In this season of celebration, we’re honoring our soon-to-be undergraduate and graduate alumni, and commemorating their time at the University. We reached out to the #NU2021 community via social media to ask for reflections on their time at Northwestern. Here are a few of their responses about the power of place and making adjustments during a challenging time, as well as undertaking important work on campus and around the world.
Photo Credit: Shane Collins
“Like many Northwestern students, I left campus and went home in mid-March of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, I thought I would be leaving for a couple of weeks, maybe a month at most. However, it quickly became clear that the situation was much more dire than I had anticipated, and I did not return to Evanston until September. Honestly, I didn’t think I would miss the physical space of Northwestern that much. I don’t form attachments to places very easily, and to me, the real heart of Northwestern had always been the people — my classmates, professors, advisers, mentors and friends, all of whom were only a Zoom call away.
For most of the spring and summer, I maintained that I didn’t miss Evanston. However, a few weeks after returning to campus and completing the mandatory quarantine period, I made plans with a friend to sit on a picnic blanket on Deering Lawn and catch up. It was a beautiful September evening, one of the last really warm days of late summer. The setting sun was reflecting off of the stained-glass windows beautifully, giving them a pinkish-purple tinge. The sky was blue and clear of clouds. All of a sudden, I realized that I WAS attached to Northwestern — not just the people but the place itself. I became acutely aware of the joy of the space of Northwestern. It feels good to walk down Sheridan, or to climb the staircases in the stacks of the Main Library, or even just to sit on the lawn outside Deering. After months of rarely leaving my house, it felt especially good to be at Northwestern again. I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the luxury of being in different places until the pandemic began, and this moment of profound appreciation for Northwestern’s campus taught me to appreciate every space that I occupy.”
— Caroline Hsu, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
Photo Credit: Shane Collins
“Some of my greatest memories involve my work with the office of New Student and Family Programs (now New Student Experience). During my time at Northwestern, I had the pleasure of being a peer adviser for two years. As a senior, I was able to serve on the Peer Adviser Board of Directors as the director for the McCormick School of Engineering. I took part in leadership training courses and reflected on how aspects such as identity shape the way we interact with and lead others. After two years of taking part in these courses, I started facilitating them, which was very exciting. When we were told about having to shift to a virtual format for all of Wildcat Welcome, working with the rest of the board and school partners was extremely rewarding (although hectic at times). While it was frustrating at first to redo months of work, our team really banded together and was able to give the class of 2024 and transfer [students] a welcome that many stated they appreciated so much. Hearing from students that the initial connections we helped create gave them the sense of belonging they needed to make Northwestern a community is something that I will always be proud to have been a part of. And I made some pretty great friends in the process as well!”
— Jacob Kurian, McCormick School of Engineering
Photo Credit: Shane Collins
“I came into Northwestern as a voice major but soon found myself wanting to pursue a dual degree in music education and social policy. One way that I found to combine those two passions was through the Arts and Music Programs for Education in Detention Centers (AMPED). Through this program I have been able to work with juvenile prisoners at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) in Chicago to create hip-hop music and beats and write lyrics while learning about juvenile criminal justice. One specific moment that changed how I view my place in the world was when I was speaking with a resident of JTDC about what new lyrics he wanted to write for that week. He opened up to me about his home life, what lead him to being incarcerated and the circumstances he is still dealing with at home that inspire him to keep working to be a better person. At that moment I knew just how privileged I was to go to a school such as Northwestern with the multitude of resources offered to me. After I had time to reflect on that experience, I realized how much more I needed to educate myself, keep working on my own personal biases and continue my journey to help break down some of these systems that are in place and designed to make children fail. My experience working in AMPED for the past three years has inspired me to want to be a general music teacher in the Chicago Public Schools system and give children a wonderful, supportive and joyful music education.”
— Lauren Reynolds, School of Education and Social Policy
I went to Northwestern University for undergrad and graduated with my degree in industrial engineering in 2017. I have two twin brothers, Aziz Emir and Aziz Emre, who are three years younger than me. The year I graduated from college, both of my brothers Emir and Emre were accepted through early admission to attend Northwestern University for their undergraduate degrees as well! Emir is studying economics and business institutions and Emre is studying manufacturing and design engineering. So, we came a thrice purple pride family!
After graduation I started working in downtown Chicago at an international technology consulting firm and worked there for three years. In late 2019 I was accepted to the one-year MBA program at Kellogg! I started my MBA education in July 2020 and will be finishing by the end of the summer. This June my brothers will be walking in the Weinberg and McCormick graduation ceremonies, and I will be walking in the Kellogg graduation! This way, we will have become a quadruple purple pride family with four separate Northwestern graduations under our belt! Not only that, but we will have the unique honor of attending three separate graduations for three of us as siblings in the same year. What an honor this is for our family.
—Nil Sen ’17 Istanbul, via Northwestern Magazine