so I didn’t experience a big culture shock.
Pros and cons of being in Evanston, Illinois?
1) It’s so close to Chicago. I like how it’s outside of the city and is its own place. It’s not crowded, but you also get good access to the city life if you want it. It’s about a 40-minute train ride to downtown.
2) I like that it’s close to where I live. At this point in my life I didn’t want to move that far away from home, so it’s nice for me to be able to see my family when I want to, but still live on my own.
3) Evanston is beautiful, but a little expensive.
1) If you are really into the party scene or bar life, you won’t really find that here. There are a couple of places to go, but for the most part, there aren’t many off-campus party options. It’s not what you hear about as the traditional college experience, and the party scene isn’t as intense as other universities.
Are you in Greek Life?
I was but quit because I didn’t like it. I never liked the culture of Greek life because I think it’s very cliquey and exclusive. It wasn’t the friendship [creator] it was portrayed to be, and it seemed that you had to adhere to a set of standards that I thought were inappropriate.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
Greek life and nightlife go hand in hand. Most people don’t go to bars, so the place to go on a Friday night is a frat party. We have parties on and off campus. They are pretty safe, so people can go and have a good time.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I think I speak for a lot of pre-med students in that my weekend life is mostly spent at the library. We have a joke here that you are either a Nerdwestern or a Northwasted. You are either the person who goes and studies on a Saturday night or one who goes to a party and socializes. You have the option to party, but depending on your major and course load, sometimes there is not time to do it. With the quarter system, you almost have a midterm every week.
What do you like to do with your friends?
When I do see my friends, I’m more of the type of person to have a chill hangout. A lot of people do go to parties or the one bar we have, but my friends and I like to hang out in an apartment. No matter what you like to do on the weekends, you can find your friends here. I hadn’t felt the pressure to go out and party when I didn’t want to.
How happy are you with the weekend activities or nightlife at your school? Is there anything you would change if you could?
Personally, I wasn’t looking for nightlife options when looking at schools. I’m pretty satisfied, and I like that if I do want to go out there are places to go, but if I don’t, then there is no pressure to.
How has identifying as LGBTQ influenced your nightlife experience?
I don’t know if it has. A lot of LGBTQ people can agree that if you identify as LGBTQ, you tend to gravitate to other people with similar sexual orientations.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I’ve made most of them through the people I live near. I also met people through classes, extracurricular activities, and friends of friends. It’s pretty small, so not everyone knows everyone, but it’s easy to make connections through people in order to make a close-knit group of friends.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Northwestern?
I think it’s very diverse. No matter what you’re interested in you can find your people. There are a lot of different groups, but they don’t seem very cliquey. Everyone intermixes to some extent, but it really depends on what you want to do with your time.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientation mix socially?
It’s pretty good here. In general, we seem to gravitate to people that are similar to us, so there are groups made up of similar races, sexual orientations, and similar backgrounds. There are lots of opportunities to meet people who are different than you. It’s a diverse school which is something a lot of people like. The majority of students are open minded and down to make friends with anyone they meet. [The Class of 2022 population is of 13.5% Hispanic or Latino, 1% American Indian or Alaska Native, 23.5% Asian American, 10% Black or African American, and 56% White.]
How would you describe the student body?
It’s diverse to a point but mostly White and Asian. There is diversity in terms of socioeconomic backgrounds as well. It seems there are both extremes of upper or lower class people here. Northwestern has been trying to accept more students from lower income backgrounds, and first-generation students. [The median family income of a student from Northwestern University is $171,200.]
Do people generally seem happy with their college choice by senior year? Do people love your school?
I think people wouldn’t be here if they weren’t committed to Northwestern. You have to work hard to be here, and it isn’t something you can breeze through. Lately, people have spoken out about the lack of mental health services on campus. We have a high suicide rate here, so people are upset that if you go to counseling services they will turn you down because there isn’t enough faculty to satisfy the demand. The competitive culture is bad for us, but we are advocating for a positive change to make things better.
How has the size of your school influenced your social experience?
I like the size a lot. It’s small enough so if I go somewhere I’ll know someone, but I still have the opportunity to meet new people. [There are about 8,300 undergraduates at Northwestern.]
How strong is the LGBTQ community on campus?
I think we have a pretty high number of LGBTQ students. We have some that are loud and into the activist side of it who are involved on campus trying to increase their presence. Other people seem to be casually gay, and it doesn’t have to be a big part of your identity here. There isn’t a lot of prejudice, and it’s not super necessary to hyper change because how good the environment is already.
Have you used financial aid? If so, accommodating was the office to your needs? Were they responsive to your questions?
I’ve had a super good experience with financial aid. They have given me everything I need and more. When I call or email, they are responsive, and their mission is that everyone who gets into Northwestern can come and afford it.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
You can contact a professor in your desired major to sit in on a class which is a good way to get a feel for what college is like before coming.
What is something somebody who identifies with the LGBTQ community should know that we haven’t touched on?
Everyone, including gay people, are definitely accepted here, which is something I appreciate. It’s not a place where you have to be in the closet or nervous about sharing who you are. Of course, there will be people who discriminate against you, but in class and talking about my sexual orientation has been accepted. They have resources to meet other LGBTQ students, and if you are having any issues there are people to reach out to that can help you through them.
What is something you wish you knew about Northwestern before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I knew how competitive it was going to be. On the college tours, they say that compared to the Ivy League schools, Northwestern is more collaborative. This could be true, but compared to any other school we are still cutthroat and super intense. Everyone is set on doing well, but this is something people should be ready for before coming here because it does negatively affect a lot of people.
Reasons to attend Northwestern:
1) There are lots of opportunities here. We have excellent courses and professors, but it also provides connections for internships and careers in the future.
2) The student organizations and study abroad programs are very accessible.
3) The student body is amazing here. The people are friendly and accepting. People are passionate about what they do, and there seems to be a lot of love on campus.
Reasons to not attend Northwestern:
1) The culture of having to work all the time, and the feeling that you need be better than everyone else.
2) The workload is intense. You need to figure out how hard you want to work because a lot of students struggle with this.