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!