Something that I will greatly miss about DePaul once I graduate is the Ray Meyer Fitness Center. I headed over there this past Saturday morning to burn some calories and get my heart pumping and kept thinking to myself, “Why don’t I go here more often?!”. Especially when the weather isn’t desirable or you are looking to use a machine, this is the place to go.
Just a minute walk from the Student Center (where the DePaul cafeteria is), the Ray is one of the highlights of DePaul’s facilities and should be taken great advantage of by all students. A membership to the Ray is included in DePaul’s tuition, so students can go as often as they would like and go for a swim, play racquetball or basketball, run on the indoor track, or use any number of the machines and weights.
Not only does the Ray have a beautiful track on its top floor that overlooks Lincoln Park, a large swimming pool with multiple lanes, AND an entire floor of machines, but it also offers a great variety of group fitness classes that are free to students. From boxing to Zumba, you can be led by motivational and inspiring fitness instructors and embarrass yourself in a group of other people who are feeling just as lost as you are! I tried a couple classes with friends, but my favorite group instruction class has been cycling. I’ve enjoyed how the instructors use different music, lighting effects, and images to motivate us to push ourselves. I especially enjoy when the instructor turns on the black lights so everyone is glowing in the dark!
In regards to machinery, my favorite one to use is the elliptical, but I have also used the treadmill and stair steppers. A lot of the machines also have individual televisions connected to them, so you can watch TV as you work out, to distract you from the agonizing pain you’re in (or maybe that’s just me?!)! I enjoy listening to music as I work out or watching Netflix on my phone, especially because there is no background noise. Something that I appreciate is the gym doesn’t play music in overhead speakers, so it is a quiet, clean environment.
Once you finish your workout, you can head downstairs to the Ray cafe that offers delicious smoothies with fresh fruit, grilled paninis, or quesadillas. There are also great snack items there. While I love everything about this place, eating its food is my favorite part about visiting the Ray!
There is something special about being in the School of Music
late at night. The incessant repetition of excerpts finally ceases, the rush of people going in and out of rehearsals and lessons slows, and all staff leave their offices for the night. Who is left? The small minority of late-night practicers, the janitor, and me and my boyfriend, Tobin.
Tobin and I are both cellists and are in the same studio, so we are able to see one another throughout the day in classes. However, when our school obligations are done for the day and we want to spend time together, we usually flee from the School of Music (SOM) as soon as we possibly can, just because we are there so often! As I mentioned in my post about DePaul SOM jobs, students can apply to work at the front desk, and those shifts can go as long as 10pm. Tobin picked up the 3-10pm shift one day this week, so we decided to do something new and have a date night in the SOM.
We have both been really looking forward to seeing the new Avengers movie; he's excited about seeing the actual movie, and I'm more excited about sitting in the incredible recliners in the Regal Webster Theater
making popcorn my dinner. In preparation for that, we have begun to watch all the Marvel movies, and first up was Iron Man I. So I joined Tobin around 7:30 as he sat at the front desk and gave keys to people so they could practice in their teacher's studios. We saw many music friends as they stopped by to say hi, and I tried to remain composed and sit up straight because, after all, Tobin was still on the job.
But by the time 9pm rolled around and virtually no one was there, my shoes were off, and I was squirming around in my chair to find the most comfortable, lazy position I could. Once Tobin's shift was over, we decided to continue our movie marathon in the SOM Student Lounge, a spacious area decked with extremely comfortable couches, tables, and chairs. We situated the couches the way we wanted them, used the lounge microwave to pop popcorn, bought gummy bears from the vending machines, and we were set!
The School of Music is open until midnight during the school week, which gave us just enough time to finish Iron Man. It was really nice to spend time relaxing in the SOM and seeing people as they went about their nights and headed home (one of our orchestra conductors definitely passed the front desk as we were in full-out lazy mode, so that gave him a laugh!). It also made me realize that if I ever needed to live in the SOM and its three buildings, I could totally survive! So overall, it was an entertaining and enjoyable night spent in DePaul's School of Music!
