COLUMN: Reflecting on four unconventional years at DePaul


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A Red Line train stopped at Randolph in The Loop.

We’ve heard it a million times before: time is a weird construct right now. But looking back to my first day of college feels like eons ago, given that the past three months have felt like three years long. At the same time, lucky and unlucky for me, I remember my first, second, third and final year of college vividly, as if they were only yesterday. 

On my first day of college, I woke up in my little box of a dorm room in University Hall to the sounds of my mini refrigerator making what sounded like the noise of an animal crying. Light poured through the poorly shaded windows and a garbage truck was collecting right below my head that lay on my kind of comfortable extra-long twin bed. Little did I know I would soon learn to adapt to this soundtrack. The bed, not so much. 

The sun was shining on this perfect, September day and I decided to go for a run to the lake. When I came back to the dorms, sweaty and invigorated after having just ran through the city — er, campus for the first time, I realized I lost my student ID. It was a great start to college. 

The first year wasn’t all that bad though. I quickly learned my way around Chicago, took classes that felt at once exciting and useless, and met new people, some of whom I still keep in touch with to this day. Of course, there are a handful of people I met first year with whom I don’t keep in touch with anymore, but the thing about going to a school like DePaul is that no one is really a stranger. 

Going to DePaul is a not-so-typical college experience and as a result, students and alum are bonded by this shared not-so-typical experience. We take the CTA rather than longboard to class — some of us live at home and commute for up to 3 hours a day and we work part or full-time jobs all while going to school. Ask anyone to describe a typical college experience and that’s probably the last visual that comes to mind. 

Rather, people think of rowdy football games, color-coordinated Greek life and partying morning, noon and night. DePaul may not have a football team, but we do have sororities and fraternities, of whom I participated in for a brief period of time. 

If you know me, it comes as a huge surprise that I was ever in a sorority. But aggrieved as I was with the fact that I hadn’t found my “people” yet, I rushed winter quarter of my first year. 

Ultimately, it wasn’t for me. While I was elated by the fact that it seemed I had rushed into the antithesis of sororities (everyone related to me in that they were not the typical sorority type), I had to move back home after living in my once uncomfortable dorm. 

For my sophomore and junior year, I was a commuter student. My social life dwindled as a result, and school felt like a job. Friends of mine have shared this sentiment. Whether you commute from the Northern suburbs or Wrigleyville, going to school in the city doesn’t so much feel like school as it does another thing to check off your to-do list.

I commuted on the Metra among doctors and lawyers and business executives who all looked just the same (I really hope you read that in the tune of “Little Boxes,” the “Weeds” theme song) and had internships simultaneously. A lot of DePaul students share this experience of balancing work and school at once and while it’s not the norm, it certainly gave me an edge as I grew up so much during that time.

That said, this past year has challenged that ten-fold. For my final year of college, I moved into an apartment on my own and started getting involved with organizations on campus again. Going to school still felt like a job, but the cohesion I was missing before was restored. 

And yet just as I was starting to like college again, we were hit with the biggest blow of our lifetimes. Graduating into a global pandemic and uncertain job market is less than ideal, to say the least. If they weren’t already before, our futures are cloudy. 

Not only that, it feels, to me anyway, that coronavirus has stripped the spotlight away from those of us graduating. She’s all anyone talks about anymore. Even if the conversation isn’t about her it usually ends with “yeah, and especially right now.” Cue eye roll. 

It’s been a less than perfect four years for me and for all of us. Fall of 2016 started off with the Cub’s winning the World Series and people regaining hope for the first time since 1908. Then November 8 rolled around and, well, you know the rest.

But I challenge you to not lose hope. 

Going to DePaul, I have this sense of security in the fact that the people I am surrounded by are understanding and accepting of each other’s differences, and more importantly, people’s challenges. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing from people in my classes that come from all walks of life. They are transfer students, first-generation students, LGBTQ students, students with disabilities, students of color and students with kids of their own. 

In class, my peers shared their stories to a room of open-minded individuals, and I realized that everyone has stuff, like deep stuff. Stuff that my pretentious bubble of a suburb — that was not unlike the one from the “Weeds” theme song — would judge.

As DePaul students, we share this unique experience of going to an untraditional school and therefore have a point of view that’s unlike others. We’re smart, creative and compassionate individuals and because of that I have hope that we’ll emerge from this better than okay.