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An Interview On
Northwestern University

Background

Interview Date:April 2019

Gender Identity: Woman
Race/Ethnicity: Caucasian
Graduation Year: 2019
Sexual Orientation: Queer
High School Experience: Public high school in Darien, CT with a graduating class of about 330 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First-Generation College Student: No
Major: Theatre
Minors: Playwriting and History double minor
Extracurricular Activities: I was involved in a pre-orientation program. I was on a theatre board, which is unique Northwestern. I was involved in Greek life. I was also involved in Dance Marathon, which is a philanthropic dance marathon.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
A pre-orientation program and my theatre board really shaped who I am and what I want to do specifically. Even though I am no longer interested in pursuing arts administration – I’m more of an actor and writer – being on that board has really given me the tools to understand what kind of art I’m interested in creating.

The pre-orientation program I was involved in at NU was a place where people prioritized relationships with one another and the importance of building relationships in college. I was surrounded by fellow student leaders who were genuinely looking out for other people, not just themselves. At schools like Northwestern where you sometimes find a bit more of a competitive environment in certain cases, it’s really nice to have this one week at the beginning of the year where people put others before themselves.

Academic Experience

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
The Northwestern Theatre major is interesting because we don’t have a Bachelor of Fine Arts, we only have a Bachelor of Arts, so it really becomes what you make of it. Part of why I went to Northwestern is because I was interested in playwriting and acting and this program allowed me to pursue both of those at a pretty high level.

Looking at my junior year for example, I was in the Advanced Playwriting Sequence, the Acting Sequence, a History class, and I was in the school’s production of Twelfth Night. A normal course load at Northwestern is four classes during a quarter, but really anywhere between three and five classes is considered normal.

Being a Theatre major can be more extracurricular-focused depending on what is going on in your classes. Like, sometimes [you spend more time rehearsing for your play than in class], but, if I had a scene in a class, I would have to find time to rehearse for that as well. For the advanced playwriting sequence, you have to write a full-length play over the course of a year. During the winter quarter you have to produce ten new pages every week, so that was probably the heaviest course load that I had. Also, because we are a Bachelor of Arts program, your acting classes will have essays.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
In the Theatre major, my experience has been overwhelmingly collaborative except for a few periods of time during the year where it’s competitive because you’re auditioning against people. Our whole system of student theatre boards that produce student work on campus results in a lot of really lovely collaborative experiences. This past year I was the artistic director of a theatre board (essentially a co-president position) my job was to be in constant collaborative conversations with student directors to make sure the art we were bringing to this campus was productive, entertaining, and spectacular.

How accessible are your professors in your department?
Super accessible. I literally texted my acting teacher this morning because I have to put an audition on tape and I had a question about it. That’s partially because for two years you’re with the same acting teacher so you build a really close relationship with them. Most of the acting teachers are working professionals in Chicago which is really cool because there was a time when we all went downtown to see my professor in her show and then go to the after-party because we were all 21. My playwriting professors have been really great as well. I’ll send them stuff and they’re always willing to give feedback.

My non-Theatre professors I have found are also very accessible. The thing is they won’t go to you, you need to make the time to go to their office hours. If you do, it will 100% pay off. Granted, all of my experience was within the humanities—so I can’t speak to the math or sciences departments. History and English teachers are awesome though.

Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
In high school, I was the president of my theatre club and I was in all the shows. I originally thought I was going to be a Theatre and Political Science double major because I was coming from an environment where theatre wasn’t seen as a viable career choice. What I’ve discovered by seeing so many working professionals in Chicago is that, although my acting teachers aren’t glamorous and rich, they make a living and do what they love every day. That is what led me to choose Theatre with minors in Playwriting and History. What everybody will say about pursuing a career in the arts is you don’t want to do anything else and you wouldn’t do anything else. I am on a career path that isn’t necessarily linear and confusing to figure out, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that working hard will not produce results.