There are so many beautiful things about the spring season at DePaul: the grass is green again, the flowers and trees are bursting with color and life, outdoor events are actually enjoyable in the warmth of the sun, and ice cream shops are overflowing with hungry kids...and college students.
Even though everyone tries to avoid scheduling their recital during the "rush recital time", it inevitably happens. This is mostly because everyone wants to have as much time as possible to prepare for their recital so they can sound the best they can. I also think that once the weather is so nice, it just seems more enjoyable to perform because we are all genuinely happy that winter is over! It adds a lightness to every music major's playing when the temperature rises above 50 degrees.
Like every school, DePaul has a specific process for scheduling and preparing for a recital. All performance majors must give a junior and a senior recital as part of their degree requirement, and there are certain guidelines for the genre and timing of the repertoire. I gave my senior recital this a few weekends ago (woo hoo!), and as a senior, I was required to play a program of at least 60 minutes, which had to include a piece written after the 20th century. As I prepared for my recital all throughout winter quarter, I also had to take certain steps to secure an accompanist, a date, and a location for my recital. This had to be scheduled with the facilities office months before. Juniors and seniors are also required to write and submit program notes about their pieces in advance, which is a great way to inform both the audience and the performer of significant facts about the pieces.
A typical weekend in the spring could have as many as three recitals that you will want to attend. While this seems like a busy day that could have been spent outside or practicing, it is really nice to spend time with your classmates in a more social environment and to also celebrate with your performing friends about their musical accomplishments. Another great thing about recitals at DePaul? The receptions! You can actually have every meal taken care of for an entire day some weekends. Students almost always provide receptions directly following their recitals (which are usually in the Recital Hall) and have their reception across the hall in the student lounge. It's fantastic!
So as spring rolls around, prepare yourself to spend a significant amount of time sitting in an audience and stuffing your face with delicious finger foods. Try to enjoy the beautiful weather as much as you can, but embrace the wonderful music-making!
I have learned many things throughout my time at DePaul. From discovering how to manage my time to learning more about how to be a great musician, I know that I will be able to cross the stage at graduation feeling like I really learned significant things during college. But as a freshman, I had no way to know what my college experience would end up being like. There were so many unexpected moments, lessons, and opportunities that I encountered in just my first year of college alone. As I look back on my time at DePaul, I ask myself what I wish I had known when I first began this crazy-cool journey of college. I think that I can summarize the things I wish I knew as a freshman at DePaul in three basic points: one that is practical, one that is profound, and another that is pretty straightforward.
The Practical: Learn
how you work best and go for it.
I can remember many-a-night during my freshman year when I was doing a lot of musicianship (music theory and music history) homework or was studying for an exam. By sophomore year, I realized that I often work best alone and that group studying or homework sessions only work for me if I feel solid about the material and just need someone to quiz me on it or check over my work. Although many people would regularly meet together to learn test material as a group, it didn’t feel rude to study on my own and meet with a classmate or two the night before the exam or before the homework was due. I discovered what worked for me and felt no shame in doing what I needed to do. But if you work best in groups, find other people who also do and form them as soon as possible!
Everybody else is just as unsure about life as you are.
It really is true. Although we all express it differently (or don’t ever express it!), most people have no idea what their futures hold. Many of us aren’t quite sure what we want sometimes, and all of us have insecurities. I entered college with high expectations of myself; I thought that I had to have everything figured out. I also thought that I had to have everything together all the time, and I kept to myself the fact that I actually had no idea what I wanted to do with my major or with my life! I would show up to lessons, terrified that my professor might find out that I wasn’t feeling confident in my playing that week. Or, I tried to not let my new friends discover that I was actually super homesick and stressed some days. And with time, as I discovered more of who I was and what my fears, insecurities, and dreams are, I realized that those are important things that I am allowed to share with others. Once I began to stop expecting so much of myself and allowed myself to open up to others about how adjusting to college can be hard, I learned that I wasn’t alone. You are entering a completely new stage of life when you start college. Entering college marks a time in your life where you are more independent than you have ever been before, and it’s scary. You’re faced with big decisions that must be made in a not-so-distant future. So, allow yourself to not know everything about yourself or about life. And tell people; you might just be surprised by how many others feel the same way! And this nugget of truth doesn’t even just apply to college freshmen- all of us are unsure and scared about life sometimes!
straightforward: You go to school in an incredible city—embrace it!
