As finals week approaches rapidly, a few moments of reflection on the semester that ends so soon are in order. If I had to choose the first word that comes to mind when I think of the fall semester of my junior year, I think “busy.” This semester was filled with weekends spent reading academic papers and late nights in the drawing studio, but it cannot be defined by those, alone. After a quick pass through my camera roll, I am reminded of the beautiful moments I experienced, even amidst the hectic nights when my to-do list was longer than an Aldi receipt.
Like always, I ate a lot of great food. Chicago never seems to disappoint in that domain. From street fries at Jake Melnick’s, a place to which I have probably recommended 10 people, to pozole at Flaco’s down the street, I can easily say my semester was characterized by some memorable meals. Still salty that it took until my 15th time at Jake’s to find out that Loyola students get 20% off, but that is besides the point. If I’ll long for anything during my time abroad, BopNGrill fries, Dak rice bowls, and chai lattes from Metropolis will dominate the top of the list.
A semester in the city is never complete without a list of quirky finds and ridiculous occurrences, either. From Armadillo’s Pillow, where towering books are threatening to topple over at any moment, to the Edgewater Fall Art Fair, a day in which I saw upwards of 25 dogs, life in RoPo/Edgewater and Chicago, in general, is far from mundane. Sometimes this leads to unique photos, like I included below, or sometimes this leads to horror stories. Like the time a woman stood at the corner of a two-story Forever 21 in the heart of the Mag Mile and puked in the street, wiping her mouth and calmly walking away. Or the time a 30 year old con man spent 15 minutes trying to guilt us into following him to an ATM to buy him a Amtrack ticket, explaining that his mom told him girls would be “motherly” enough to help him out. That’s a lot to take in, I know.
Lastly, this semester at Loyola provided me with an overwhelming sense of community that I never imagined I’d find. For the first time this semester, all of my five classes were characterized by energetic professors, plentiful discussions, and an overall sense of involvement that I hadn’t yet experienced. Whether this meant making friends in my Figure Studio class, when students in art classes usually keep to themselves a bit, or my Italian professor bringing pannettone on the last day, I felt a connection to my courses like I haven’t before. In my social psych lab, I conducted a full experiment and co-wrote an academic paper on it, an extended group project that lacked the usual difficulties of working with others. My professor in my psychology of language course repeatedly expressed her dedication to her students, and my intro to Islam professor opened my mind to a world I realized I knew very little about.
This community continued outside the classroom, as well. The Loyola4Chicago group I led each Thursday at Jordan Community School quickly became a close-knit group of comrades. The elementary students we tutored became best buddies, and we spent more time discussing their day or Shopkins than we did multiplication or language arts. At work, I found myself gaining independence a level of familiarity with the DFPA and its faculty in a way I never anticipated. I felt more competent than I did unsure, and the confidence I developed was refreshing. Finally, I met new friends and continued to appreciate the relationships I established at the beginning of college. While I wish I could have spent more time joking around in my apartment than I did studying, I recognize that a semester of five classes and thirteen hours of work undeniably lessened the time I had to socialize.
Without a doubt, this semester has been my busiest yet, and I am itching to spend three an a half weeks lounging at home with my kitties as I prepare to depart for la città eterna. And while it may not have been as eventful as semesters past, I think it’s worth it to remind myself of the moments I will remember amidst the chaos. This semester I saw my my favorite band with girls I’ve known for fifteen years, created some of my most elaborate drawings and paintings to date, explored my favorite Chicago neighborhoods with my dad, and solidified my connections to Loyola.
Now, I just need to survive finals week and packing up my apartment!