NU Declassified: You ask, students answer

Sheena Tan, Assistant Audio Editor

Is the quarter system really that stressful? How bad does the winter weather actually get? We asked incoming students what they wanted to know the most about Northwestern University. Then, we took to campus for answers.

SHEENA TAN: Hi! Are you a student at NU? 

LAURA SOLANO-FLÓREZ: Yeah.

SHEENA TAN: Would you have time for a super short interview with The Daily Northwestern for a podcast?

[MUSIC FADES IN]

LAURA SOLANO-FLÓREZ: Sure!

SHEENA TAN: A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through Instagram stories, when I was suddenly confronted by a stream of reposts of a certain graphic. “Welcome Class of 2025!” it said, against a background of blurry tulips.

Now, I don’t think the announcement would have been as shocking as it was, had this been a normal year. But I am the Class of 2024, and because of the pandemic, at this time last year, I hadn’t even gotten to campus yet. 

SHEENA TAN: It got me thinking — about how long it took for me to even feel like a college student, how important campus life ended up being to the student experience, and later, how much I wished I’d known before I came to Northwestern. From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Sheena Tan. This is NU Declassified, a podcast about how Wildcats thrive and survive on Northwestern’s campus.

[MUSIC ENDS]

SHEENA TAN: I decided to ask incoming students what they wanted to know the most about Northwestern University. And then I took to campus to search for answers. 

[MUSIC BEGINS]

SHEENA TAN: Among the incoming students I spoke with, in a very Northwestern manner, one of the top concerns was about academics. Incoming Weinberg freshman Sara Azimipour wanted to know what was up with the quarter system. 

SARA AZIMIPOUR: My most pressing question would probably be how stressful the quarter system is, because I’ve heard very mixed reviews, so I’m like, I don’t know what the general consensus is.

SHEENA TAN: According to Northwestern students, it’s two sides of the same coin.

HAN LEE: It moves a lot faster than your typical semester school, but I feel like the average Northwestern student is, you know, we all have the work-hard, play-hard mentality. Nobody’s overly competitive with all the other students. There’s lots of opportunities to get help from your professors, from your peers. 

MAYA KIM: The easiest thing to do is just keep yourself paced and on track. Northwestern is really flexible. So even if you don’t know what you want to do, or you make little mistakes, because of the quarter system, it allows for that. So don’t be too stressed. There’s definitely different dynamics of how busy you are, dependent on major, but you can definitely make it work.

[MUSIC FADES INTO NARRATION AND STOPS]

SHEENA TAN: But students don’t only study… right? Incoming SESP freshman Imani Billups was curious about Northwestern’s social scene.

[PARTY SOUNDS]

IMANI BILLUPS: What are the parties like? Like, how frequently do they happen? My twin sister, she’s going to the University of Miami, so, I mean, she’s gonna be partying it up. So I just wanted to know — will I be able to get in on some of the fun at Northwestern? 

SHEENA TAN: The responses here were a bit more varied. 

[MUSIC BEGINS]

LAURA SOLANO-FLÓREZ: There’s definitely an active social scene most weekends. Maybe some weekends when there’s a midterm coming up, everyone’s kind of dead. But other than that, I think it’s pretty active. I didn’t really know much about Northwestern before I got here, so I was really surprised. 

MAYA KIM: There definitely have been parties on campus. I have not participated in any because that’s not my scene, especially with the pandemic, but I do know it exists. I haven’t seen one yet, because it’s all North campus and I live down South. 

MADISON LUCE: You know, I think it’s what you make of it. If you want to go out and party, there’s opportunities for you. If you want to stay at home or stay in the library, you can also do that, too. It is what you make of it, and just be yourself.

SHEENA TAN: So I guess it depends on who you are and who you know! But as incoming Medill freshman Fatimata Jalloh, asked, how do you get to know people in the first place?

FATIMATA JALLOH: Another question I had was, where do you make most of your friends in college? Is it more, like, in the classrooms? In the dorms? In clubs that you join?

SHEENA TAN: Students said housing plays a big role, especially this year. But it depends on the student.

HAN LEE: I met my closest friends through my dorm, as well as the clubs that I’m a part of. SESP is also a tight-knit community, so I met a lot of people from my academic classes as well.

MADISON LUCE: One lived in my freshman year dorm, Bobb! And we bonded over our hatred of Bobb. And the rest I met in classes. 

