Influential Friend

NBN Writing Staff

The Spring 2016 North by Northwestern Writing Section presents "Radio Drama: Influential Friend." Friends are an important part of everyone's lives. Through this project, we attempt to show how friendship has shaped many people's lives at Northwestern University. The following drama contains a story made by conglomerated quotes from individual stories displayed below, presenting an overarching narrative with its own unique style. The script is available here.

Click to listen

Explore their friendships further:


Elizabeth Phillips

Everyone’s dream as an incoming freshman is to have a roommate who becomes his or her best friend. That didn’t happen for me, but I ended up with two best friends who were roommates. We have an official friendship anniversary, October 2nd, and we celebrated our six month a few weeks ago.

Yeah, we’re that cute.

Almost from the start, we were inseparable, a friendship I never thought possible until meeting Karolina and Cecilia. The amount of memories we’ve made together is astounding. Eating mac and cheese with sparkling cider, playing a version of Bananagrams where we could only use sex words, walking by the beach.

We’ve done everything.

None of us are perfect, but we try to help each other, embrace, and overcome our flaws and obstacles. We make each other better when we’re together.

Some of those moments are embarrassing, as Cecilia once reminded me, “one of the funniest memories I have of you is you leaving our room in the morning dressed in tights, flip flops, and a flannel.”

While a lot of our shared memories are positive, we’ve been through tough times together, but we have always done anything to help each other. I’ve made many a trips to Bobb during late hours to comfort one of them. After I was hospitalized with the flu, Cecilia and I facetimed and watched “The Flu” episode of Parks and Recreation during my quarantine. While Cecilia is an early bird, Karolina is always there into the early hours of the morning to talk about life and our problems.

Yeah, we all have our quirks. Karolina is too busy for her own good. Cecilia is always late for FFFF-Fish Fry Friday with Friends, our weekly dining hall tradition. I refuse to take saferides, and hence they often have to walk me all the way from the frat quads to Chapin because, as much as I love their carpet, I love my bed and I snore sometimes. None of us are perfect, but we try to help each other, embrace, and overcome our flaws and obstacles. We make each other better when we’re together.

As Karolina once said, our whole friendship started when we made fun of professor Rawlings’ “ology of the soc”. In recognition of the class that brought us all together, we’ve unofficially decided upon a phrase that captures the future of our friendship.

“The iron law of the triad states that, even if the tie between two members weakens, it is so well reinforced by the remaining two ties that the triad is unlikely to fade”. Our second choice was, “We’ll always be friends because you know too much”, but the first one is cuter.


Evelyn MacPherson

Katie and I have known each other for about four and a half years, but for the past two and a half, we haven’t lived in the same city. We haven’t even lived on the same continent.

“We weren’t even friends at the beginning of freshman year,” Katie says as I call her. She now lives in Berkeley, where she goes to college.

“It was like half way," “It was about a fourth of the way,” I interject, she keeps going picking up from my interruption.

“So we had about 2 years where we actually spent time together, and now it’s going on three years apart, which is crazy, because I’m normally very bad about keeping in touch with people. You’re an exception.”

The thing about Katie though, is that even the mundane feels like an adventure.

Katie is what she refers to as a Dip Kid, short for diplomat’s kid. Her dad is in the State Department, and for the past 18 years, she’s moved to a new place, often a new country every couple of years. Washington D.C., where I have lived my entire life, is technically her home base, but I know from experience that she holds as much connection and often times more with the other places she’s lived. The summer before our junior year of high school Katie moved to Brasilia, Brazil, approximately 4,013 miles away from D.C. Following her move, we began what one calls a long-distance relationship: we’d Skype regularly, Facebook message religiously, and that winter break, I visited her in Brazil. Every summer, she stays with me in D.C. for a few days and, as I always expect with Katie, adventures ensue.

“Whenever I’m with you, it’s like I have a partner in crime, or a sister. It’s as though when we’re together stuff happens, the normal rules of what should happen aren’t there,” Katie says, and believe it or not, she’s not wrong. Over the past two and a half years, I have spent a grand total of about 3 weeks with her, but we’ve managed to climb mountains, go laser tagging at 1a.m. on the University of California, Berkeley campus, explore the murals painted in alleyways, and see wild horses swim.

Normally I end up with injuries when I’m around Katie: a badly scraped leg from falling down the mountain once it started to rain, a dislocated knee cap from when she kicked it out while we were swimming in a stream. The thing about Katie though, is that even the mundane feels like an adventure: a trip to the grocery store turns into the buying of a cactus we would later name Roscoe. A walk home encompasses a tree climbing break.

