Adjusting to City Life and the Quarter System

By Lindsay Ritenbaugh

I started as the Program Coordinator for Student Organizations at DePaul University in Chicago this past Monday. Lately my social media newsfeeds, text messages, and conversations with educators and student affairs professionals have been filled with stories and comments about the craziness and chaotic nature of August.

I have found this to be different throughout my first week on the job. It’s actually quite refreshing.

The academic calendar operates on the quarter system at DePaul, which is different from any institution where I have previously attended and worked. Instead of being thrown into a whirlwind of projects and deadlines where one feels the need to “fake it `til you make it,” I was welcomed by a hospitable office, attended the Division of Student Affairs’ incredibly helpful new staff orientation, and have had a chance to acquaint myself with the institution and its campus partners. I have learned a lot, don’t get me wrong. I just am able to spend some much needed time listening, reading, benchmarking, connecting, and gearing up for what will become DePaul’s August.

We just call it September.

I have also made major adjustments since moving to the big city from my hometown and college experiences in Florida. I packed up eight boxes, three suitcases, and a carry-on bag. That’s it. I sold my car on the way to the Tampa airport and purchased a CTA pass upon arriving in Chicago. It sounds unthinkable, but I am enjoying this ability to start fresh and simplify my lifestyle. I enjoy the freedom of not having a car payment, insurance payment, or weekly trips to the gas station. I get to hop on the “El” (the train in Chicago) or bus and have learned that walking is an acceptable form of transportation in the city! I have completely embraced this new urban lifestyle and cannot think of a better way to begin my full-time career in student affairs. Yes, I am prepared for the cold winters. No, I will not miss the beach. They do have one here—it just looks a little different! There is something to be said about seeing the skyline from your walks, homes, and even work spaces. Broadway in Chicago, movies/concerts in the park, and Garrett Popcorn’s Chicago Mix are added bonuses!

I welcome this opportunity to work, grow, and learn from a mission-driven, urban institution since it ties directly to my personal values of inclusion, access, equity, and individualization. This position is a perfect combination of my training and experiences as a previous sorority consultant and elementary school teacher, camp counselor, graduate assistant in Sorority and Fraternity Affairs, practicum student in Student Activities and Involvement, and NODA intern.

Good things truly come to those who wait. Shout out to my GA supervisor @TriciaCesarino.

I am grateful for the professional relationships I have already formed at DePaul and appreciate those who have reached out to me in person as well as via social media to help me build a networking community in my first year. I also look forward to commuting between the Lincoln Park and Loop campuses to fully understand what it means to thrive in the hustle and bustle of a big city. Maybe I’m a hopeless optimist, but I am going to take every challenge that arises in this next year as a chance to become a better version of myself.

If you have traveled a great distance like me for your first position, what opportunities and challenges do you anticipate? How will you stay connected to friends and family?

Student Affairs - the First Years

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