College really does just fly by. They all said it to me when I chose DePaul and moved into my dorm. I can hear my parents saying it now: “You couldn’t have picked a better city! Take advantage of Chicago; it’s your playground for the next four years. And remember- college really does just fly by”. That’s literally what they said. So enjoy where you are. Go to random school events you just learned about 5 minutes before they began. Make new friends. Try different things. Take advantage of free things, both at DePaul and in Chicago! Go to artisan fairs and food festivals. Go to the zoo, go ice skating, visit the Bean and take as many selfies as your hipster heart desires; attend concerts, have a picnic in a park, have a NAP in a park, attend master classes, walk to the lake. Get your nature fix, your shopping fix, your I’m-going-to-pretend-to-be-a-tourist fix. Host movie nights in your dorm room. Try to be fancy and serve cheese and crackers and sparkling soda. Go to pet stores with friends. Take a random train route you’ve never taken and get off at a random stop (as long as it’s safe). I wish I had done more of these things as a freshman, when I lived in the dorms and had so many new friendships to pursue and no jobs or extra obligations to consume my time.
Freshman year is an irreplaceable nine months of your life. I grew so much, learned a lot, and I discovered so many incredible things. But there were still things I wish I had known—don’t let these be the three things you wish YOU had known as a freshman at DePaul!
This is a “class” that performance majors will have every quarter for their entire time at DePaul. Lessons usually take place once a week for an hour, although some professors travel to perform, so they may happen less often and in bigger chunks. Every professor arranges their lesson schedule differently, but our cello professor, Mr. Balderston created a set lesson schedule for the entire year. So I always have my lessons at a certain time for the entire year. Lessons are worth 4 credits, which is the maximum amount a class can be worth. So they are obviously a big deal!
Musicianship is a class that is required of all freshmen and sophomores. Even if you have taken music theory (and even if you scored high on the AP music theory test), you must take this course. Musicianship is taught by a number of different professors, and by the time you reach sophomore year, there are a little more options for what time of the day the class will be offered. However, my freshman year, I had musicianship class at 8:30 am, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. It was a struggle! By sophomore year, you are assigned to a class that meets Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, and I was fortunate enough to be in the 11:20-12:50 musicianship class. Musicianship consists of music theory and music history. When you come to DePaul for orientation, you will take a theory placement test, and this will determine in which of the three levels of musicianship you will be for the first year. After those two years, you will have learned how to part-write using different chord progressions; how to listen to a piece and know its basic characteristics, time period, and its composer; you will do research on various composers; and you will write your own short piece of some kind. This class is very helpful in teaching you about the music you play!
Aural training is another class you are required to take your first two years at DePaul. However, at the beginning of the quarter, there will be a “test-out” day, and if you have experience with aural training before, you may never have to take the class. The test usually consists of a harmonic progression (progressions with changing chords), a melodic progression (just a melody without chords), and a rhythmic exercise (which is often played on the piano on a single note. You are usually given the time signature and must write out the rhythm). If you don’t have experience with listening to music and writing it down and with sight-singing, fear not! Most people don’t have too much experience with it upon starting college. And although this class can be difficult, as you learn a new way of approaching music, you sharpen your listening skills tremendously, which can only help you in the long-run. If you end up having to take this class, it is often directly before or after your musicianship class.
This class is a little more self-explanatory. It is also a class that you can try to test out of! In the same way, you can go and play for one of the group piano professors at the beginning of each quarter to try to test out of the class. By the time you finish group piano, you will know all two-octave scales and arpeggios on the piano, different chord progressions, how to play sevenths and ninth chords on the piano, and how to play and sight-read basic piano pieces/exercises. This class can be quite entertaining, as piano is a brand new skill for some people (that was pretty much me!). And when it’s a new skill AND you don’t practice, it can sound pretty bad. My advice: practice! I tried to practice piano a few times a week because I really needed it. That way, I only embarrassed myself in front of my classmates a couple of times each quarter. Even though it can be embarrassing or scary playing in front of your peers and professor, group piano helps you feel more comfortable with the piano and with showing your poor or not-so-poor skills you have on it.
