Sound: After one semester of class in the Kaplan Building, it’s the sounds of that newest showpiece that get to me the most. If only slightly off-putting, that ringing echo of shoe soles on concrete has always struck me as empty and just a little bit soulless. Such critiques ring the ears of any architect of a modernist building, a Mies-inspired one nonetheless, but they reverberate still in Kaplan’s volume. It’s hearing conversation from another IPRO across the hall, the hushed whispers of “what are undergraduates doing upstairs,” and the rap-tap-tapping of pencils on desks during IPRO sessions with nothing to really do. At this point it's even the little things — the buzzing of a loud hand-dryer on a headache-stricken Monday morning or an unnecessarily talkative professor — that add to Kaplan’s aura of vague auditory unpleasantness.
Smell: I’m sick of coffee. The stuff sort of kills me sometimes; it really does. After a hard week of classes, the smell of it, the taste of it, making it, or even the sight of it — everything about it — makes me want to hurl. The Papacy tried to ban the stuff in the 16th century, and maybe they were on to something. The stringent smell of soap in the morning cleaning out my French press, the rich dairy from the coffee creamer (morning coffee only), or the sickening sweetness of accidentally adding too much honey to the end product. Even the steam from the machine smells bad after the nth serving. And lest we forget that bitter scent itself, the bitter sharpness of the beans fresh from the container, how its subdued and growing smell fills the room as it brews, or how its aroma seems to force itself into your nostrils when you drink. On the Mondays after easy weeks, the drink is welcome, but by the Friday of a midterm week the stench is abhorrent. Caffeine dependence is real.
Touch: The heaviness doesn’t go away. Wake up after 12 hours of sleep and your eyelids still drag, sleep for six and every cell resists all the same. It’s in my forehead, in my arms, in my legs, my back, shoulders, neck, and some days even my hands. For something that’s “all in your head” this feels pretty pervasive. Being slow kinda sucks, especially when before you always prided yourself on being go-go-go, running fast or cranking out essays or however you did it. You never wanted to be the person who sleeps through lab or cancels obligations or literally can’t bring themselves to pick up a call or who drops the only sport they actually cared about, but, hey, it’s gotta be someone.
Taste: I burned my mouth on a 7-Eleven coffee.
Sights: The aesthetics of Chicago never fail to disappoint, whatever you’re looking for. Never stop being awed by the night lights during the winter, or how the snow plays off all the car headlights or the Grant Park street lamps. As the clouds roll in late at night, you can see the lights from downtown light up the sky a sickly yellow, like a sky on fire. While the city does sleep, it never shuts off its bright lights. Conversely, be sure to appreciate that coming aesthetic of how Lake Michigan seemingly blends into the sky on a pleasant day, with all the faces of the joggers and bikers and walkers and sprinters and commuters and segway tourists and stunning large Midwest families out and about. Once the sun comes out, that campus-wide monotony of early spring and late winter visibly lifts, greys turning to greens. While the city’s gothic architecture can bring solace to anybody feeling grim on its rainy days, I think I’m ready for these trees to finally bloom, these flowers to blossom, and for the love of God for this semester to be over.