The first time I set foot on North Central College’s campus, I knew that this was the school I was going to attend. I had been to several other schools and had never had the feeling of serendipity. Something about North Central just clicked. It told me I was “home.” I had a gut instinct that I needed to attend this school, and that was that.
Within weeks of moving in, I was horribly homesick and desperately missing my high school sweetheart. I grew up in the middle of cornfields, and downtown Naperville did not feel right. I missed my boyfriend, my childhood friends, my family, and my dog. I longed for big skies, open spaces, bright stars, and sunsets over the fields. Around that time, I shut out North Central. Despite the strong feelings of belonging I’d had during that first visit, NCC just wasn’t where I wanted to be.
Because of that lack of commitment to my life at North Central, in many ways I became disconnected. I had a wide pool of casual friends, and a few very close ones. I did extracurriculars to try and stay involved, and I worked a campus job to make money. I was so looking forward to life after college, back in my hometown, back with my sweetheart…
Fast forward to the end of junior year. My six-year relationship with my high school sweetheart had ended. I was living with three girls who I had known since I started college, but had never really taken the time to get to know well. They turned out to be some pretty fantastic roommates and wonderful friends, helping me through one my most difficult experiences. Now, I’m a senior. I’m stressed out by work and school and this thing called “life,” but I have some truly fantastic friends made possible because of North Central College. Not all of them still go here. Some have graduated and moved on to careers or higher education. Some have transferred out. Some, I didn’t truly appreciate until after I had come to understand how blessed I am to be here. I have a real community here, and the more I think about it, the more I embrace the opportunities North Central has provided.
Just today, I was looking through pictures of fellow North Central students in their travels abroad for school. It struck me: I go to a pretty fantastic institution. In the past, I’ve had moments and instances of deep pride, flashes of that feeling of “home” I’d had during that first visit. This school offers so much. We have a top-notch international studies program, which not only sends NCC students all over the world, but also gives students from other countries a “home away from home” here in the U.S. We have a wonderful career development department, with which I have a wonderful relationship. We’re currently headed by an endearing and interesting president, who is well-known through the entire college community. The school consistently takes steps to be a contributing, committed part of the local, state, national, and world communities. That realization has helped to foster and rekindle the connection that I felt with the school that day, and have experienced occasionally in times since.
North Central College was fantastic on that first visit. Since my introduction to the college, it has only continued to grow. The athletic teams are talented, the extracurriculars are many, and the campus community is both welcoming and natural. When I first took my job at the school’s Office of Marketing and Communication, I’d laugh at testimonials of campus visits, where potential students would say how “everyone smiled.” All these incoming students talked about how everyone at North Central was smiling.
I’d laugh, and shake my head. At the time, I was too busy missing what I’d left to appreciate what I currently had. Now, a few years and many more experiences later, I understand it. North Central College really is full of happy, smiling people. The students, faculty, and staff of this place generally all love it. It took me a while, but I’ve come to agree with these smiling people. North Central College is not perfect by any means, but it really is “home.”
Sometimes, trusting your gut instinct is the best move you can make.