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Carl Morison, a Weinberg third-year, didn’t bring his teddy bear, Teddy, with him to Northwestern when he lived in a fraternity house. Despite the fact that Teddy gave him immense comfort when he was stressed out or missing home, Teddy found his place on a shelf or in the closet.

“I didn’t bring Teddy out much because I didn’t want to have to explain the story to many people, and because it might have been thought of as odd for a male- identifying person to have a stuffed animal on his bed,” Morison says. As Morison got older, having a stuffed animal came with a negative stigma — so he began to subconsciously look to other methods of coping. He started running or doing various activities outside to help with the general stress of college, as well as stress-eating snacks and watching lots of Netflix.

“For homesickness, instead of using my Teddy to feel like home, I would just call my parents or family instead, as this also gave a feeling of home. I feel like I learned to use these things as coping mechanisms to help me relax, when I probably could have gotten the same effect or better from sleeping with my teddy bear,” Morison says.

Having a stuffed animal can ameliorate the feeling of loneliness or even simply just be something to hug. According to a 2018 study from OnePoll and real estate company Life Storage, 43% of American adults engage with stuffed animals. Despite this commonality, a taboo still exists — especially as we grow older. But for Northwestern students, it can provide a sense of comfort that’s unlike anything else.
Photo submitted by Carl Morison.

When she was born, Weinberg third-year Caroline Forbess was given two blanket bears and slept with them every night. Even though her parents thought they were identical bears, she knew the difference between them because of their eyes, leading Forbess to name one “Clean Bear” and the other “Scratchy Bear.”

Then, when she was 10, her dad gave her a basset hound stuffed dog, which she named Amy: the same name of her dad’s basset hound when he was growing up. Forbess calls her stuffed animals her “lovies,” and they’ve come to be some of her most important possessions, essential to her feeling safe.

“When I was dropped off at sleepaway camp for my first time, I remember standing outside my cabin watching my mom drive away. I was crying so much, and I was so homesick, but I had Beary with me to hug and calm me,” Forbess says.

Her lovies helped her cope with the change and stress of being away from home, something that has continued throughout her time at Northwestern. She says they remind her of home and family, and they’ve provided tremendous support.

Forbess has a lot of test anxiety, so the night before exams, she usually has trouble sleeping. Reaching for her lovies provides her with the comfort and peace of mind she needs to calm her nerves. Her lovies have helped her navigate the stress of Northwestern, and without their comfort, she’s not sure if she would be able to handle the quarter system as well as she does.

“I have a special way I rub them against my face, and it’s so soothing. Even though lovies are seen as a childhood thing, I believe if having your lovies is what helps you sleep at night, then you should have them with you no matter your age,” Forbess says.

Sven, a plush shark, came into Medill and Bienen third-year Nadine Manske’s life when she was shopping at Ikea the summer before college. Manske knew she wanted something comforting to take with her, and when she saw the bucket full of plush sharks, she knew she was going to take one home.

“I remember that it wasn’t my intention to pick him up. I think I was there to look at other furniture for my dorm, or running errands with my family, and I saw the bin of sharks and I knew I had to take one home with me. It wasn’t even a question; I just knew I had to have him,” Manske says.

Because she got him right before going away to school, Sven has symbolically been helping her throughout the transition to being away from home and everything since then. Sven has been an easy, low-maintenance source of comfort for Manske — especially with her mental health.

“There are some times when your brain is too full of everything and you just want to sit there with your Ikea shark,” Manske says. When she’s stressed, she hugs Sven. To her, having a way to ground yourself with a physical source of constant support and comfort is really important.

Stuffed animals have always been a part of Medill third-year Sophia Lo’s life; since she was a little girl, she’s had a collection of them that continues to grow. Lo found Alfie, a life-size plush bear, on Northwestern’s “Free & For Sale” Facebook group. She then knew she had to bring her giant plush hamster, Sesame, who she won at Six Flags, back with her to Northwestern so Alfie the bear could have a friend.

Lo drove from New Jersey to Evanston with two friends and an extra seat in the car for Sesame, but the car was packed so tightly that Sesame stayed in Lo’s lap the entire time. Lo created a Twitter feed to document the trip, where Sesame ate egg and cheese bagels and took naps with Lo in the car.

“It was a lot of fun coming up with tweets and taking pictures along the way. My favorite picture is the one where Sesame is pumping his gas for the first time because he is from New Jersey,” Lo says.

Growing up, stuffed animals have always been comforting for Lo, and at school she has a bunch, including three Squishmallows. They help her with stress, as they can be something fun to touch or play with. Many of her stuffed animals were actually given to her rather than purchased herself. Even though Lo agrees they can be for little kids, they’re always going to be a part of her life.

Muchi the stuffed cow came into Weinberg third-year Nathalie Fuhrman’s life when she was 5 years old. Since then, Muchi has slept with her every night. “He went through all of high school and college so far with me,” Fuhrman says. “He’s now molded so he fits perfectly in the shape that I put my arms in when I sleep.”

If sad or upset, Fuhrman would hug Muchi, who has been in her life for so long that his comfort is natural to her. When on a family vacation in Portugal, she forgot Muchi on the hotel bed in the rush to the airport. Frantic, Fuhrman begged her parents to get him back; the hotel ended up shipping Muchi back to the United States for her, but she had to pay the international shipping fee.

“I paid probably more than he’s worth to get him shipped back home. I don’t know how to explain it, Muchi just feels like a part of me; I couldn’t lose him,” Fuhrman says.

When leaving for college, Fuhrman was sure to pack Muchi along with her. She reaches for him whenever she is homesick at Northwestern and especially when the challenges of school become more demanding. Muchi has been something constant for her throughout her whole life, and without him, Fuhrman’s not sure what she’d do.

“Leaving home to a place where you don’t know anyone is scary. That was a way for me to have a comfort of home with me,” Fuhrman says.