Music Traditions is a required course that lasts only a quarter, and you can take it pretty much any time you would like to. I decided to take it my junior year, and it was offered twice a week for an hour. It depends on the professor, as this course is taught by a few different ones, but mine was lecture-style for the entire course. My professor had an incredible knowledge about the topics of the class, which included an extensive history of jazz and various styles/genres of music from around the world, so he would lecture by memory about each topic, and I took notes on every word he said. The class had no homework or reading, but you have to be there for every class, or else you will miss an important topic discussed in the lecture. I really enjoyed the class because I never learned much about jazz, Eastern, or African music, and it was great to learn about genres other than Western classical music.
This class was one of my favorite classes, but it was also one of the most difficult ones. I am unsure in regards to wind instruments, but each string instrument has its own orchestral rep. class. The cello class was taught by Mr. Balderston. A group of 10 or less of us would get together for this class once a week for two hours, and we would each perform excerpts that our professor had assigned to us the week before. We always had a week to learn the excerpts, and we sometimes had to learn up to 5 of them for a given class. It took a lot of work and practicing, and the turnaround was so fast! But because of that, we got through so many well-known orchestral excerpts that are often given in auditions, and I got so many valuable tips on them. My teacher also gave a booklet of all the excerpts to each of us, so I now have music with his markings from his time in major symphonies for the rest of my life!
When string students become upperclassmen, they are required to take orchestral repertoire one year and pedagogy the other year. I am currently taking pedagogy and will continue to for the rest of my time at DePaul. This class is super helpful to me, as I am currently a private teacher and plan to continue teaching throughout my music career. For the first two quarters, each instrument is divided into separate classes, as they are in orchestral rep., and for the Spring quarter, all the classes of different string instruments come together as one class. It depends on your instrument and your professor, but the cello pedagogy class has been learning about different books teachers use with young students, different teaching techniques, and things of that nature.
Orchestra is another class that you will take your entire time at DePaul as a performance major. At the beginning of each school year, string students audition for the orchestra conductors and the professors of their instrument, which determines the student's orchestra placement and seating for the year. DePaul has two main orchestras: Chamber and Symphony Orchestra. Once you are placed in your orchestra, you will either rehearse on Tuesday and Thursday for two hours each (if you are in Chamber, which we call DPCO- DePaul Chamber Orchestra), or on Monday, Wednesday, Friday (if you are in Symphony, DPSO).
Students are required to play in a chamber music group for two years in total at some point during their undergraduate. However, if you wanted to play in more chamber groups after those two years, you can totally do that! I have played in a chamber group almost my entire time at DePaul. Once the chamber requirements are filled, chamber music counts as an elective. What I love about chamber music at DePaul is the amount of freedom you have to make decisions- you are allowed to pick the members of your group, the repertoire you play, and you can request a specific coach. Once you have those things determined, your group is required to rehearse multiple times a week and have a one-hour coaching with the selected professor once a week. Each group must attend and perform in chamber music class, which meets every Friday from 1-2:30, starting toward the middle of the quarter. I have played in trios with violin, piano, cello and with clarinet, piano, cello. I have played in a string quartet that accompanied a clarinetist, and I have played in the traditional string quartet.
So that is a brief overview of the main courses undergraduate performance majors (in particular, string players) must take during their time at DePaul. I hope it helps paint a picture of what your experience at DePaul would be as a music student! Each class has been extremely helpful to me, and although a lot of them required a lot of work, it was all worth it. I feel like a well-rounded musician because of it!
As a student worker in the School of Music Admissions office
, I have been fortunate enough to see how DePaul's School of Music
is run from behind the curtain. Although there is no crazy scientist who is trying to be a large, powerful wizard back there, I have discovered some pretty cool things about my school! In fact, I have realized that DePaul's music school offers a lot of great job opportunities for its students, and through that, we have all seen how efficiently our school runs.