One of the most distinct memories I have with Katie occurred recently. While visiting her over spring break this year, we rode the San Francisco trolley car up the Market Street, and traditionally people ooh and ahh and hang out the side of the car. But that’s not Katie. Katie almost immediately starts a conversation with the trolley driver. She’s asking him how long he has done this, and what his favorite memories are – however, the driver is not interested in conversation. Eventually, he reluctantly starts to respond and asks us about our majors. Before I know it, this extremely grumpy trolley car driver tells us that communism is bullshit, socialism is for the naïve, and that he’s been doing this job forever and a day, and that what seems strange or exciting is all relative.

I thought as we stood haphazardly on the side of this trolley car moving through the hills of San Francisco that I got very lucky to have somehow gained this girl’s friendship. This summer we’re going to Budapest together. We’re both looking forward to another continent full of adventures with one another.


Jenna Lee

Someone knocks on my door. I open it. It’s Lily again. It’s about fifth time she has knocked on my door today. I put aside my chemistry worksheets and shuffle across the room to get the door.

“He—y… Annyeong (hello in Korean)… I was just… I just wanted to… Hi!!!” She says in a nervous voice.

Are you kidding me, I have so much work right now. And why are you so awkward?

“Oh hey, what’s up?” I say, forcing bubbliness a bit.

“Mmm… I just wanted to say hi. Nice room!”

We look around my room and see a range of disorder: a K-Pop star poster half-hanging on the wall, unfortunate socks that lost their other halves, and clothes that didn’t quite make it to the closet.

“What? Oh, thanks.”

She makes a somewhat questioning face, as if to wonder whether or not stepping into the room would be an acceptable course of action. Although my stack of unfinished chemistry worksheets lingers in my mind, I welcome her inside. She makes herself comfortable on the carpeted floor and smiles a little restlessly.

My encounter with Lily repeats this pattern for a while. She is freshman, and I am a sophomore at Miss Porter’s School, a small all-girls boarding school in Connecticut.

She lives on the third floor, and I live on the second, so I’m stuck with her at least for this year.

She is genuine. She is raw. She lets her “freak flag fly.”

During my nightly phone call with my mom, I say, “Mom, there is a new Korean girl this year. She is a little uncomfortable in front of me, though. I don’t know if we'll get along." Mom doesn’t say much, but listens patiently as I describe Lily and our awkward encounters.

Little did I know, no matter how long it takes, it is hard for one to not be comfortable with her after learning about all her quirks.

1. She doesn’t let me take a sip of her water or try her food for fear that my germs will transfer to her.

2. Sometimes, she appears to be frugal about time, never stepping off campus – not even to go to Starbucks just half a mile away. And yet, she spends a copious amount of time socializing in the dining hall.

3. She is dramatic -- oh boy, she is loud, and her hugs are suffocating.

She is genuine. She is raw. She lets her “freak flag fly.”

She is not afraid to show her tears when she tells me a story about her family, sitting as she always does on that carpeted corner of my room – a safe haven for many of our stories. She lets me know of all her struggles in her English class. She talks about how much a speaker moved her.

She sometimes offends me, too. During a lice breakout, when the school suspected that I had lice in my hair, she teased me for the hair wrap I was forced to wear, which I was so ashamed of. She called me out for my dishonesty, when I refused to tell my friend a hard truth. She told me that all my friends and I care about is school work, and that we lacked engagement within the community.

Looking back now, three years after high school, I realize that I don’t mind her criticism. Her genuineness is refreshing to me. She has what I don’t – the courage to express her temper and thoughts at every given moment of the day. In retrospect, I think that I actually did love her and our relationship for its honesty and, perhaps, its rawness. We both know this friendship is special because we have not found the exact same level of comfort in others. She is an influential friend, who constantly reminds me to be a genuine, caring and passionate person.


Paige Shin

“I hate you! We haven’t talked in WEEKS!”

We were on the phone, mid-laughter, with Jenny yelling at me from the other end. As I apologized for how bad of a friend I was—not replying to texts, not calling enough – I paced around my dorm room barefoot. We did this often, catching up after weeks of silence, talking about our college lives, and telling each other: “You should meet my friends. They’re amazing. You’ll love them.”

