Douglas: How California validated my decision to come to NU

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Douglas: How California validated my decision to come to NU

Samuel Douglas, Columnist

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Northwestern was not my first-choice university.

Don’t get me wrong: When I got to campus, I liked it a lot. But when I was a senior in high school, my perfect future did not include living in a never-ending winter. After this Spring Break, though, I can say, truthfully, that I bleed purple and white.

Over Spring Break, my brother and my parents went to California to look at colleges. Never having been, I snatched a cheap ticket and flew to San Francisco to meet them. The sun was out, the air was fresh and it was not 15 degrees. It was heaven.

My initial plan consisted of lounging on a beach while my family trekked across campuses, following tour guides who each joked about how difficult it is to walk backward. In high school, tours made me worry, and why would I want to relive that when I had one stress-free week in between 20 stress-filled ones?

Their first school to visit was the UC-Berkeley. I needed to write an essay, so I decided to drive with them to the campus, find a coffee shop, hunker down and finish it (a far cry from the sandy paradise I originally dreamed about on my five-hour plane trip). But then I had an epiphany: I’ll go on the tours. I’ll pretend that I’m a prospective student like my brother. I wanted to compare my experience at NU with the presentations of our tour guides.

Quickly, I realized the impossibility of my quest. These student ambassadors have been groomed to show only the most beautiful parts of campus, to tell only the most prestigious facts and not to expose the underbelly of the student experience like disgruntled students, inflexible professors or sudden bouts of depression. According to my own travails at our wonderful, frozen school, these are much more common occurrences than generally presented by tour guides.

Following Sarah, our prospective student ambassador, across sunny glades and down among the shadowy trunks of old trees that have never experienced temperatures below 24 degrees, I understood why my brother wants to go to school in California.

Indeed, as we moved south and the weather got warmer, my views of going back to school got even colder. Why would anyone ever actively choose to leave California? I was at a loss. When discussing the effects schools and weather were having on me, the word “transfer” was brought up. Instinctively, I recoiled. Although we’re taught that if we don’t like a school, the logical (and healthy) thing to do is to transfer, I felt a certain taboo when it came to relinquishing my NU family.

“Think about it,” my parents encouraged me, “We’ll love you no matter what.”

Thanks, mom.

But when I returned to campus for Spring Quarter, I began to remember the reasons I chose NU as a high school senior: I could study theatre without sacrificing a broader liberal arts education, it’s the perfect distance from a distracting city and the student body consists of young adults who believe in and trust themselves to make visions of their lives a reality.

And who in California can say that they survived more than 67 inches of seasonal snowfall, while 90 percent of a nearby Great Lake was covered in ice, or that the average winter temperature was nearly 18 degrees? There must be something said about the inherent community-building effect that 26 days of sub-zero temperatures have on people.

Now that I’ve returned and temperatures have risen to the balmy 40s, I’m less concerned about whether or not I made a mistake in choosing arctic Evanston as the place to spend four years of my life — because I don’t think I made one. My reasons for coming to NU remain the same, and although the sun and sea may have made me slightly falter, if I had to make the decision again, NU would be my absolute top choice. Despite the six-month ice.

Samuel Douglas is a Communication sophomore. He can be reached at If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to