Here are some positions around the DePaul School of Music where students work: Front Desk Worker
- The front desk worker is essentially the face of the School of Music. These workers sit behind the main desk, answering telephone calls for the school, directing people, and answering their questions. They also handle the sign-out sheets and keys for the different studio rooms and classrooms, giving out keys to students who have permission to access those rooms. Front desk workers also sort the incoming mail on a daily basis and handle the lost and found bin.Admissions Worker
- I will warn you- I am extremely biased about this position because I love my job! Admissions workers learn to do many things: we answer emails and phone calls about admission-related questions, handle admission materials- which involves scanning, uploading, and updating the documents sent to our office, give tours to prospective students and their parents, and send mail. We also work on audition days, when applicants are auditioning for the School of Music! Set-up Crew Worker
- Set-up crew is a more labor-intensive job. Workers are assigned to set up and tear down all the chairs, risers, and stands for the rehearsals and performances of different ensembles. Workers show up before and stay after the rehearsal or concert, making sure everything is in place and ready.
Stage Managing Worker- Stage managers act as both backstage managers and ushers during performances. They often work student recitals. They are in charge of controlling the lights during the performance and changing the stage setup when needed. For ensemble and other larger performances, workers can be ushers and pass out programs in the front of the hall and make sure the concert will not be disturbed. Stage managers are also in charge of locking and unlocking the two performance halls within the School of Music throughout a given day.
Students do not need to be eligible for work study in order to have these on-campus jobs; once you arrive as a student in the School of Music, you may apply for any job that has openings and decide how often you are willing to work. Student workers are paid minimum wage, gaining important work experience while making some extra money!
Before college there were a few things that came to my mind when I pictured my future school: big lecture halls with nice desks, nature and beautiful architecture around the campus, decent cafeteria food, and a really nice freshman dorm. Except for being in a big lecture hall (yeah...the biggest music academic class I was in probably had 25 people!), all my other wishes for a school came true. Living in a nice dorm my freshman year and a great on-campus townhome my sophomore year definitely had a very positive effect on my overall college experience.
Something I love about DePaul campus housing
is its amount of options. Although on-campus housing is not guaranteed, especially to students after their freshman year, there are plenty of selections from which to choose. When I made the decision to attend DePaul, I immediately started researching the dorm options that I could apply for. I knew that I wanted to live in a newer dorm that was close to the School of Music
and in the center of the campus. I knew that I did not want to live in a dorm with communal bathrooms, and I did not want to share a room with more than one other person. I went through the search and was placed in University Hall.
For those who don’t know what University Hall
is like (affectionately deemed “U-Hall”, which can create confusion due to the U-Haul storage building being a block away!), let me paint a picture for you: sitting in the center of the campus and separated from the DePaul Richardson Library by the “Quad”, U-Hall is four floors of greatness. Each floor has the same layout, with rooms nestled in pairs and a bathroom shared between the four people in those rooms. The bedrooms are spacious with a modern feel. I was particularly lucky to live on the top floor in a corner room, so I had twice the amount of windows to let the sunshine through when I woke up!
My roommate and I each had a bed, desk, chair, bookshelf, and closet, and we shared an end table. Our bathroom had a very large shower and a separate room for the toilet with two sinks in between the shower and the water closet. My dorm was very quiet and was kept pretty clean. I spent multiple times in our dorm study lounge on our floor when I needed space to study. U-Hall had plenty of laundry machines in the basement and a tv/entertainment room with a keyboard (which I definitely used to practice for my group piano class!) and a handful of computers. It was a great dorm. I spent some Spring nights in the Quad
right outside my dorm, laying in the grass. I could then simply get up and walk a few feet back to the dorm lobby. I also loved the location of my dorm in relation to the rest of the campus: it was a 10-minute walk to the School of Music and a 3-minute walk to the Student Center (where our cafeteria and mail room is).
