That’s why I chose to go to Northwestern. Or at least, that’s what my mom likes to tell people. In fact, she has pictures to prove it, and hung them up at my graduation open house.
I was a senior in high school, and (quite reluctantly) on my final college tour. I had already applied early decision to Columbia University, and was sure that Northwestern was just some bogus school in Chicago I would never actually go to. My dad actually bribed me with tickets to Wicked to get me to consent to the six-hour drive from Traverse City, Michigan.
It was Homecoming weekend and Northwestern was playing Michigan State, but I don’t remember that part well. I just remember the wide-eyed awe I felt while visiting the campus. My college tour was actually conducted by a graduate — someone who had transferred from Colorado State and attended Northwestern only for two years, but was thoroughly enamored of it. She explained to us that she had worked as a tour guide during her time as a student, and that she begged the Office of Admissions to let her lead a tour when she returned for Homecoming.
As she explained, “Northwestern men aren’t afraid to wear purple. They’re proud of it,” I heard screams coming from behind the ugliest building I’d ever seen — I later learned this monstrosity is Norris. I turned to look and was confronted by six guys wearing just sneakers and a lot of purple body paint. As I covered my eyes in shock and embarrassment, my mom whipped out her camera only to exclaim, “Damn! I only got pictures from the back.”
Our tour guide laughed and said, “See? Purple rocks.” Her love for Northwestern was infectious, and I’m glad I caught it. And I don’t seem to be the only one.
Northwestern isn’t unique for its academic achievement or its Big 10 sports — although those are positives. What makes this place special is the eagerness of the student body. People here seem to be overflowing with passion, for everything from theater to chemistry to student organizations. These exuberant people are the ones who push us beyond our comfort zones and who make the college experience what it is — one hell of a ride.
Take, for example, the Dance Marathon chair for my sorority. I had sworn I would never participate in DM, but this girl made me change my mind. She was just so enthusiastic about this Northwestern tradition — I couldn’t help but get caught up in her joy. After she and I spoke one-on-one about why I should dance to help kids infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, I relented and joined my friends on the dance floor for 30 hours and had an amazing time.
During the final block, I’ll admit that I smelled exactly as if I had been doing cardio for 30 hours and not showered. But it was okay, because everyone around me did too. As we hung onto each other to rest our aching feet, the finance committee announced that we had raised more than $900,000 for charity, and I’ve never been more proud in my life. Watching Brett, a rep from Project Kindle, burst into tears while telling us what they could do with the money, probably didn’t help my own waterworks. Even people who couldn’t dance were in on Dance Marathon. As we left, tons of people waited with hugs and cheers, and quite a few brought cars for the tired dancers. Even in a huge event like DM, you can feel how dedicated people are to their causes, and each other.
It’s hard to show on a campus tour, but this place is rampant with these kinds of people — the kind who spread their passion and enthusiasm around. You see tons of smiling (and likely exhausted) faces in the brochures but don’t see that they’re smiling because they just ran the Chicago marathon, or volunteered at a local hospital, or saved 17 trees in honor of Earth Day. Here, you can’t help but be excited and involved. Had I known that before I made my decision, it might have made choosing a college just a bit easier.
That moment when I saw the streakers was the moment I decided on NU. I don’t regret my decision, which at the time was ridiculously arbitrary. I based my decision off of a feeling: The desire to get wrapped up in the passion, even if it’s the naked, purple paint-covered kind.
And if you don’t get the feeling, come for the streakers. We had them again this year during sorority rush. And this time they were co-ed.