Dear Anxious Freshman,
If you’re at the start of your time at Northwestern and struggling to make friends, facing homesickness or wondering what good things the future holds, let me tell you a little story. Not only was I in the same boat as you in 2016, but I lived out what I imagine to be any incoming freshman’s worst nightmare. Due to a tornado of stress and anxiety, I decided to forgo the entirety of my freshman Fall Quarter and work for Hillary Clinton’s campaign from my hometown of Philadelphia instead.
I was absent for the first 10 weeks of excitement-filled connections and friendly flirtations. I didn’t get to make relationships with my Bobb third floor hallmates (ironically, the “most social” dorm), grieve with the rest of the student body when Trump was elected, or get my bearings on campus along the rest of the freshman class.
I returned to campus refreshed and optimistic in January, but things weren’t exactly smooth sailing. Not only did I have to get accustomed to Northwestern and college life, but I also dove head first into sorority recruitment on day four of being on campus, as I had always pictured myself being involved in Greek Life. Long story short, it didn’t work out as planned, and I dropped out after being dropped from my favorite houses. I had no Fall Quarter friends (besides my pre-orientation FUP fam from before I left NU), and no sorority of sisters to welcome me with open-arms.
I had a rocky start to “living my best life” and “thriving,” as everyone seemed to comment on other freshmen’s Instagram posts. But my shaky beginning didn’t predict how my remaining time at Northwestern would unfold. Four years later, I can confidently tell you what my 2016 self never thought my 2020 self could say: These were the best four years of my life, and I never want to leave.
My secret to creating a NU life for myself was by saying “yes” when it came to every new opportunity. After I initially dropped Greek life (or really, when Greek life dropped me), I applied to every club that slightly interested me. Freshmen: You might get rejected by most clubs, as I did, but the process of putting yourself out there alone is incredibly important. It releases good energy into the world for you. I signed up for a social justice fellowship and joined NBN, one of the few affiliations I didn’t have to apply for in order to be included. I asked every person I met for their number, and followed up with all of them to go on walks or get coffee. I encourage you to do the same. Even if you make one close friend out of it, it’s worth all the awkwardness.
Two of the people I texted during Winter Quarter of Freshman Year were from my six-day pre-orientation program. They became some of my best friends, and eventually two of my four senior year roommates. As a sophomore, the second time was the charm; my new-found confidence led me to re-rush and join a sorority, Alpha Chi Omega. By no means was I as sorority-driven as I thought I would be, with an exec position or wearing letters everywhere I went, but I created deep and beautifully supportive friendships with women I never would have met otherwise.
I’m an East Coast Jew and always thought I’d gravitate toward other East Coast Jews, but all four of my incredible senior year roommates were non-Jews hailing from the Midwest. I didn’t study abroad in Europe like I always imagined, but instead traveled to Hong Kong with a journalism class for an unforgettable week. Rather than rushing freshman year and living in the house sophomore year, I lived in my sorority house as a junior and essentially had a slumber party with girls of all ages every night.
You are going to surprise yourself. You will go down paths that you never expected and divert from the ones you meticulously planned out in your head. And that’s OK. These unexpected journeys can come in the form of bumpy beginnings, the communities you find yourself in or the friends you begin to call family.
If my freshman year self were talking to myself now, she would not believe how strong, independent, funny, smart and happy I became. My senior year self is everything she always wanted to be.
Trust me when I say, it gets better. I was just as unsure as you are. You deserve to be here, and you will fall in love with who you become. It’ll be hard to say goodbye to the places and people that shaped you into your dream self, but you’ll always belong here. You’ll always be a Wildcat.