Things I Didn’t Expect to Learn in Art School

In the last few days of break before my final semester at Columbia College Chicago begins, I’m being as lazy as I can. I’m still working, still running, and getting some last-minute chores done (ordering textbooks, cleaning out folders from last semester, writing a little bit, etc. etc.), but I’m also thinking about what the last three and a half years have held. If you’ve been following us for a little bit, you know that I’m big on reflection. So, in these last few days before the true beginning of the end, I can’t help but think back at all that Columbia has given me — besides the fact that I’ve created my own major, took both accounting and finance, and learned that there’s more out there that I can do well/enjoy outside of radio. 

First, almost immediately after moving to Chicago, I started running. Getting out on the path felt a little bit more familiar, as I had just spent the summer traveling the country and being outside all of the time, and being along the lake reminded me of being at home. I’m not sure if it was the combination of feeling like my home at Spirit and home in Minnesota, but I quickly fell in love with running. It’s been a huge part of who I am in the last few years, and I’m looking forward to spending the better part of 2017 training for the marathon. Now that I think about it, running the marathon is probably going to be one of the biggest things I’ll do in my post-grad and post-age-out haze — so although the two big definitions of “who I am” will have ceased to be at that point, running will still be there. It has been so far, and I really hope that it always will be.

Getting ready for my first Triathlon in 2014

Second, I have worked so much. I’ve always held down at least two part-time jobs while at Columbia in addition to being a full-time Honors student. At one point I’m pretty sure I was balancing five jobs with that full load (what they were I don’t think I could remember at this point). Now in semester eight, I’ve finally found where I can walk the wire of having a good balance of school, work, a scrap of a social life, and time to myself. Which I think is important moving forward.

In typical art school fashion, I’ve also grown to appreciate a variety of art more. I learned to enjoy and appreciate abstract, fine, “tangible” art, my music taste has exponentially expanded, I’ve broken out of the romantic comedy movie scene, and have grown to really appreciate talented comedians. Not to mention, I’ve gotten to take in so many live shows: musicians, bands, musicals, comedy — so much. Oh, and there was a couple times I dyed part of my hair green. But, I’m still not what I would define as “cultured,” but I like to think I’m on the path towards “cultured.” Whatever that actually means.

I’ve also gotten to see parts of the world I was prepared to not think about going to (*cough* ever *cough*) or seeing for a very long time. I’ve covered the Iceland Airwaves music festival in Reykjavík, Iceland (and produced a documentary about it). I did a story on the running community in Dublin, Ireland (and blogged every day I was there). I spent a weekend visiting friends and teaching a color guard clinic for Liberty Drum & Bugle Corps in Northampton, England. I’ve lobbied on behalf of students in higher education to Illinois Legislators — twice. This semester, I’ll hit up the great state of Texas for non-drum corps related things, and do some work at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin. Aside from the out-of-state school traveling, I’ve seen the country through various high school/middle school gyms, cafeterias, football fields, and even a couple baseball diamonds. I’ve watched unknown city lights roll by outside of a coach bus window, and performed in NFL stadiums. So yeah, some pretty cool stuff.

Going to art school has also taught me that you’re never really taking time off. Even in my underclassmen years, every social situation I was put in was a networking opportunity. Because I had started working in the department so early, I grew close with the upperclassmen. Therefore, definitely a few Friday (and sometimes Saturday) nights were spent with them. And it’s because of those early social involvements that I decided to run for the SGA Senator for the Radio department, I got involved with the “Sessions on Seven” project, and engineered an audio drama recording — all in my Freshman year. I’ll also go against the saying and say that some of my best decisions and memories were made past 2am, but those were probably a mixture of good company and amazing luck.

Another thing I’ve learned is that I haven’t hit my breaking point yet. I’ve reached the snapping point — the meltdown point — many times, but not my breaking point. I’ve overloaded myself between work, classes, running, and maintaining personal relationships, and I have had more than one good solid cry-slash-meltdown in a studio when I should have been doing homework. I’ve done projects on highly sensitive and personal topics: many on drum corps, but more recently, a story about long-distance relationships and how the relationship I was in at the time had ended in the middle of the project. I’ve had two dogs die and found out about both of them while I was in studio time, working. I found out more recently about some more family-related things (that I’m not going to discuss) while I was on my way to the radio department office to work, and have ranted/raved/cried/celebrated almost every major moment in Mary’s office. I’ve been put through the typical college ringer, my undergrad has been no walk in the park, but I’ve prevailed stronger on the other side. More educated, clearly: academically, socially, and richer in life experience in general.

In the last couple weeks, I’ve been listening to John Moe’s new podcast “The Hilarious World of Depression,” and it’s absolutely inspiring in a weird way. Not only because I love all of the things that John Moe creates, but also because I look up to these comedians who are able to be successful and have the ability to talk about their mental illnesses and help break down the stigma surrounding mental illness. I also think it’s important to be aware of these types of things. Especially being surrounded by creative people almost constantly.

And okay, maybe I would have gotten all of (or some of) these things even if I had gone to Northern Michigan or another in-state school in Minnesota. But I think that moving to Chicago and coming to an “art school” was a huge proponent in all of it — and so far, it’s a decision I don’t regret in the least. Thanks, Columbia, for showing me what else is out there. Thanks for teaching me how to work hard, manage my time, get involved, make (and stick to) a budget, and show me that it’s possible to live your dreams — multiple times. 

But maybe that’s a danger, too. Knowing that you can live your dreams, I mean. Because I just can’t give up on [the new ones] now.

Stay with us.

Candid Marketing shot for the Radio Department (Spring 2015)


Author: erikabunk

Raised in Northern Minnesota. BA in Radio/Business & Entrepreneurship. Painfully average marathoner. Spends too much time on Spotify, in search of the best record store in the world, and dreams of returning to Reykjavík.

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