Carter in a group photo with three friends. They're all dressed up with black t-shirts and paper cow spots in accordance with Chik-Fil-A's free chicken day.

There are a hundred different ways you can spend your college summers. Some friends go abroad, some explore the US, and many grab internships and jobs and make careers outside of Evanston. One thing that I highly recommend students do at least once, however, is the Evanston summer. We spend so much of our time in and around the city during our school year that having the lowered stress of a summer on (or near!) campus lets you fall back in love with Northwestern from an entirely different perspective! When I made my decision to stay in Evanston between my first and second years, I came armored with advice from all of my upperclassmen friends. I hope I can pass some of it along!

Find Your Happy Place (to live!)

Depending on how you’re staying in Evanston, you may get an opportunity to live on-campus. Some programs, like the Center for Talent Development, hire students to live as summer conference assistants. The gigs pay AND provide free housing in a dorm, and it’s an incredible way to stay engaged in the summer happenings at Northwestern. This isn’t for everyone, so the most popular choice is to stay in the Evanston area off-campus. Many students who are leaving town would rather not end their lease and pack their entire lives up, so they leave their apartment for summer subletting. You’ll get a discount on rent, furniture in most cases, and an Evanston address!

Fill Your Time

The major difference between Northwestern in-school and out-of-school is simply the number of things there are to do. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up spending a day or two more than you would like binging a show on Netflix (not that that’s a bad thing, but there’s only so much Great British Bake Off one person can take!) For me, I found a happy medium by working in and around campus: Northwestern Admissions and Student Affairs Marketing would take up almost an entire work week! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put something weird on your plate — I was backstage for Commencement and then I ended up house-sitting unexpectedly! It’s those wacky things you wouldn’t do that make summer organic!

Don’t Forget to Get Out of Evanston

Evanston is a city — there’s no other way to spin it. But it’s a relatively small one when you compare it to the large one just a train away: Chicago! It’s easy to think of the distance as a much larger barrier than it is, but Chicago is vibrant and full of a life that you’re not going to find at Northwestern every afternoon. Summer in Chicago is chock-full of fairs, parades, expos, and all the same sights that you couldn’t explore during the school year. Now is your chance to figure out what the Loop is and to recharge your Ventra account a few more times than you’re used to!

You’re Not Alone

The really crazy thing about comparing Northwestern during the school year and during the summer is how empty it can feel sometimes. The most important thing to remember — and something it took me a while to realize — is that there are a ton of students and friends still on campus and they’re all feeling the same way about how empty campus can look sometimes. The most surprising thing for me was how many of my friends hadn’t left; they were just working on internships, labs, or summer research projects! As soon as I took the time to look, I was able to get more coffee and more friendship than I thought I would!

There Are Resources for You

I’ll be quite honest with you, the biggest fear I had going into my independent summer was financial. There are a ton of complexities involved with being independent and there’s no one way to address these issues, but I’ve found that my financial and other kinds of support from Northwestern didn’t end after finals ended. The Purple Pantry helps combat some food insecurity that students face and they’re not closed over the summer. SES has grants involved to provide emergency funding for students who come upon unexpected financial hardship. You hear about these things non-stop during the school year, but they didn’t go away. They helped me and they will help you if you need it.

All in all, my Evanston summer came at a topsy-turvy point in my life. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it was exactly what I needed. I can only recommend that any future Wildcat chooses to make one of their summers an Evanston one: it’ll change your perspective for the better.

This blog post was originally written while I was employed by the Office of Undergraduate Admission at Northwestern University. As such, my voice and tone reflect Northwestern’s desired impact, not my own.