Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Year: Class of 2021
Describe essential pieces to your wardrobe.
A leather jacket for sure, eyeliner, red lipstick and some nice black booties. Oh, and my black oxfords!
What’s your style like?
I’m really cheap, so if I spend money on a few good pieces and I just wear those pieces on days that are important, people will be tricked into thinking that I actually dress up like this. I’ve always been very into getting solid pieces, and I’ve always admired French style. I always wear jeans and then a trench coat and flats. I’m also very stuck on neutrals.
As a college student, is it convenient to stick to the neutrals?
Yeah, coming to the Midwest I didn’t expect to have to dress for seasons. That’s something I’ve had to work with. I feel like I had to get pieces that could work with any season if I layered up. Winter clothes are expensive, also. A lot of people think that I have a lot of clothes, and they go to my closet and see that I really don’t. I just know how to mix things up.
Beyond clothes, what has been essential to your college experience? What do you think is necessary to keep in mind as a first-year student?
Moms are essential. That’s been the hardest thing for me—not having someone that I can constantly talk to. I try to remind myself of what I have back home because I just felt like I was comparing myself to others too many times, and then I was really homesick and missed my friends and my mom. But then this quarter and last quarter, I realized that I am happy to be here. I’ve also loved the opportunity to be at a school like this, an opportunity that my family never saw in their own lives and that they could’ve only ever dreamed for me. So you know what? I’m here, and I did it! Just reminding yourself of who you are, why you’re here and not having to compare yourself to other people. That’s definitely essential.
As a first-generation student, what has been essential to navigating college?
While at times being first-gen has made me feel smaller, now it makes me feel bigger and stronger. I’m in Posse [The Posse Foundation] and interacting with them makes me want to be the person I didn’t have. For a long time, I thought I was the only one who was confused and alone. In high school, my friends knew what they were doing, and I really didn’t. Meeting other first-gen students and getting inspired by them and their stories makes me think that I can also inspire someone else.
What are some obstacles that you’ve faced throughout your freshman year?
This school is a whole culture shock to me. I had a really close friend group at home, so homesickness has been an obstacle. I also wasn’t used to the competitiveness of Northwestern. I didn’t have the confidence to speak up. I definitely have to push myself out of my comfort zones, but I’ve taken up more leadership positions. Even clothes-wise, I didn’t know Vineyard vines was a brand. Canada Goose? Didn’t know that was a thing. But, the sun is shining. I’m thriving now.
Austin Gardner: Student Activist
Hometown: Gresham, OR
Year: Class of 2020
Major: Learning & Organizational Change
Describe your style.
Comfortable. It’s an expression of who I am, but then I can also engage in my day without being too conscious of what I’m wearing. Simple. I don’t really wear that extravagant of things. Accents. I like having a stand-out piece.
What are some essentials in your wardrobe?
My denim jacket, black T-shirts and my white sneakers. Also, a baseball hat for a bad hair day is necessary, and colorful socks are fun. Most people don’t have to think about leaving Evanston for a haircut, but having a nice fade on the side really adds to my confidence.
First-year students often enter Northwestern with preconceived essentials of a “good” college experience. What advice do you have for them?
Escape this toxic, stress culture. Reject it. Don’t fall into it because it’s scary and problematic. It’s so normalized that people don’t see it as an issue, and there’s so many other ways to be competitive. Winter Quarter of freshman year I was the treasurer of ASG, a senator for ASG, working 20 hours a week and taking four classes. How did I even do that? I didn’t.
What has been essential to navigating Northwestern as someone who is biracial and black?
Acknowledging light-skin privilege of being a mixed, black person is important, but there’s also a lot of erasure of being a black person. It’s really confusing when you’re at a PWI [predominantly white institution], and there’s all these white spaces, so I’m black in a white space. And there’s also the weird fetishization of being mixed, which is very uncomfortable, but then you go into a black space and you’re just not black enough usually.
What would you say to incoming mixed students?
MIXED is a great space. It’s a great student organization. While you can’t generalize the experience of a mixed identity, the oppressive structures that impact different marginalized races and ethnicities are distinct. I haven’t figured it out yet. I still have moments where I have to call people and ask them how to navigate situations or emotions. There’s so much nuance to everything. I try to claim my mixed identity as much as possible because sometimes I’ll claim my blackness and forget my whiteness. I’m mixed and I’m black. It’s both. You need a rock. Find a place that you can feel comfortable to engage in, especially if you’re a racial minority or a part of a marginalized group. Having those people that you can relate to and will understand what you’re talking about even if you’re just ranting to them, having them corroborate or affirm your emotions and feelings is so necessary.
Hometown: Cresskill, NJ
Year: Class of 2021
Major: Undecided in Weinberg (tentatively Communications in SoC)
Describe your style.
Clean, structured and utilitarian.
What are the essentials to your wardrobe or your staple items?
White sneakers. I know it’s basic as hell, but you don’t have to go buy Stan Smiths or white converse—a white sneaker is all that matters. And everyone needs a pair of khaki pants, man. I have rediscovered this khaki color, and I, honestly, am digging it 100 percent. They go with everything. Also, oversized T-shirts. They are so versatile and comfortable and if you’re feeling not so great, you don’t have to tuck it in. But if you are feelin’ yourself, then you can tuck it in and throw on a belt with it. Plus, everyone needs a pair of gold hoops. I think they make every outfit. My friends would tell you that I wear hoops every day, and it’s true.
What makes an outfit?
There are some people who can literally wear a trash bag and look amazing because they have that confidence to pull it off and make it work. If you had RuPaul’s confidence, you could wear anything.
As a first-year student what are some qualities that you think are essential to navigating college?
Put yourself out there. I have had a bunch of friends that say that they hate it here, that they hate the weather, that there’s nothing to do, and I’m like, “Are you kidding me? Do you have any idea how many things are going on every single night?” There’s always stuff happening. We are literally a CTA ride away from Chicago. Even in Evanston, there’s so many nice places to eat, so many stores. Y’all cannot be complaining that there’s nothing to do here. Don’t give me that bullshit. Put yourself out there. Talk to people. I think freshmen are very keen on making a good impression, but you can make a fool of yourself. As a freshman, you don’t know anyone, so you have nothing to lose. If they don’t like you, then they don’t like you.
As a student athlete, what has been essential to balancing Northwestern academics and a Big Ten schedule?
I appreciate that the athletics department cares that we are performing well academically. All the athletes have academic advisors within the academic departments to meet with every week. Athletes also get tutoring for free. Being able to have these services and all these perks makes us want to continue sports for the next three years. Use CAPS [Counseling and Psychological Services]. I know that it’s not helpful for everyone, but at least my friends who have gone have told me it has been very helpful thus far. Also, know that it’s okay to do things on your own, and learn how to say no. Don’t complain about being overwhelmed when you’re the one that keeps adding stuff. It’s not necessary to have all these things in your life.
What are some things you expected and did not expect to do your freshman year?
I thought I was going to be an Econ and Poli Sci major. That was funny. Coming to Northwestern, I had also heard that the Korean Student Association [KASA] was like a cult. While I wanted to have that Korean outlet, I didn’t feel super comfortable joining. I was scared because I don’t speak the language and I don’t go to church. But, honestly, I have been to so many KASA events, and the people are so much fun. It’s been really reassuring to know that there are other students here like me that may not speak the language but have an appreciation for the food, culture and fashion.