Whenever I talk to someone about why they ended up at Northwestern, almost without fail, a few things come up.
Usually, I get the same rundown about NU’s academic capabilities, the programs and opportunities and the way the school was just perfect for what they wanted to do. But after that, people consistently mention Chicago.
They say they were drawn by NU’s proximity to the city, all the amazing events and restaurants and things to do downtown — and sometimes even the job possibilities. But, for all this Chicago love, so many students miss out on the city that’s right in front of them.
Over the past two years, I’ve had the chance to cover so many facets of the Evanston community, and I’ve loved every minute of it. Though the late-night City Council meetings might wear away at me, there’s something powerful about seeing the passion of Evanston residents, who show up for the issues they care about, week after week.
Evanston is the third city I’ve lived in throughout my life, but it’s completely different from the previous two — I haven’t seen this kind of passion elsewhere. It’s made me genuinely excited to live here because I know the community members truly want to make their city the best it can be. And though there’s sometimes some disagreement about what that might look like, it’s clear most people’s hearts are in the same place.
In the same way, covering Evanston during a pandemic has shaped the way I view communities. I’ve seen people come together to save local businesses more than once, and I’ve watched community organizers like the leaders of Evanston Fight for Black Lives make tangible differences in the lives of others through policy.
As a result, I want us to collectively change our mindset. We spend so much time thinking about the college experience or fixating on Chicago that we’re missing the opportunities that don’t require spending an hour on the “L” each way.
By pushing ourselves to venture outside downtown Evanston, we can have a noticeable impact on the community that’s become our home, if only for a few years at a time. Evanston’s local economy is diverse, home to an incredible array of small businesses, and the arts community is vibrant and thriving.
When we got sent home last year because of COVID-19, I found myself missing Evanston far more than I expected. Yes, it was, in part, because of my friends, but I also found myself thinking about the city itself — the places I loved to visit, the residents I’d come to know. And before you know it, that might ring true for you, too.
Most of us only have four years here, and for many, it’s proven to be even less than that. As you begin your time in Evanston, I encourage you to think about the ways you can build community with your new city, instead of just being a passive resident. Evanston wants to embrace you. Will you let it?
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