I would talk about visiting USC, and she would tell me about how much I would have loved it if I chose to go there (but, of course, she was happier that I was loving my own school just as much). It was something Jenny and I dreaded the summer before we started college. We couldn’t fathom not being able to see each other frequently anymore, not making the same friends, our lives going down potentially diverging paths. But we always believed we were stronger than that. We still believe it.

Jenny and I were designated as ‘twin buddies’ when I entered high school. It was the first time I had ever lived and attended school in America, and I almost immediately felt like a fish out of water. In the blink of an eye, everything I knew was thousands of miles away from me, and I was thrust into an environment in which I felt completely lost. My parents believed I would adapt. But I couldn’t do it. I hated my life for the longest time, wanting to return to Seoul. It took years for me to finally adjust.

I didn’t understand it. Why couldn’t I fit in? I felt naked, as if I were put on display in a glass case for all to see. I felt people’s gazes and physically withered, realizing that I had no one to relate to. I had never known what it was like to be an outsider until I came to America. Suddenly, I was the minority.

She was the shoulder I always leaned on, the friend I always turned to when I needed someone. I could call her at 2 in the morning and she would always pick up, ready to talk through my troubles.

While trying to understand my place as a Korean American, Jenny introduced me to Camp Conifer in 2013. It was a Korean American summer camp that my own mother used to be a counselor for when she was my age. In the summer of 2014, I became a junior counselor, and finally, finally I was able to find a community in which I could feel comfortable. I was surrounded by rambunctious grade schoolers, given silly nicknames, and even became closer to my younger brother, who was a camper at the time. Conifer gave me purpose again, a home and family to go back to. When I finally became a counselor, I was over the moon. I loved the kids, and finally I could call them “my kids, my cabin, my group.” They called me their counselor; I would wake them up in the morning and walk them back to their cabins. I could play a part in their journey towards understanding their own identities.

Then there were roadblocks, even if they didn’t seem significant at first. Once in a while, one of our camp directors picked on me, singled me out, and scolded me. I told myself, “It’s okay.” As long as everyone else was having a good time, I could live with it. But I eventually fell back into a limbo. My ‘home’ suddenly became the last place I wanted to be, and I felt miserable. Jenny was the first person to reach out a hand.

“You deserve respect. Your happiness should never have to be forsaken,” she told me.

Jenny always believed it was her duty as a good friend to say what needed to be said, and she was often frustrated whenever she felt like I was misunderstood. She never questioned anything. She recognized me for everything I was: my silly side, my serious side, my nice side, my cynical side. She never wrote me off as one-dimensional.

“I always wanted everyone to see you the way I see you.”

She was the shoulder I always leaned on, the friend I always turned to when I needed someone. I could call her at 2 in the morning and she would always pick up, ready to talk through my troubles. “You deserve the best. Nothing but the best.”

When I found myself in an unhealthy relationship, Jenny was the first to sit me down and tell me that I deserved better. Fresh from all-girls’ school and not really knowing what I was getting myself into, I spent sleepless nights regretting what I started that summer. I would be guilt-tripped and lied to. I sunk deeper and deeper into a feeling of dread and hopelessness. Jenny was the first person to reach out her hand and pull me out. “You are in an emotionally abusive relationship,” she told me over the phone. “And you are going to get out of it.”

There are many loyal friends in the world, but in mine there is only one Jenny. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and she knows it. We’ve matured together, stumbling along the way, but I’m lucky to have had her hand to hold. We’re still trotting along, trying to figure out this thing called life. We text once in a while, talk on the phone once a month, and video chat occasionally. But it’s always the same. Every conversation, every joke starts with the same words. We’re the constants in our own lives, holding each other up because we know each other well; we know each other’s worth.

“Hey Paige, what’s up? I haven’t talked to you in FOREVER."


Rachel Oh

I would like to share my intimate relationship with one of my two really close friends in high school. This girl, Lilly Kwon, is my companion, my confidante and above all, my inspiration.

If I had to describe our relationship in one phrase, we were “Princeton buddies.” We went to a boarding school near Princeton, New Jersey, and visiting the Princeton town was a short yet special and exciting occasion for us. The town was full of small, fascinating local stores, such as the Bent Spoon ice cream store with choices varying from dark chocolate rose ice cream to blood orange mascarpone sorbet, or the Village Silver of Princeton, an exotic jewelry shop. Even without eating or shopping, simply going off-campus and walking around the streets on a nice, sunny day were some of my favorite memories of high school. Lilly and I were always ready to explore the corners and alleys of the small town and spend money on unnecessary but pretty little things.

