I Dare Me

NBN followed three students who challenged themselves to achieve something new during isolation.

Written by Laurisa Sastoque // Designed by Maren Kranking

Has quarantine become an overachiever’s new best friend? As students face an altered reality, some have put themselves to the test. Three students shared their experiences trying newfound challenges in the time of confinement.

Entries have been edited for clarity and length.

Before quarantine, TikTok was a fun pastime and nothing more. But I’ve been spending increasing amounts of time on the app, and I have started to develop a passion for it. I’ve always wanted to be famous, and this app just makes it so easy! By the end of quarantine, I will be TikTok famous.

March 25: Today, I noticed that I am the only one left on the third floor of Jones Hall. That makes me feel lonely, but it also means that I can use all this free space as my shooting studio! I have made a couple of (pretty funny, in my opinion) videos, which are each approaching 100 views now.

April 7: I’ve been educating myself on how to be as viral as possible: “for you” page tags, trendy sounds and topics, etc. In terms of content, I’ve been showing off my talents. For example, I filmed a time lapse of a self-portrait painting, and so far it is my most popular video, with 142 likes. I also dressed up for a TikTok about "Tiger King", and it got over 1,500 views. Likes, however, flopped at a sad 69.

May 1: I recently found out that a lot of people measure TikTok success in terms of followers. That made me feel like a total failure, considering that I only have around 50. I upload at least twice a week, but my videos rarely get over 400 views. What am I doing wrong?

May 7: To make my videos more appealing, I’ve been stepping up my editing game by adding cool effects and green screens and by dueting viral videos. Two days ago, I filmed five videos in one day, but I will space out uploads so as not to mess with the algorithm.

May 15: I write to you from Guangzhou, China. Two days ago, I left Chicago. I’m very sad to tell you that my TikTok dream is over. Not only is my WiFi currently in a terrible state, but I also realized that the app links your account to your phone number. Since I changed my SIM card, I have lost access to my account. I can either start all over again or let my account fall into oblivion. Even though my TikTok adventure is over for now, this really helped me consolidate my love for audiovisual creative content! I’m sure my experience will help me in my long-term goals of working in media.

Ever since I got back home in Ahmedabad, India, my life got turned around. I’ve been drowning in boredom as I watch Netflix. So, I’ve been craving a new hobby that allows me to feel more productive. Since I am such a bad bilinguist (I speak English, and Hindi, barely), I decided it would be a good idea to challenge myself to learn a new language.

March 18: Today I decided that I would learn Spanish. I considered how many of my friends at Northwestern speak Spanish and the many good things that I have heard about Hispanic/Latinx writers. How cool would it be if I were fully able to understand these different cultures?

March 25: So far, I have been discovering various resources to help me with my goal. I downloaded Duolingo and started watching YouTubers from different Spanish-speaking countries. Of course, I still use subtitles, but it has helped me to get acquainted with the language. Hell, I bet if someone asked me to crack a bad joke in Spanish, I would be able to muster up something.

April 15: I realized that I have not practiced in three whole days. I’ve just been so anxious about the start of classes and spring quarter that it’s been making me falter on my goals. It makes me feel frustrated because I was progressing so much, but I will resume my practice soon.

May 1: I am still practicing and learning, but it is a biweekly affair now when it used to be daily. I think I’ve been making more progress in terms of learning about different cultures, because I’ve been talking to my Hispanic/Latinx friends about their backgrounds. In terms of [learning] the language, I’ve been finding it very hard to stick to a set schedule.

May 15: Today, as we near the end of spring quarter, I have started to consider enrolling in a Spanish course in the fall. I think a rigid schedule could really help my learning process and cure my chronic laziness. Even though I’ll still have to figure out whether it works with my major requirements, I’m excited about the prospect!

As soon as I heard that classes would go remote, I booked my flight and prepared to return to my home in Los Angeles. I was actually pretty excited about the changes to my workload that the situation promised. I was so ready to commit myself to something bigger, like finishing "Game of Thrones" with my boyfriend! However, I soon realized that this was the perfect time to try out something entirely new, which is why I eventually challenged myself to train for a 10K.

March 22: Today, after about a day of lounging around, bugging my sister and organizing my closet, I realized I needed some sort of breather. So I went on a light run, and it felt so liberating that I came back home and told my family, ‘I am going to train for a 10K.’ My mom almost choked on her chicken, and my sister responded that she was going to find a cure for COVID-19 — I don’t think they took me seriously.

April 6: I have gone for a run every single day since committing myself to the 10K, and I'm slowly increasing my distance. I started at 2.7 miles a day and am currently up to about five miles, with a pace of about 8:45 per mile. I am hoping to keep experimenting with my speed and distance and just have fun with the process!

April 30: The process just keeps getting more exciting. In order to change things up, I have tried to explore different aspects of running by switching between hill runs and speed runs. Not only have I become a much better runner, with my endurance and speed improving every time, but my physical health is stellar! I feel so energized and ready to take on anything.

May 15: Recently, I encountered an obstacle to my goal when the 4th of July 10K in the Palisades was canceled. This means that I will no longer be training for a 10K, but it does not mean that I will stop running! I think I’ve found a new, very fulfilling hobby that has definitely helped me stay positive during this time.