MAYA KIM: My closest friend would probably be my roommate, and that’s why I’m really grateful. She’s one of my best friends here. And then my other ones actually all live on my floor. And so it’s really convenient and easy to meet them. 

[MUSIC ENDS]

SHEENA TAN: So studying is great; having fun is better… but what about doing both? Incoming freshman Sarah Wachs wanted to know about the balance between academic and social life.

SARAH WACHS: One of the biggest questions I’ve had is, how easy it is to really take all of the academics that you want to and really explore while also having free time to just relax? 

[MUSIC BEGINS]

SHEENA TAN: According to Northwestern students, there’s really no need to worry! We’re all in the same boat. 

MADISON LUCE: I’m a pre-med student, so everything is super hectic, all the time. But I think just taking time out of your week to do things that make you happy, whether it’s making a nice cup of coffee for yourself, or going for a walk or playing with your cat — take that time. Please! You have to! 

SHEENA TAN: But winter quarter brings more than academic challenges. Incoming Weinberg freshman Shveta Shah wanted to know about the cold.

[MUSIC ENDS]

SHVETA SHAH: Where I live, it snows probably like once every other year. The town shuts down if there’s even a half inch of snow. So I just wanted to know, do people go sledding over there? Do they build snowmans?

[WIND, SNOW CRUNCH]

LAURA SOLANO-FLÓREZ: It’s very bad, I will admit. I even lived in Connecticut, so I thought I would be prepared, but the wind just makes it so much worse. Get a really good jacket and do wear gloves and hats. I feel like sometimes people are like, “Oh, it’s too warm for gloves and hats.” No. Just wear it.

HAN LEE: Definitely buy a very thick parka? Probably going to wear it every single day of the winter. Definitely bring mittens or gloves. That’s key. And a beanie as well. Nobody ever tells you that! Everyone just says jacket, but yeah.

ZAI DAWODU: I do have to admit, when it was like a blizzard every week, that was pretty crazy. This is not to at anyone, but everyone thinks you need a Canada Goose jacket or whatever. But I literally swear by this jacket I got from Amazon. It was like, I don’t know, $80 to $100. And I saw some other girl wearing it, and she said she loves the jacket too, so I’ve now decided that it’s one of the best jackets, especially for the price.

[BUZZER INTRO BELL SOUND]

SHEENA TAN: We also had so many questions from our ‘25’s about favorites, so now… a rapid-fire favorites round! First up, favorite place to eat!

[MUSIC BEGINS]

MADISON LUCE: On campus? Fran’s.

HAN LEE: Pre-pandemic, I was a pretty big fan of Elder. Hot take. 

ZAI DAWODU: Allison, the vibes are always immaculate there, and I don’t mind the food there either.

SHEENA TAN: What about places to eat off-campus? 

LAURA SOLANO-FLÓREZ: I really like Le Peep, that’s where we go.

HAN LEE: 10Q.

MADISON LUCE: Oh, Pono Ono.

ZAI DAWODU: There’s a burger place… Oh my God… Next to Target… 

SHEENA TAN: I literally know you’re talking about. Um…

ZAI DAWODU: It might be called Epic Burger? But don’t quote me on it, yeah! I think that’s what it’s called.

MAYA KIM: I know Joy Yee is a really popular place to go to, because it has boba and Asian food. And that’s the demographic that my friends kind of are in.

SHEENA TAN: Best place to get drinks?

LAURA SOLANO-FLÓREZ: People say Colectivo. I really, I like going there for the sandwiches too, but Colectivo has good coffee.

HAN LEE: For bubble tea, Tealicious. Coffee, Colectivo.

MADISON LUCE: Coffee! Oh, gosh. I could talk for hours about this. Philz!  If you have time. It’s super south. Go to Philz. I love Philz. For boba, I usually go to Kung Fu, Kung Fu Tea. 

MAYA KIM: I come from California, so my standard of bubble tea is really high. But I would say Joy Yee has pretty good boba.

SHEENA TAN: Favorite study space?

LAURA SOLANO-FLÓREZ: Annenberg? It’s like the SESP building, I think? You can take out the TV, and it’s really cool. You can like, project your class. 

HAN LEE: Norris, or just the third floor of Annenberg.

MADISON LUCE: Okay, so I like to be outside. But I would say also, I really like the library. Super quiet. I get distracted so easily, I talk to anyone and everyone, so being up there is really helpful for me to study.

MAYA KIM: Definitely Shepard. There’s individual lounges, and then there’s also big rooms for you to study with people.

