I’ve just finished my first year at Northwestern, and in the spirit of premature nostalgia, I’m mentally reliving my best and worst of freshman year. Northwestern is replete with boundless opportunities to step outside of our comfort zones. Some of us are social butterflies, and some of us are daredevils, miscreants or misanthropes.
Freshman year is like a series of snapshots of moments, most of which usually occur outside the confines of Deering. When any individual Northwestern student fashions a collegiate bucket list, there are the old standbys of a visit to The Keg, the key-jangling taunt of football matches versus the lesser institutions of the Big Ten and even the frustration-releasing tradition of Primal Scream.
With all this in mind, I’ve created a guide of other things I believe all Northwestern freshmen should experience during their career at Northwestern, preferably in their first three quarters. I, admittedly, have yet to experience all of them. I’m a giant coward and a creature of comfort, so some of these have been a bit beyond my capacity. I have, however, gathered from fellow freshman friends’ activities they would recommend to an incoming Wildcat, and I, in turn, am passing them on to you.
1. Brave Dance Marathon
Sure, I was bitching about arch support and wobbly legs just two hours into the fundraiser, one of the largest college philanthropies in the nation. The resulting sense of pride and accomplishment was worth every moment of monitored bathroom use, every listen to a poorly produced dance track and every sweaty apology after again bumping an individual I’d yet to meet prior. My calves were temporarily toned and my heart was permanently light, my spirits acutely aware of making a difference in the world.
2. See a show in Evanston and/or Chicago
Chicago’s music scene is slowly allowing the trickle-up effect to work its way to Evanston. The blues scene is translating well to the suburban venues, from SPACE (where, full disclosure, I’m an intern) to Bill’s Blues, but the undeniable hub of the music scene is still within Chicago. Gather some friends and hit the mean streets of the North Side, from Schubas to the Metro to Subterranean. Catch up on the acts you’ll love to brag about later, and take in the city scenery (and the streetside citizens) in the process.
3. Step outside of your comfort zone and flash your assets — liberally!
I’m not an RTVF, theatre or music major, and I’m not talented in any of these arenas. I’m self-aware enough to admit this. Working on a film set, however, has taught me that talent isn’t always particularly necessary, as long as I am open to gaining knowledge and taking orders from those whose visions are more defined. I’ve found that, by watching others and practicing shameless imitation, I can glean the skills I need to successfully participating in film. Along these same lines, try directing or producing a student play. Take your vision, whether it be an original work or your favorite manuscript, and stage it. It must be liberating and enthralling to watch something of your creation flourish and come to life on stage as you watch, bright-eyed and beaming. Regardless of your area of academic concentration, find something you love and exploit it! Pretend your peers are actually interested in your review of the new Halo game or your brilliant Southern opera reworking of N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton.”
4. Go on a No-pants El Ride
Here’s the first suggested tip: in January, the No-pants El Ride brings pantsless businessmen and granny-pantied professionals out in droves, all nonchalantly refusing to acknowledge the lack of leg coverage. It’s allegedly freeing, almost spiritual, but I don’t know if that’s necessarily the right word. It’s certainly an experience to remember.
5. Buy scalped tickets to a Chicago Cubs game.
See Wrigley Field. Bask in the glow of history and poor athleticism. Also, no Jumbotron equals no KissCam? Gotta love Wrigley. And if you want to avoid scalpers, just hit NU Day at Wrigley Field this Spring Quarter.
6. Skinny-dip in Lake Michigan
You must be kidding, right? I’m about as close to being a Never Nude as you can get. Take off my clothes and dive uninhibited into the waters of one of the Great Lakes? Hah, no. But yes. Grab your closest friends — not literally, if you’ve already donned your birthday suit — and splash in the shore. Make sure to wait until the weather hits double digits.
7. Take part in wacky Greek philanthropies
From braving the fickle May winds and experience the cold splash of mud in an erratically organized day of muddy events to throwing watermelon at your frenemies, enjoy the sweet burn of uncomfortable victory as you writhe in jello or flaunt your goods for charity. It’s for a good cause, and there’s something endearingly harmonious about dousing your closest friends in culinary (or plain ol’ yucky) substances and watching them squirm in discomfort.
8. Do Dillo Day right
You don’t have to get your drank on for Dillo to be delightful, but experiencing Dillo Day is a time-honored tradition for Northwestern brethren. Put on your most comfortable shoes, hide your eyes with those stunner shades and dance yourself silly to tunes you probably didn’t like in the first place. Sneak in line for pizza midday, and start an impromptu game of “slyly poke the inebriated frat boy in front of you who is blocking your view from Mike Posner and his pretentiously catchy Macy-Gray-ish vocal stylings.” Gather for a post-party in a seedy off-campus apartment and sleep off your, erm, sun-induced coma. Most importantly, pose behind the sorority girls in their neon caps brazenly displaying their chapter names (sorry, ladies) to provide hilarious and lewd surprises in their later photo reviews.
Consider this a loose template. These are the things that I, and my closest compadres, would recommend for you in your time at Northwestern. Honorable mentions include sledding on a cafeteria tray down the library hill or neglecting studying for finals for a trip to the beach. Build your own personal scrapbook of Northwestern to-dos. The possibilities are limitless, and the memories are unforgettable. I spent a year making a fool of myself, dancing, dining, working to tears and being entirely grateful for every second.
On my list for this year? Steal two apples from the dining hall. I won’t be held back by large-lettered signs and rules!
Yeah, I’m dreaming big.