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A Freshman Tells All: Tips For Surviving and Thriving at SAIC

A freshman at SAIC shares what he’s learned since school started four months ago.

By F+

Illustration by Sacha Lusk.

Illustration by Sacha Lusk.

It’s been four months since school started. 

At this point, everyone has experienced some college life. At first, the greatness of the city, the rough transition into college, and the high exposure to art 24/7 were scary and hard to digest — especially for us freshmen.

For that reason, I have taken on the exciting task of listing my “5 Tips For Surviving Life at SAIC.” Believe it or not, this is very serious for me! Grad students, seniors, juniors, even sophomores — perhaps some of you have forgotten how it feels to be a first-year student. I guarantee: These tips from a freshman will truly be helpful. They’re easy hacks everyone needs at the School of the Art Institute (SAIC).

#1 Let your work speak for itself.

On crit days, prepare yourself for a long day of discussion and discussion and discussion. And when it comes to sharing your work, never say a word! Let the art talk to your audience. Sit back and hear how other people come with greater metaphors and ideas about your creation. Only in extreme situations should you comment and clarify things about the project (or if the professor demands it). Staying quiet creates mystery and makes you look cooler.  

#2 Eat lunch or hang out on the comfy chairs of the Neiman Center Café.

First of all, the upstairs Neiman Center is comfy.  Second of all, there’s where the cool kids sit. Third, it’s a safe and great place to meet strangers and get inspired by eavesdropping on other peoples’ conversations. But there are even more reasons! Eating and chilling there makes you forget a bit about life. The person who is secretly your crush always hangs there; if you hang there, the chances of talking to said crush get higher. And last but not least, you’ll be noticed by everyone; you may even become the crush of someone else!

#3 Get outside the Loop.

The English professor who takes the train every day to get to work and your favorite RA (who we all know it’s not your RA, because your RA knows all your dirty secrets and has seen your walk of shame after midnight); the junior who talked to you on orientation week (who is now that one guy you just say hi to); even the random person you met at the comfy chairs — they will all tell you the same thing: Get out of the Loop!  It’s not that downtown is boring or uneventful, but there doesn’t provide the true Chicago experience. There is so much happening outside the Loop. Once you start exploring that world, you’ll be the one telling others to join you in your adventures.  

#4 When drained, go for a walk.

Seriously. Just take your ID, room key, and U-Pass — leave everything else — and take a walk. Extra tip: If you want to be completely unbothered, take your headphones with you and put the input jack in your pocket. Everyone will think you are listening to something even though you’re not. This way you’ll be less anxious about losing any possessions, and you’ll be totally disconnected from your cell phone, giving you time to reflect intensely on life. So artsy; so worth it.

#5 Search and read.

At some point you’ll have to stay hours and hours doing research in the library because of a paper for History of Modern and Contemporary Sculpture, for example, or for a project that’s building up at the back of your head. You can also go to the library just because! There is mystic energy in being around thousands of books. You’ll find readings about everything and the power of influence they have can change you. Just go and search — not research — and you’ll be surprised what you find.


I am living proof that these tips work. I got two dates out of the comfy chairs at Neiman and three project ideas by just looking at the titles of the books in the library.

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