By the time I began to think about sophomore year, I knew that I wanted to have a different environment with a little more freedom. I didn’t want to make the big move to living off-campus, but I wanted to feel slightly closer to adulthood than I had been before. Because of this, I chose to live in Sanctuary Townhomes
with 4 of my other music major friends. We were placed with two other girls, totaling 7 of us in one townhome. Although there were so many of us, I felt like I really only had a couple roommates because we had three entire floors to ourselves. Our townhome overlooked a lovely, small quad with picnic benches and trees that Sanctuary residents often enjoyed. Upon entering our townhome, there was a door that led to our family/living room, which was extremely spacious. We had two couches in there, a sofa chair, two bookshelves, and a dining table. Beyond that room was our kitchen, which contained two refrigerators, another dining table, a dishwasher, sink, microwave, and plenty of counter space and drawers.
The second floor had two double bedrooms and two full bathrooms and a laundry room for all of us to use. And the third floor- my home- had a single bedroom and a double bedroom with one full bathroom for those three residents to share. I had the single bedroom, which was pretty tiny, but I decorated it and cherished it so incredibly much! It was the first time in my life that I had had a room to myself, and I have now discovered that once you go for a single room, you can’t go back. On top of the 7 of us having our own laundry, and plenty of furniture and space, my two roommates and I on the top floor had the most amazing bath tub. And I am not even exaggerating- this tub was huge, with counter space surrounding it. Such a beautiful creation! We also had a shower and closet in our bathroom, and the whole bathroom had a wonderful tile in it. I really loved that townhome!
The only thing that I disliked about living in the dorms was having to swipe my DePaul ID to “check in” every time I came in or had guests. However, I understand that it is for students’ safety, which I know is very important for college students in such a big city. Even with that understandable and small hassle, I had an extremely positive experience living on DePaul’s campus both of my lowerclassmen years. After sophomore year, I felt ready to move off campus, and taking that “big leap” wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I even found a house that is still practically on campus, so that helped a lot!
I have thought long and hard about every season and why I like each one. I have decided that I love the beginning of every season- when everything feels new- because it is always nice to have a change, both in the temperature and in the way things look in the world around us. Fall is no exception. I love seeing the trees change colors; leaves become the reflection of fire, with their burnt orange and hot red appearance. The air has a slight sense of winter coming in it, with its crispness reflecting the crisp crunches of the fallen leaves beneath our feet. There is something so beautiful about the way the DePaul campus looks in the Fall, which makes me especially excited to walk to the School of Music building every morning. The trees that inhabit the School of Music parking lot are some of the grandest, most inspiring around Chicago. I love to sit at the table beneath those trees and eat my lunch or just sit for a second. In addition to simply enjoying the beauty of the DePaul campus in the Fall, there are other great activities I enjoy doing in the Fall at DePaul.
1. Going for walks to the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool.
There is a gorgeous, serene pond full of lilypads, a 10-minute walk away from the School of Music. The benches and rocks placed around the pool are perfect places to sit along the winding, rocky path encircling the pond. The Lily Pool is a great spot to go sit alone for a while or with a friend, especially as the trees hanging over the pond are also a beautiful array of colors this time of year.
2. Drinking Bourgeois Pig hot chocolate.
“The Pig” is one of my favorite cafes in Chicago, especially because it is 3 minutes from the School of Music, and there is great oldies jazz music played through the speakers! The Pig serves a variety of food and drinks that are all very unique and delicious. One of my favorite things to order as the weather gets colder is a maple bacon scone and some Mexican hot chocolate, served in an inviting, homey mug.
3. Going to the Lincoln Park Zoo.
One of my favorite things to do when I have a few free hours any day of the week during the Fall is to go to the Lincoln Park Zoo. The zoo is a 15-minute walk from the School of Music, and get this...it’s free! Completely free. Going in the Fall is always the perfect time to go because it is neither unbearably hot, nor unbearably cold. I love Instagramming the various farm animals, monkey, and seals. So if you are missing your pet at home and need an animal fix, go to the zoo!