While attending a boarding school, where the world is caged and the community within is tiny, her room was my refuge, and she was my outlet.

While in the dorm, she was one of my go-to friends when I really needed to vent. Whether I had to complain about a difficult math homework, gossip about a mysterious and speculative rumor, or ask her to go get a milkshake with me, I knocked at her door. While I was an excited, jittery or upset speaker, she was always a quiet, patient listener. She reserved her judgments and let me talk. While attending a boarding school, where the world is caged and the community within is tiny, her room was my refuge, and she was my outlet.

Yet she was not just quiet or soft; she had ambitions and pursued them – the two qualities I admire her for. Whenever she drew, painted, designed, or even cooked, her hands magically created artistic masterpieces. In any art-related area, her gift and passion seem to merge perfectly. I have seen her getting involved in the school art gallery displays, the annual trashion show (fashion show with clothes made of eco-friendly materials), a fashion magazine, and so on. The most adventurous of all, however, is that she took a year break before entering college to study at The Le Cordon Bleu school of culinary art in London. Unlike me, who thinks too much in realizing my plans; she had her passion, and she executed her goals. Her sense of adventure inspired me to venture outside of my comfort zone and explore my interests during my first year at college - including playing soccer, taking a journalism class and writing this piece for North by Northwestern.

Lilly may have not changed my life upside-down completely. But, she encouraged and inspired me to become more curious and active while always being a sweet friend. Although we have graduated and are going our own merry (or thorny) ways, hopefully we will stay an inspirational force for each other.


Sunghwan Park

Ariel simply loved to put on makeup. I asked her a dozen times who exactly she was trying to impress, and her replies were always creative variations of the word nobody. I never believed her; I just thought of her words as defense mechanisms. Of course, she had no idea of my disbelief. Or maybe she did.

My initial urge to approach her was her Korean nationality. She and I were in a youth orchestra together. About four years had passed since I moved to America and surrounded myself with the locals, and I was eager to meet someone with whom I could share my culture. As I spent more time in the ensemble, however, I realized that there was something else that drew me to her. It wasn’t exactly how beautiful or attractive she was. It was how she dressed herself, how she did her makeup and how she did everything else. Before I knew it, I repeatedly found myself looking in her direction; most of her body hidden behind the giant soundbox of the double bass, except her focused, almost grim face staring at her sheet music. And just like that, I was persuaded to strike up a conversation with her.

She was one of those who seem to live in a simple, nonchalant way. She wasn’t. She was never disinclined to talk, but she rarely said anything about herself besides the superficial stories of “where” or “when.” I had to give out about three pieces of myself to get one piece of her in return.

She always told me that I was too young. She probably wanted to say that I was immature, since she was born about 4 months earlier than me. Such belittling words wounded my pride. Part of myself often desired to refute her accusations, but the rest knew that argument only proved her right. In fact, she was right.

I wanted to let her know I was ready to tell her everything about myself – even the deep, selfish thoughts only I knew about – and then possibly ask for some advice.

“Ariel, I don’t think I have any feelings for my girlfriend anymore,” I blurted, as we began to pick up the warm fried shrimps served as appetizers. She had picked me up from my house and drove us through the nipping winds of Pennsylvanian winter. I offered to buy her dinner in return, and we agreed to dine at an Italian restaurant. It was one of the few private meetings we had without classical music around.

“You’re still a baby,” she said. “These issues of yours are so childish, and yet you still complain to me all the time. You think you’re stressed from your college applications and your high school relationships? You should be happy that those are your main concerns. There’s a shit ton of other people going through real problems.” (These words were actually said in Korean, a language that sounds much more offensive.)

“Sorry.” I quickly interrupted to make peace. I wanted to let her know I was ready to tell her everything about myself – even the deep, selfish thoughts only I knew about – and then possibly ask for some advice. Although her reply was harsh, she was perfectly aware that I was trying to expose all of myself to her. I knew she meant every word she spoke. She was just being herself.

Concerts are, though a naturally obvious fact for a performer to state, a pleasure. The eyes of the audience bring tension to the stage, but more importantly, a moment of appreciation for the greatness of music is upheld. The huge black hands of my conductor danced above me, shining as the tiny droplets of sweat reflected the yellow stage light. And there was Ariel, behind her double bass. The deep, low sound she produced was so different from the delicate, high pitch sound of my violin. The conductor seemed to love the different sounds. He smiled. I smiled too. I looked to Ariel. Of course, her eyes were fixed on her sheet music. Music is all about harmony.