How do you like the quarter system? How has it impacted your experience?
I love it. As a Theatre major, it’s given me the opportunity to be in three shows a year as opposed to two, which is more typical for semester schools. I also have been able to take so many of the classes that I wanted to take. I wouldn’t have a minor in History if it weren’t for the quarter system.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived during college?
Northwestern has a two year on-campus living requirement now. It’s not common for people to stay in the same dorm. Northwestern has a bit of a North and South Campus divide. North campus tends to be more STEM, Greek life, student-athletes—and is where the fraternity quad is. South Campus is where the upperclassmen off-campus apartments are and the Theatre and humanities classes are.

Freshman: Bobb-McCulloch Hall with one roommate which is on North Campus. It’s known to be the “social” dorm.

Sophomore & Junior: I lived in a sorority house on campus.

Senior: I live in an off-campus apartment with two roommates.

How was transitioning from Connecticut to Chicago, IL in terms of location?
The weather is pretty similar. Everybody told me that it was going to be so cold, but it was basically the same. The main difference was that in high school I could drive and I am mostly walking here. People also actually are nicer in the Midwest, which is a myth I didn’t believe at first. Everything is super flat which is really weird at first. I’m also now a pro at plane travel and how to pack up my life and move.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
Yeah, the campus is super safe. We’ve had a couple of different weird incidents this year where girls were getting grabbed by a guy who would then run away, so I do carry pepper spray and a lot of other people do too. I personally walk alone at night with my headphones in, which my mother isn’t thrilled about, but I definitely feel safe.

I also think that some of the ways the administration has handled certain sexual assault situations have not been awesome, but I do think it’s getting better due to student activist groups doing a lot of great work. The conversation is being had, which I think is a good thing.

Pros and cons of being in Evanston, Illinois?
Pros:
1) You’re in a suburban area so you feel like you’re on a college campus and are in a college town.
2) Chicago is so accessible. Anytime you want to go out either for a night in the city or to see a play or concert, it’s a really cool thing to have access to. Now that I’m in my senior spring I can go down for auditions which is great.
3) A pro for me personally is I like being in a blue state and in a liberal area. I appreciate being in an area that has similar priorities in terms of political action as I do.
4) I think it’s the perfect medium of being on a college campus and having that experience and also being in a city. I have friends who never leave campus and friends that are always going downtown.

Cons:
1) It’s freezing in the winters.

Social Opportunities

What kind of weekend activities nightlife do you like to participate in?
It totally depends on the weekend. For example, tonight I will go to get dinner in Evanston and then have a fraternity formal downtown and then will be coming back to Evanston after that. Especially now that I’m a senior, we’ll do more laid-back stuff at people’s apartments. Usually, if I’m with my friends from Greek life I’ll go to a bar or club downtown. If I’m with my friends from theatre, it tends to be more hanging out at a local bar in Evanston, chilling at somebody’s apartment, or going to see a play or an acapella show on campus.

What nights of the week do you regularly go out?
Typically, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are the nights that people go out unless there’s a random event on a Tuesday.

What do you like to do on campus?
One thing that can be frustrating is there is a rift created based off of socioeconomic lines because if you can’t afford an Uber downtown, you aren’t going to be able to go to certain events with certain groups. If you’re staying on campus, you’re probably going to a frat party or going to a club event. Club culture is a big thing at Northwestern and clubs will have events or parties and invite people. People will also just hang out in dorms.

What are some of your favorite on campus events?
Mee-Ow is a show I really look forward to. It’s one-third sketch comedy, one-third rock band, and one-third improv. It’s really awesome. They do two shows during the winter quarter and each night is different. That’s something I personally love and look forward to. It also differs year to year based on who’s doing what shows and so forth. In the non-theatre world of things, when somebody has a birthday and we all go to brunch downtown or we go to a Cubs game is really fun as well.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Northwestern? Is there anything you would change about it if you could?
I’m so happy. I feel like every weekend is so different and that’s what I was really craving after growing up in a place that was the same thing all the time. One of the downfalls is everybody’s doing a million things at once, but if you’re somebody who thrives off of that, it’s really exciting.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
I’m an interesting case because I lived on North Campus and was in Greek life but also in theatre. I met my best friend because we lived on the same floor together freshman year and both ended up in the same sorority. I have also met a lot of really awesome women through my sorority. For theatre, being in an acting class with people for two years lets you learn a lot about them, so some of my closest friends come from there. For clubs, I had a lot of upperclassmen mentors in the pre-orientation program and my theatre board and now I’m friends with underclassmen, so that has built my most solid intergrade relationships.

