This quarter I am taking another service-learning class called Community Food Systems. It counts as an elective for my Environmental Studies major as well as for my Food Studies minor, which made it an extremely beneficial class to take for my degree. For this class, in particular, the service-learning component means each student is partnered with a nonprofit in Chicago focused on urban agriculture, food inequities, etc. I am working with a nonprofit called Chicago Farmworks at their urban farm located in East Garfield Park. Every Wednesday morning I take the green line to Kedzie to help out with harvesting at the farm, which includes picking and washing a variety of vegetables such as tomatoes, collard greens, bell peppers, and jalapenos. The vegetables harvested from the farm are then transported to soup kitchens across the city on the south and west sides of Chicago.
Gaining experience working in urban agriculture in Chicago is an opportunity I would not get at any other college. Classes such as Community Food Systems make me feel grateful for being able to attend an institution that is focused on social justice and service learning. I have been able to take a variety of these classes during my time at DePaul, giving me a wide range of experience working in different types of nonprofits I am interested in. If you’re also interested in gaining experience working within a city while attending school, DePaul may be a good fit for you too.
There’s no feeling more bittersweet than being halfway done with finals. Although I still have a lot more work to do and all-nighters in the library to suffer through, I already know how good it’s going to feel when I’m officially done with schoolwork for six whole blissful weeks! At DePaul, we do things a little differently than most schools. Rather than coming back to school after Thanksgiving, we take our fall quarter finals beforehand and then have a six-week long break for the whole holiday season. The break can seem a little unusual, but it’s the perfect opportunity to work a seasonal job, take extra classes to get ahead, get a “winternship,” go on an incredible study abroad adventure or simply spend some time at home with family and friends enjoying some much-needed relaxation time.
This year, I’ll be staying in Chicago and picking up extra hours at my regular job. Last winter I stayed in Chicago as well to work and take extra
classes; so I’m a little relieved to actually get a little bit of a break from schoolwork this year. I’ll be going home for a few days for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I’m excited to experience the holiday season here in Chicago for the remainder of break because the city celebrates in so many beautiful ways. Just thinking about ice skating in Millennium Park, attending the annual tree lighting, and shopping for gifts while walking down the Magnificent Mile is what’s getting me through this week. Good luck to everyone who is still finishing up finals! The holidays will be here before we know it (along with a much-needed break from classes).
When I was a senior in high school, my head was spinning with the thought of all of the colleges I could apply to and potentially attend. It seemed as if the opportunities were endless, which caused me to feel extremely overwhelmed and unsure of which choices to make. One thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to attend school in a city filled with opportunity and potential for growth. I wanted to be in a place where I could do a million different things and not feel as if I was limited in any way. For me, that ended up being Chicago due to its location (six hours from home) as well as my love for the city and all that it has to offer.
Once I knew I wanted to go to school in Chicago, the next step was to decide which school was right for me. My situation was a little bit different than your average applicant because I applied before I even visited DePaul due to being an out-of-state student. By spending a lot of time on DePaul’s website, I gained some insight that led me to realize how important service is to the DePaul community. As secretary of my high school service club and an extremely active volunteer in my community, I knew service was something I wanted to continue to be a part of in my college career. DePaul’s emphasis on service was a large factor in my decision to apply as well as one of the reasons I was drawn to DePaul in particular over other Chicago schools.
Once I applied to DePaul, the decision to attend school here was fairly easy. It’s cliché to say that once I stepped on campus it felt like home, but it did. DePaul is unique because it does not feel like you are constantly surrounded by the hustle and bustle of downtown Chicago. When you are on campus in Lincoln Park it feels like a college campus, and when you are downtown in the Loop it feels like you are right in the middle of Chicago. You could go from a class in 14 E. Jackson to an internship with any of Chicago’s Fortune 500 companies within ten minutes. On the other hand, you could also go from a class in Lincoln Park to relaxing on North Ave. Beach within about twenty minutes. At DePaul, you really do have the best of both worlds, and this is another significant reason that I was drawn to this school in the first place.
Good luck to all of you seniors who are in the application process! I know you’ll find the right school for you, and hopefully, that means being a blue demon for the next four years here at DePaul.
Although many people are under the impression that internships are purely for upperclassmen, this is a widespread misconception. If you're interested in getting an internship as a freshman, DePaul has a few programs through the Steans Center for Community-Based Service Learning
& Community Service Studies
that allow you to do so, including the Community Partners Internship
(CPI) program which I have been a part of since October.
Being a CPI Intern means w
orking 15-20 hours/week at a local non-profit organization. This time could be spent doing a vast array of things, from teaching English to new immigrants to revamping an organization’s online presence. There is such a multitude of opportunities that anyone can find something they are interested in.
To become a CPI Intern I filled out an online application, was interviewed by someone at the Steans Center, and then was interviewed by the Executive Director who worked at the site I was placed at to see if it would be a good fit. It was a relatively quick process and I started working a couple weeks after my initial application. The Steans Center ensures that you are being placed somewhere that will be most beneficial to you as well as the organization, and you are encouraged to be a part of this process and share which organizations you could see yourself working with.
Although it has been challenging spending 15 hours a week at the organization I am interning with, I wouldn't trade this opportunity for anything in the world. I am gaining firsthand experience in a field that I could see myself working with after I graduate, and it is helping me immensely with figuring out what I want to do in the future. It even pays better than most on-campus jobs!
Last week, I had a conversation with one of the employees who had graduated from my school and been in the intern program that I'm currently in, and it was inspiring to hear that she had started as an intern and is now a full-time employee at the same organization. An important lesson that I have learned is that internships are not only for seniors, and it's never too early to start gaining experience in a field you're interested in.