Whether you have lived in Chicago your entire life or your first steps on campus were when you moved in, the transition from high school to college isn’t an effortless change of pace. It’s clunky, exciting and sometimes overwhelming. Away from the guidance of your family and the comfort of your friends, it’s now up to you to find your place on campus, complete your work on time and remember to do your laundry.
DePaul University offers many ways to get involved, from on-campus jobs to recreational sports teams, and Chicago is always buzzing with events, from concerts to food festivals. With an abundance of opportunities, it can be difficult to decide where to begin.
However, after a few wrong trains, late nights with your friends and many bowls of ramen, the responsibility that comes with your new-found independence will ease and you’ll find your place at DePaul. Until then, here are seven pieces of advice from current DePaul students on how to make the most of your time here.
1. Take advantage of everything there is to do on campus.
“Be involved. Try things. You may only live on campus for one year,” said Aurora Lawrie, a senior studying cello performance. “Go to DePaul After Dark, go to school events, go study with your friends instead of studying alone. You’re much more likely to regret not doing things than you are doing them.”
The DePaul Activities Board plans DePaul After Dark every Thursday night in the Student Center and DePaul’s event calendar has a list of other activities happening on campus. Need another incentive? Many of these events will have some sort of freebie — think t-shirts, pizza or ice cream.
2. Take a few major-related courses your first year to see if you like the material.
“Take college specific or major classes first so you know what you want to do and it’ll get you an edge for internships junior year,” said Robert Baran, a senior studying finance.
If you’re undecided, that’s okay! DePaul offers a course in the University Internship Program (UIP) that allows you to explore your skills. It’s a two-credit class, counts as a part of your experiential learning requirement and helps you figure out what careers best fit your skillset.
3. Join organizations on campus to learn about yourself (this is your time to do so).
“Get involved. It’s ok if the clubs you choose to be involved in aren’t clubs that you stick with your whole college career,” said Maddie Shiparksi, a senior studying User Experience Design. “One of the best ways to learn about yourself is to try new things and things that scare you a little bit on your own, within reason.”
DePaul has over 350 student organizations ranging from activism and service to professional development and technology. Orgsync, a Facebook-like platform for student organizations at DePaul, is a great resource to explore opportunities for student involvement. You can search through all organizations by interest.
4. Be flexible; things won’t always go as planned and that’s okay.
“Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and go with the flow,” said Natalie Rohman, a sophomore studying public relations and advertising and Spanish. “Opportunities will come as they may.”
College isn’t a competition of who can fit more internships and extra-curricular activities into four years. It’s about the skills you learn, the relationships you build and your growth as a person, no matter if it took one internship or five.
5. If you’re a commuter student, finding your community might take a little bit longer, but it will happen.
“If you’re a long distance commuter, you may come to feel a bit left out. You‘ll feel less inclined to stay and chat after class, hang around the Quad, stay out late, or to go to social events put on at campus,” said Alejandro Arreguin, a senior studying film and television. “You’ll either feel like you’re not actually in college, or worse-that you don’t belong. Though it might be tougher for you to make friends and experience the college lifestyle, keep at it and you’ll find value because you do belong and you do matter to this community.”
A great way to find your community is to join organizations on campus or attend student events. This way, you’ll meet students with similar interests and make new friends, even though you don’t live in a residence hall. DePaul keeps a list of events for commuters on Orgsync and has study lounges in Lincoln Park and the Loop for you to go to between classes.
6. Talk to new people and immerse yourself in what DePaul has to offer.
“The best advice I can give to freshmen is to simply talk to people in the common areas — say hi,” said Vanessa Gajek, a senior studying finance. “It’s always nice to see familiar faces throughout DePaul. You might end up meeting some great friends by doing so.”
It’s easy to stare awkwardly at the floor when walking past a stranger in the hallway or to come and go from class without getting to know your peers. But, these are the people you will be with for the rest of your time at DePaul. So, get to know them and make a new friend.
7. Take advantage of the opportunities DePaul has.
“Study abroad as early as you can — don’t wait,” said Liz Spencer, a senior studying Arabic studies. “I think it’s important to study abroad as soon as possible, because it’s something that is easy to say you’ll do later in your college career, but then never do. Upperclassmen students tend to have less availability in their schedules as they are more major focused. There is no guarantee you’ll be able to study abroad in the future, so why wait when there are programs for first year students? And if it does end up working out that you can study abroad as an upperclassman then you just doubled your experiences.”
There are many opportunities at DePaul to study abroad. If studying abroad for a quarter or longer isn’t possible, DePaul has shorter, less expensive options during spring break and winter intersession. If you’re passionate about DePaul’s Vincentian mission, you can also go on service immersion trips.
Though transitioning from high school to college can be difficult, it’s important to remember that everyone in your class has the same uneasy, yet eager feeling. There are many resources at DePaul designed to support you as you find your place and community.
Illustration by Jenni Holtz, 14 East.