How would you describe the overall social scene at Northwestern?
Very much what you make of it. If you’re somebody who wants to hang out in somebody’s apartment and watch a movie once a week, you can do that. Or, if you need to be going out downtown three nights a week, you can do that. There is a group for everybody no matter what you’re into. I have friends who don’t drink, friends involved in religious groups, and friends in Greek life and they all find places to be.

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientation mix socially?
There were protests a few years ago over inclusivity, so there are definitely are unresolved issues. Personally, I have experienced tons of social mixing in college between different groups, but I have also sought those diverse communities.

How would you describe the LGBTQ+ community on campus? How strong is it?
I personally am not very involved in the community. There is Lavender Graduation every year which is specifically for Queer students. There is also Burlesque which was directed this year by a transgender man and tries to place body-positive queer and transgender narratives front and center. My friends who label themselves specifically as gay have found support here, especially from upperclassmen, and also from gay and lesbian professors.

Do you think people are generally happy with their choice of Northwestern by senior year? Do you think people leave loving Northwestern?
Yes. Senior year we get a little bit jaded, but immediately after graduation you miss it. Freshman year I thought Northwestern was the best school in the world but I now look at the school with a more critical eye. I know I’m going to be the most gung-ho alumni because even now I’m already having moments where I’m getting a little misty as a senior.

Careers

To what extent have you used the career office? How helpful have they been?
Last year I was trying to apply to an internship and went to the career office to help put together a resume and I didn’t find them very helpful at all. That being said, my acting teacher and playwriting teachers were really helpful with putting together a resume for theatre jobs.

Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
I have not.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Northwestern before you entered as a freshman?
I was not going to do a preorientation program and then I talked to an upperclassman who said that I should sign up for one and it ended up being so influential in my time here. I think everyone who does a preorientation program says it makes a big difference, even if they don’t end up being a counselor later on like I did.

For theatre, I was lucky enough to have friends who were upperclassmen and also a theatre program in high school that would make us have songs and monologues prepared when we auditioned. A lot of people who came from schools where they weren’t used to doing auditions would have nothing prepared and cold read off the script. If you do theatre here, you need a nice picture of what your face looks like, a monologue that’s under two minutes, and a song cut that’s 16 or 32 bars prepared because that is what you will be asked to do in an audition.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
If you know what area of study you’re going into they might not take you into the building where those classes happen, so ask your tour guide and check it out. Also, there’s a lot of good food in Evanston to check out.

Reasons to attend Northwestern:
1) If you want to do more than one thing, the quarter system is a great way to go. If you’re interested in double majoring or two disciplines, Northwestern will help you create a way to study both of those. Like, there is a dual degree for Music and Engineering here.
2) You can explore a lot of different kinds of college lives. I was able to live in a dorm, have the football college experience, and also go into a city.
3) When it’s nice out, it’s really beautiful. It’s right on the lake, which is so beautiful. The winter does kind of suck, but that’s when everybody stays inside and becomes closer in the dorms.

Reasons to not attend Northwestern:
1) If the idea of the quarter system seems overwhelming. If you’re nervous about completing classes in 10 weeks, it’s really intense. I often feel like I’m at a sprint to the finish before every single break.
2) The financial aid department needs to be doing a lot better. [See Daily Northwestern article, “No-loan policy to be fully implemented in 2019-2020, but students still grapple with financial aid options.”]
3) If finances are a serious issue for you, it is also important to know that some people have trouble keeping up with certain social things going on, like taking Ubers downtown.

Notice: Northwestern University is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Northwestern University.

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