4. Drinking Starbucks chai tea latte.
Yes, two of my favorite Fall activities is centered around drinking warm beverages! In addition to stopping by the Pig cafe, I also always enjoy going to Starbucks and ordering a warm chai tea latte. Chicago is home to many-a-great Starbucks, two of which are within 5 minutes from the School of Music. I love sitting down with my tea and journaling or reading before my day starts. It is also incredibly likely that I will run into a School of Music friend while I am there because it, along with The Pig, is one of our main spots!
5. Exploring shops around Armitage.
Armitage is a train stop right by DePaul and is a 15-minute walk from the School of Music. It is full of a lot of cute, unique shops that are very fun to wander through. There are shops with fun accessories, clothing, and items from all over the world. Armitage also has an amazing chocolate shop and multiple Italian ice places!
So whether you are looking for a relaxing day full of warm drinks and quiet places or are craving adventure and sightseeing, embrace all that DePaul has to offer in the Fall!
In my last post, I talked about being a senior and going through change. I also mentioned how much I have grown my past three and ¼ years in college. A huge time of growth was my freshman year at DePaul, and I wanted to take you all on the journey and time travel back to meet “freshman Ruth”.
There is one unique thing that greatly impacted my freshman year experience: I am an identical twin. I had never been apart from this best friend, and other half, for more than two months (and that was summer camp…). I entered college not knowing much about who I actually was/wanted to be or how to function as an independent, sole being. On top of this, I am a music major, which is very different than other college majors.
I lived on the top floor of University Hall in one of the corner dorm rooms my freshman year. It was a great room and a great dorm. I had a music major roommate and Theatre School suitemates, so we art-related majors were kept together. I will never forget the friends I made from my dorm (one of whom is one of my best friends to this day!), and I will also never forget having to say goodbye to my parents as they drove back to Michigan the day they dropped me off. I knew I was ready for college when I was able to contain my complete breakdown until I walked away from the two of them and got back to my dorm room. The homesickness subsided as I continued to develop friendships and experience the greatness of being in college. I went to cookouts at Lake Michigan, I went to the gym, I ate so many meals with new friends in the beloved Student Center (I really do love that place!!), I explored downtown, and I joined clubs that were perfect for me.
Musically, DePaul was all I had hoped and never dreamt it would be. I went to an arts boarding high school and had already experienced the intense rigor of being a music major, so it was a fairly easy adjustment for me my first year at DePaul. I quickly adapted to the schedule: music history and theory, piano, orchestra, chamber music, general education classes, studio class. Something that I did not expect, however, was the friendly environment in the School of Music. Coming from a high school where students from all over the world are there to study and strive to get into the top conservatories in the world, I expected the atmosphere at DePaul to have a similar sense of unhealthy competition and social norms. But I was pleasantly surprised to suddenly be surrounded by friendly, well-adjusted, encouraging, yet talented musicians- people who love their art, but who also love to get to know their peers and their studio. I entered the cello studio of Steve Balderston, the kindest, most inclusive, and encouraging teacher I have ever had. I became a part of a cello family and noticed a similar feeling within other instrumental studios. I befriended vocalists, performing arts management majors, wind players, percussionists, composers- all different types of music majors. I loved being able to continue my studies in an intense, serious musical world while making incredibly great friends who genuinely love their peers.
At the end of my freshman year, I also got involved in the church that I still attend, and joined their worship/indie rock band that has pushed me to expand my way of thinking about music and has made me a better-shaped musician. I also discovered the music education program I am applying to get my Master’s in (El Sistema) because I saw a poster in the School of Music my first month of college. I began volunteering with a Chicago afterschool program that is structured around the El Sistema method my freshman year and eventually became a paid cello teacher there. After all of those experiences, I have discovered that I want to use my music to give kids who normally do not have many opportunities a chance to dream and achieve their musical hopes- all because of a poster I saw as a young, wandering freshman!