ZAI DAWODU: In Ford there’s some lounges they have next to the windows. It’s a great view, but it’s really quiet there. And it’s really a cool place to work.

SHEENA TAN: Favorite class you’ve ever taken? Professor?

LAURA SOLANO-FLÓREZ: I was in the Kaplan program. It’s like an English honors program. And I took a class with Juan Martinez. I really enjoyed that class in the fall, yeah. 

HAN LEE: Probably the Intro to LOC, because that pretty much solidified my decision to major in it, so.

MADISON LUCE: I took a “Seven Deadly Sins” class. It was an English class. Teacher was so awesome; I recommend it. I think it was a freshman year seminar. It was so good. So good. 

ZAI DAWODU: My English 214 class. I think it’s like Film Analyzing and Literature? And It’s really good. I’ve been learning the actual words to describe movies that I watch, because before I’d just like, be like, oh, they’re doing that thing. But now I know the actual word for it.

SHEENA TAN: Now, I love asking other students this one, because nobody has insight on the ins-and-outs of classes, campus, and everything in between like your peers! That being said, what is your best NU hack?

LAURA SOLANO-FLÓREZ: They’re always gonna give you optional problems or optional readings. And, like, you should do them! 

MAYA KIM: I know you shouldn’t do this, but I have a whole lanyard with my keys on it and my Wildcard, so I don’t like taking that with me, if I need to throw the trash away or go to the restroom, so I pop my lock, and then it leaves the door open. I’m pretty sure it ruins the door, but it hasn’t ruined it yet!

ZAI DAWODU: I don’t think people realize how many things they can get for free through NU. Like the student discounts, like the Spotify $5 [student plan]. Or, like even in downtown Evanston — if you say you’re a student, you can get ten to 20 percent off, and I don’t think a lot of people use that. 

[MUSIC BEGINS TO FADE]

MADISON LUCE: I would say reach out to your professors. Even if you don’t know them that well and they seem intimidating. They’re usually very helpful. Very nice, it might give you an extra boost in your grade… I didn’t say that, really. 

[MUSIC ENDS]

SHEENA TAN: You guys have been on campus for a while, and thought it may not be a regret, I would imagine there are things you wish you could have done differently during your first year here. What is one mistake you made as a freshman?

HAN LEE: Not branching myself enough into other spaces. I didn’t sign up for as many clubs that I wanted to. So definitely utilize all the club orientations, yeah. 

[MUSIC BEGINS]

MADISON LUCE: I think freshman year, I spent an awkward amount of time socializing and not enough studying and had to play catch up later on. So I guess try to find that balance as soon as you can. But if you make a mistake, if you fail, it is what it is. You’ll move on and you will improve even better than that in the future.

SHEENA TAN: That was quite the rapid round, bringing us back to our NU ‘25’s. We all run into problems at some point, and incoming Medill freshman Anita Li wanted to know, what happens then?

ANITA LI: One of the first questions for me that comes to mind is, if I were to have any problems, who would I go to? If I’m going with academic stuff, if I have personal issues — when you’re struggling, what do you do? Or who do you reach out to? 

LAURA SOLANO-FLÓREZ: Other than talking to my friends, I really like going on a walk in town by myself. I feel like at Northwestern, you’re always with people and doing things. So it’s really nice to be on your own. 

MADISON LUCE: I would say I rely a lot on my friends. But also I love being outside. So if I really need time, I’ll just go outside, hang out with the trees by the Lakefill, do my own thing. But I would say CAPS, if you’re able to. There’s a lot of things that CAPS can improve on for sure, but, you know, I would say reach out to CAPS.

ZAI DAWODU: There are a lot of programs I don’t think freshmen know about, like, I just joined this peer tutoring program, and also this McCormick program called PATH. The peer tutoring program is like, you get paired with someone, usually in your major, who’s an upperclassman, and they can give you the tips and tricks of Northwestern. The PATH program, it’s like a group of students and you basically create schedules together and go over how to, like, best succeed academically. 

MAYA KIM: Definitely my parents, I call my mom every day. Ever since winter quarter, and I’ve been away from home, having that communication with someone who has a different perspective and that I’m more comfortable with is really helpful.

[MUSIC]

SHEENA TAN: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Sheena Tan. Thanks for listening to another episode of NU Declassified. This episode was reported and produced by me. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Madison Smith, the digital managing editor is Haley Fuller, and the editor in chief is Sneha Dey.

Email: [email protected] 
Twitter: @SheenaTan14

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