I wasn’t sure how to feel when I realized my entire Northwestern experience had been defined by an accident.
I suppose the accident really started at the end of June, when I began to receive emails about housing. I was yet to be cured of the persistent disease known as High School Senioritis, so the task of finding a roommate and determining where I wanted to live seemed trivial. Unworried by the very real threat of ending up living in a decrepit dorm with a roommate totally dissimilar to myself, I opted to neglect my u.northwestern email account entirely, leading me to miss the first round of housing altogether and only find out my time for the second round the day before it happened. The next day, I made the wise decision of selecting the first room available without doing any research on the dorm whatsoever. I did not know that East Fairchild was the home of the Communications Residential College, or how big of an impact it would have on my Northwestern experience. All I knew was that housing was one thing I would no longer have to worry about, so I paid it no more attention.
My lazy decision didn’t come up again until three weeks before move in day at a meet up for students and alumni in the DC area. As discussion shifted to where everyone was going to be living, I awkwardly realized I couldn’t remember the name of my dorm. While others excitedly discussed the pros and cons of living in Elder versus Bobb, I frantically logged into my u.northwestern email for the first time in months, hesitantly interjecting that I was living in East Fairchild. Of course, nobody there had ever even heard of my dorm – including a few alumni.
“Great,” I thought to myself, “I’m living in the shitty dorm.”
After I returned home from the meet up, I did as much research on my dorm as my dwindling senioritis would allow. I learned that East Fairchild was on the southern end of campus. I had no idea what sort of people would live in a dorm themed around communications, but it was a prospect I wasn’t excited about. I didn’t want to live in a residential college, and assumed that I wouldn’t fit in or find friends there.
It wasn’t until I arrived on campus that my outlook began to change. Although I was surrounded by RTVF and journalism students, I learned that there were several others studying something not covered by my dorm’s theme. Although Wildcat Welcome left little time for making friends within CRC, the free time I could spend with other residents made it clear I was a new member of an amazing, nurturing community. I also realized that I was now a part of one of the weirdest communities on campus. Between frequent movie screenings and interesting firesides, weekly Super Smash Brothers tournaments and a myriad of secret events, there was always something for me to do when I had free time with the awesome people I started to call my friends. However, I think I was truly sold on the residential college life during CRC’s annual philanthropic event, Radiothon.
To those of you who are unfamiliar with Radiothon, it’s a 50 hour radio show run by CRC residents created to raise money for the American Heart Association. While the entirety of the event was amazing, the moment I realized that CRC was truly my home was after lying down at the bottom of a stairwell, preparing for ice cream toppings to be thrown at me. I won’t fully explain the event, but basically, several people within CRC had bid money to get the opportunity to make me into a human sundae. Someone counted down from three, and I almost immediately felt the frigid chocolate sauce pouring down onto my bare chest. Next I felt the maraschino cherries, then the whipped cream, and finally the ice cream cones, all turning my body into a delicious mess. The combination of senses was decidedly overwhelming and unpleasant, and I found it very hard to breathe. Just as I thought it was over, someone squeezed even more chocolate sauce into my completely unprepared face. When I finally rose from the ground, I was coated in, well, everything. I told everyone that I hated them and angrily ascended the stairs to take a shower.
Yet as I walked, I came to realize that aside from the obligatory and automatic resentment I felt, I also felt what I can only describe as a warm and fuzzy feeling somewhere inside me. Yes, physically I was a mess, but I had just fulfilled one of the most important roles of the entire event. I’d only been in the building a few months, yet someone had decided that they trusted me to take on that responsibility, and that I was well-liked enough that people would want to vandalize my body with delicious ice cream toppings. I wasn’t storming up the stairs because I was angry; I wanted to shower quickly so I could see the rest of the event. For the first time, the community I was living with finally registered in my mind as a place I could call home.
Over the course of the year, I’ve taken advantage of all the opportunities residential colleges offer. I’ve gotten to know some of our fellows and attended firesides, munchies and several RCB events. I’ve gotten the chance to be involved in both on CRC’s exec board, as well as a place on RCB exec. Throughout all of my experiences related to this thing we call the residential college system, I’ve come to realize two things: one, that this system has defined my Northwestern experience far more positively than I could have possibly expected, and two, that there are hundreds of other students like me who feel the exact same way. However, I still wonder how many other students have come to this wonderful experience by accident.