Nina Dym, '18, with her "closest friends" at the first football game of the year. (From left to right): Dym's friend majoring in theater, Dym, her friend majoring in journalism and her friend majoring in engineering. (Photo used by permission of Dym)

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Nina Dym, ’18, on Northwestern: ‘Nowhere else I’d rather be’

Nina Dym, ‘18, attends Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. She is majoring in journalism and minoring in computer science.

Q: Why do you want to pursue those degrees?

A: In high school, I was really into yearbook, and I fell in love with graphic design. In junior year, when I became editor-in-chief of the yearbook, I decided that I wanted to keep doing journalism in college.

For computer science, I’m more of a STEM person, so I knew I wanted to do something STEM-related. I mainly want to do graphic design in journalism; I thought that knowing computer science would be beneficial because computer science and graphic design go together.

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: I am taking Journalism Reporting and Writing, which is a freshman class requirement if you are in the Medill School.

Another class that I’m taking is Computer Science Concepts, Philosophies and Connections.  This class is a theoretical computer science class that does not have coding, but it focuses on topics including artificial intelligence, cryptography and graphics.

I am also taking introductory Chinese and Multivariable Calculus.

Q: What is Medill?

A: Because my major is journalism, I am in the Medill school, which is specifically for journalism. There are many other schools at Northwestern, such as (The Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of) Arts and Sciences, (The McCormick School of) Engineering (and Applied Science), (The School of Education and) Social Policy and (The School of) Communication.

Medill is really awesome, and I get many wonderful opportunities because it’s a very well-known journalism program.

Part of the graduation requirement is to do an off-campus journalism residency, which is when I’m going to be working full-time for a news organization for one quarter of the school year. Medill is one of the smaller schools in the university.

Nina Dym, ’18 (right), and Olympic figure skater Mirai Nagasu, who came as a speaker for a fall Chinese Student Association event. Dym said she interviewed her for a journalism assignment. (Photo used by permission of Dym)

Q: What is your favorite class?

A: Chinese is my favorite class. At first, I was really intimidated because the teacher taught the curriculum very quickly, but now I have gotten used to his teaching style. The students in my class are amazing. It’s really fun and stress-free because I know how to read Japanese, so the characters are very familiar.

Q: What’s the workload for your classes?

A: For journalism, I have an assignment every week where I’m reporting and submitting a story. For math, it’s online  homework assignments every other day with one written homework assignment every week.

Math is the only class that I had a midterm in. In my computer science class, I write an essay every week and do peer-review grading for other students’ essays. For Chinese, I have homework and quizzes with tests every Monday.

Q: How large are your classes?

A: My Chinese class has eight people, which is my smallest class. On Fridays, all 200 freshmen majoring in journalism meet in the lecture hall, but throughout the week, freshmen are split into groups of about 16 each. My computer science class has 100 people, and my math class has 23 students, even though we meet in a huge lecture hall.

Q: What is your favorite part about college?

A: I love a lot of things about college! I enjoy the people that I have met here, and overall I really like Northwestern.

 The first few weeks that I came here, I kept telling myself that I belong here and there is nowhere else I’d rather be. It’s really balanced because everyone here is academically driven and having fun at the same time.

I love living on campus because I did not live near Country Day, and I was always there, so the commute was really annoying.

I also love the spirit at Northwestern! At Country Day, I felt like no one was able to match my spirit, but it’s always purple – our school color – on campus.

Nina Dym, ’18 (left), and her roommate ready to cheer on Northwestern University’s football against University of Michigan.

Q: What is your least favorite part about college?

A: The food is not great, which is really unfortunate. The worst part about the food is that there is no Asian food in the dining hall, which is disappointing, so I have my miso soup and rice ready to go whenever I’m craving it.

It is also really cold in Chicago. Everyone was warning me about it, and I thought I was prepared for it, but I really was not. It is not even close to being its coldest weather, and I’m already crying to go home.

I do miss home a lot, especially my dog (Pua, a Boston terrier). I haven’t had much animal contact here, and my dog is one of my best friends.

Q: What is your living situation like?

A: I live with one roommate right now in a dorm. I live with someone who speaks both languages I speak – Japanese and English – so we can communicate however we want. We live in a building on the south side of the campus that has a dining hall in it, so food is accessible. The journalism building and the classes I’m taking now are also close to me.

Q: How’s the transition from Country Day to Northwestern?

A: I definitely believe that the academics at Country Day prepared me well for college. I know how to write, and I have great study habits because of Country Day.

However, Country Day is a small school, and because I was student council president, I pretty much knew everybody. Here, there’s less collaboration between students and more independent work. I miss the tight-knit community at Country Day.

Q: Any advice for the class of 2019?

A: Firstly, everyone needs to take a deep breath because they are going to be OK. The class of 2019 has a lot of tension and stress because they are so worried about their future. They are all bright kids, and I know they are going to do great.

Nina Dym, ’18, head-to-toe in purple Northwestern University clothes next to an ice statue of Willie the Wildcat, the university’s mascot. (Photo used by permission of Dym)

As for the college admission process, when choosing schools, it’s best if you go in knowing what you want in a college. I knew that I wanted to go away from California, and I really wanted to do something in journalism and graphic design. I had those two things going in, and as I visited schools on the East Coast, I started adding more requirements to my list, such as not wanting to live in an open campus or living in a rural town.  

A lot of people don’t talk about this, but the yearly system that the school is on was also very important in my decision-making process. Northwestern is on a quarter system, and there are many pros and cons.

The pros are that you can take more classes and they are more fast-paced, so you can get through the classes you don’t like faster.

The cons are that because the classes are so quick, you have to study more frequently, and summer break starts a few weeks later. I started searching for schools based on my list of requirements rather than looking at rankings.

Also, be realistic. Know that if you’re not at the academic level they are looking for, then don’t add that school to your list, but don’t sell yourself short. I almost did not add Northwestern to my list because it was the top journalism school and I didn’t even do newspaper in high school, which I assumed most kids did.

Lastly, don’t do things you don’t want to do. College is supposed to be a fun experience, so spend it doing stuff you want to do rather than wasting time on activities you don’t like to do. The best feeling is going to college and knowing that you belong there. So choose wisely!

Five-star or subpar?

Food: ☆☆☆

School spirit: ☆☆☆☆☆

Location: ☆☆☆☆

Clubs: ☆☆☆☆

Student-teacher interaction: ☆☆☆☆☆

—By Sanjana Anand

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