So, as I wrap up my final Fall quarter at DePaul, I cannot help but think about how much that first Fall at DePaul shaped who I am and where I am now. The changes were difficult, and it was not pretty a lot of the time. I had to adjust to being on my own, away from my twin sister and my family, being in a big city, and so much more. However, it was such an exciting time of growth and discovery, of excitement and fun, and I often tell prospective freshmen this when I meet them and will tell you the same thing: I am so excited for you to go through the craziness and coolness of being a freshman. In its own way, it is often the best and hardest year of your college career. Embrace it!
Now that I am in my final year of college, I have a handful of years at my disposal to reflect on and remind myself of how far I have come- educationally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I think that the older I get and the more that things change, the more often I need to reflect about who I have become and how.
There are a few big things happening in my life right now. First off, I am applying for graduate schools. And when I say “schools”, I actually just mean a single school. Although I entered my freshman year determined to never go to grad school, I completely changed my mind the past three months. Being a student at DePaul as well as traveling abroad and teaching in Peru has really shown me that there is so much I want to learn about music and teaching. I want to be the best I can possibly be at my craft so that I am able to help others more effectively. I am applying for a music-teaching program in Los Angeles to get my Master’s degree and be certified in something known as El Sistema, a musical education movement that began in Venezuela in the 1970’s. As I go through the application process and prepare to make recordings for my audition, I still can’t believe that I am a senior, am graduating, and am actually applying for grad school. I never thought this day would come!
While I am preoccupied thinking about my plans for the next year of my life post-graduation, I am still trying to focus on where I am this year. So far, my senior year has been full of many new experiences and lessons. I am finally discovering how to cook (oops…the secret is out!), how to budget my money better (after a few-too-many shopping trips), how to take risks and do scary things (such as recording an album with an indie folk band I have been involved with in college…something I would have never thought I could do before DePaul!), and how to learn how to present myself as an actual adult to society. This last one has been the toughest one- how does one go from being a kid who still greatly relies on their parents to an adult who is responsible, independent, and sure of themselves? Well, if I have learned anything, that sense of feeling sure of one’s self is not every fully attainable…so that is a relief! But I have learned a little bit about how to achieve the other two characteristics of being an adult. I have discovered the key to being a grown up: fake it ‘til you make it. Seriously! The more you view yourself as a mature 20-something (instead of a teenager), the more other people will view you the same way. I have gotten this act down so well that people even sometimes wonder if I am in my mid-20’s. Whoa. That is the age of a college graduate who is in the real world already- cool! As I have been teaching more and interacting with more adults than I ever have before, I have practiced this concept repeatedly, and it has worked without fail.
In addition to that, big changes are happening in my family. One of my sisters is expecting her first child (yay!), while my other sister is planning her wedding (double yay!)- and both events will be happening this summer. My dad is celebrating being half-a-century-old in a couple of weeks, and I am applying for graduation, making plans to hopefully move to a completely different city and possibly leave the country again within the next few years.
So in addition to learning how to act like an adult, I have also learned how to better adjust to these huge changes that are happening, both in my life and in my family and friends’ lives. What is the key to this one? Fake it ‘til you make it….again!! It helps me so much to reflect on who I was my freshman year. I entered college, ready to discover who I was and what I loved. I learned that I love children, traveling, Hispanic culture, and social justice. I learned that I could combine all of those passions and chase a wild dream. Although this year will be full of a lot of changes, I know that it will help me grow into the newest version of me- “college graduate Ruth”. I will no longer be a “DePaul student” or “undergraduate”, and I can’t wait to see what the next phase of the journey is! So, even when I am completely terrified and cannot handle the idea of me leaving this wonderful experience in my life, I know that if I continue to look back on the amazing experiences I’ve had and hold onto hope that the exciting reflection-worthy moments won’t stop here, it will be okay. It will be more than okay, even; it’ll be the next step in the adventure of life!
No matter what stage or year you are in in your life adventure, continue to embrace all that college (or high school, or graduate school, or work!) has in store for you and continue to enjoy the change. All we can do is keep discovering the way of the path laid before us this next year, this month, this week- and follow it with a smile on our face, excitement in our hearts, and a willingness to fake it until we know what we are actually doing and why on earth we are smiling.