I left the South in search of snow. Okay, that’s not entirely true, but that’s what everyone at home seemed to think. What else could I possibly get out of a northern state? Hm. How about a change in that other climate, of politics? Or trading Southern hospitality for the Midwestern variety? Or a Northwestern education? I’m pretty sure that last one weighed in fairly heavily on my decision to travel to windy Chicagoland, even though most people hadn’t even heard of Northwestern at home (That changed when the ‘Cats visited my native city of Jacksonville to end their 63-year bowl victory drought).

I made the adventurous move, and I’ve never looked back. The sages of high school (also known as guidance counselors) always say that you find yourself in college, that it’s a time of personal exploration and discovery. Despite my earlier dismissals of this philosophical musing, it’s absolutely true. I don’t mean to claim I’ve had some epiphanous realization of the meaning of life, but I certainly know who I am better today than when I marched through the Arch in 2010. It’s something I know could have only happened here, surrounded by nerds as equally proud to call themselves the N word (nerd, that is) as me.

My NU experience began in a cramped dorm room of CRC. The ‘80s carpet and furniture that was more than a bit rickety didn’t matter; I was with quirky, media-focused people that were happy to spend their weekends on film sets or throwing spoons at projector screens (“I did not hit her!”). We crammed ourselves onto questionably stained couches to Smash each other, then were paid to insult people over the radio, for charity of course. By a month into freshman year, I knew where I’d be living the following year: in the pie double (I hoped it was the pumpkin variety, or maybe blueberry) with my same roommate, now concluding our fourth year together.

But the dorm was just the tip of the iceberg. Little did I know that the rest of the iceberg would come barreling straight from Siberia to Chicago in February. I’m proud to say that of the measly six days NU has canceled classes for weather, our senior class has been here for three of them. Nothing can harden your skin (or dry it out) like mountains of snow, ending with a grand finale of -40 degree temperatures three years later. Still, one of my favorite memories is waking up early during the first snow of freshman year to trek to Chicago through the untouched powder with a snow-virgin friend.

My all-too-brief years here were defined by much more than a little frightening weather. I knew I’d be majoring in Radio/TV/Film, but I could never have predicted how central the amazing film community would be for every aspect of my life here, from academics to my social sphere (I was never one for social cubes). Eating cold pasta on a Loop bridge that I had paid police to close off for us? Child’s play. Coming oh so close to never pulling an editing all-nighter but falling into the inevitable fate for my own film? Check. Being soaked in fake blood, then lying motionless on a wooden plank over the course of three hours while holding my breath for takes? Only a freshman would agree to this. Getting a paper crown to right a wrong created by a corrupt system that (rightfully) rewards seniors? Done and done.

You try taking advantage of all the opportunities here, but that’s an impossible task. You can only go to so many plays and concerts, meet so many people, and cram in so many group meetings (even the wine “meetings”), despite refusing to unsubscribe from their spamming listservs. But that’s okay. I know my time at Northwestern won’t be defined by what I didn’t do; I’ll remember it by what I accomplished, who I became lasting friends with, and how I’ve been shaped as a person. And you know what? That’s well worth leaving home for.

Robbie was a staff writer for North By Northwestern.

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