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Try 5: Philosophers

Need a little guidance as you head back to school? Dead guys know what’s up.

By F+

Illustration by Sophie Lucido Johnson.

Illustration by Sophie Lucido Johnson.


If you’re coming into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) as a freshman, you probably have some anxiety. Even if you were the coolest kid in your high school – unlikely if you’re studying oil painting – there are countless unknowns. Also: No mom.

First-year graduate students have done this before, but the First Day of School is the First Day of School, regardless. The stomach flip-flops. The lip is chewed. What if it’s awful? What if you don’t meet anyone cute? You’d like to relax, but how? Fortune tellers are no good. Your friends mean well, but they’ve got their own issues. Therapy is too expensive.

May we recommend some philosophy? Not only is the wisdom of the ages time-tested, any self-respecting art school student should be able to name-drop Sartre at a party. Sure, they’re all dead, white men, but we’re going to overlook that because the world has never cared about it before — why start now? Here are five philosophers we think can help you out as you enter SAIC, super-distilled because you don’t have time to do any unnecessarily complex reading.

Welcome home!


Epicurus (341 B.C. to 270 B.C.)

While studies are important, making friends is actually more important. And if you’re living in student housing, you’re super lucky: Living communally is the best way to live! Make sure to find time to walk, read, write, and meditate. If you can set aside just a little time for reflection amidst all the new, you’ll be fine.


Descartes (1596 to 1650)

Rather than think, “What is school going to be like?” or, “Am I going to be able to do this?”, ask smaller, simpler questions. A few examples: “Do I know how to get to my classes?”; “Do I know my train stop?”; “Is Blick’s Mix Media paper going to hold up under the pressure of my very wet watercolors, or should I spring for the bristol board?” Breaking things down logically and rationally is a great way to dissolve vague fears.


Nietzsche (1844 to 1900)

You got into SAIC! You made it! You’re here! Celebrate this glorious life you’ve got because it will be over very, very quickly, and if you had decided to attend the other school that accepted you, who knows? You might’ve been run over by a horse by now! See? Life is great! Also, don’t read the Bible.


Heidegger (1889 to 1976)

Of course you’re anxious. Life is terrifying. You will suffer and things will frequently suck. Just laugh at it and go to class. Also, read the Bible.


Sartre (1905 to 1980)

If you really, really hate school, quit.

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