Eating Well Beyond the Dining Hall

As a freshman at DePaul, meal planning or grocery shopping is not something that often crosses your mind. With an on-campus dining hall​ located in Lincoln Park as well as the Loop campus offering a variety of choices for you to spend your meal plan money, most of the work is done for you when it comes to food. However, most sophomores, juniors, and seniors opt to live off-campus without a meal plan, and this comes with a new set of challenges. 

Fall quarter of sophomore year, I spent a lot of money eating out and ordering delivery because I was used to having a meal plan and the prepared food that came with it. This was not sustainable for me monetarily, which is why I ended up instead beginning to invest time in grocery shopping and cooking for myself. It’s not as difficult as it may seem, and is even easier once it becomes habit. Some of the staples in my daily routine include avocado toast for breakfast, smoothie bowls for lunch, and some type of grain and vegetable combination for dinner. None of these foods are particularly pricey, and they each leave room for creativity and variation. 

When you move off-campus and begin to live more independently, it is important to set a routine for yourself that is realistic to follow. This is what works for me, but something completely different may work better for you. The important thing is that you’re taking care of yourself (and your bank account) with the food choices you make. 

avocado toast


Presenting Research on Peru

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to present research at an on-campus event called "Mining, Forests, and Communities in Peru." My classmates and I have been studying the political history and current environmental predicaments of Peru since the beginning of Fall quarter, which culminated with a two week trip through Lima, Puerto Maldonado, and Arequipa. Last December, we gained hands-on knowledge and experience from locals and nonprofit organizations doing conservation and reforestation work. Since arriving home from Peru, each of us has been further exploring a topic of interest in order to present a body of research at last week’s event. 

My own project, entitled “The Drivers Behind Destruction: Root Causes of Ongoing Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon,” focused on the main causes of deforestation and how they are being addressed in Peru by local people and the government. Being able to draw from experiences I had in Peru including the organizations I visited and people I talked with allowed me to take this research much deeper than any I’d previously done. Presenting research to strangers for the first time was a little bit nerve-wracking, but it was pretty incredible to be able to share what I’ve learned from my experiences in Peru and delve into issues I’m very passionate about. If you’re thinking about studying abroad and are interested in environmental and/or political issues, check out the program Peru: Forests, Mining, and Communities.

Aggie's research on Peru



Uncovering My Passion at DePaul

It may sound cheesy, but something that has made my DePaul experience memorable is being passionate about what I am studying and being surrounded by peers and professors who share this passion. When I came to college I did not think I would be majoring in Environmental Studies because I wrote it off as being too difficult and wrote myself off as being not smart enough. I worked my way through a variety of majors before finally realizing what I was meant to be doing, and that is studying the environment. The restoration and preservation of the planet is the most important thing in the world to me, and being able to study what I love most every day is such a meaningful experience.

Without my professors encouraging me to declare an Environmental Studies major and the support of my friends and family, I would probably still be stuck in a major I am not proud of. I am thankful I decided to take a leap of faith and declare a major I was extremely intimidated by because I have gained such an immense amount of knowledge and experience in this process. Nothing compares to the feeling of talking with a professor about a rainforest we both visited in Costa Rica and felt connected to or talking with my peers about the actions we take to help the planet. Within my own circle of friends I am often referred to as the crazy environmentalist, but within my classes, many of my peers share the same mindset as me. They are an inspiration to me and we all encourage each other to do more for the environment. Since my major is so closely intertwined with my daily lifestyle, it is important to me that I’m surrounded by people who share my struggles, passions, and triumphs. Struggling through three-hour labs has not been a walk in the park, but all of my hard work will pay off when I graduate with a degree I’m proud of and am excited to use. ​


American Sign Language

As an Honors student at DePaul, I am required to take a sequence of language courses that end in me reaching intermediate proficiency. For this requirement, I chose to focus on American Sign Language even though I had no prior knowledge of the language. As I finish my second quarter of ASL, I can honestly say it is nothing like I thought it would be. When I used to think about sign language, I thought of charades, miming, and trying to convey English words through body movements and hand signals. This is a huge misconception, and ASL is actually a complex, beautiful language of its own. It does not exactly mirror English as I had initially thought, but uses its own syntax and contains unique differences from English.

Another aspect of ASL at DePaul that was surprising for me is the idea of ‘deaf events.’ As a requirement for ASL classes, students must attend three of these events in which deaf people along with ASL students from all over Chicago interact and communicate with each other. We typically meet at either Starbucks or Blaze Pizza and spend a couple hours mingling and meeting new people. In most language classes, this would be completely unheard of. The opportunity to use what you are learning in class to communicate with others is incredibly helpful and I am glad that this is such an integral part of the classes I have taken. The ASL program at DePaul is truly a great program, and I would recommend taking an introductory class if you are at all interested!

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Discover Chicago

Discover Chicago was one of my favorite parts of freshman year at DePaul, and I’m so thankful for the experience I had. The course I enrolled in was called Nonprofits in Chicago: The Business of Helping, and was taught by Professor Melissa Markley. Throughout the quarter we traveled to nonprofits all over the city and spent time in class coming up with our own ideas for the nonprofits we envisioned within the city. By delving into the details of how each nonprofit worked, we were able to learn what a nonprofit needed to succeed and implement it into the creation of our own. This course inspired me in numerous ways and acted as a catalyst for me to become more involved in community service and volunteer work at DePaul. A few weeks into the quarter I even landed my first internship with a nonprofit, and I’m not sure I would have pursued that opportunity without this class.

For Discover courses, students arrive at school one week earlier than everyone else and are plunged into a week-long immersive experience traveling throughout the entire city of Chicago. In my class, we took field trips all over the city including to the Chicago History Museum, Ronald McDonald House, Tree House Humane Society, Pilsen Alliance, The Plant, and Growing Home. We traveled by bus and train, learning how to navigate the CTA along the way. Most of the days were pretty long, ranging from a few hours to all day. However, nothing compares to having an entire week to simply explore the city you’re going to call home for at least the next four years and learn about a specific aspect of it (for me it was nonprofits). It was also nice to have the campus to ourselves before the rest of the student body arrived.

My classmates from my Discover course are now some of my best friends, and the experience we shared brought us together in a different way than any of my other courses ever have. Last summer I even spent time traveling with a friend who I sat next to on the first day of Discover week. One of the best parts of this class is that each student picked it for a reason, so you’re all brought together by this passion you share. You’ll truly make connections that last, and I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything!


Fall Quarter Finals

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).​


Life as an Out of State Student

Being from another state has pushed me to be more independent and reliant on myself. Rather than being able to call my parents to come check out an apartment I am interested in, I have to be attentive and responsible and decide for myself whether it seems like a safe place to live and a good fit. Instead of going home when I get sick or have had a hard week like some of my friends are able to do, I do not have that option. Being completely on my own has pushed me to succeed on my own without falling back on anyone else, and I am proud of the accomplishments I have achieved while living here in Chicago.

Another thing that going to school in another state has taught me is to treasure the time I have with my family and friends at home. When I fly home for Thanksgiving in a couple weeks, I will not have been home for eight whole months! Since this is the case, when I do have a few days at home I make sure that I take full advantage of them. Rather than spending any time watching Netflix in my room, I’m usually hanging out with my grandma, going on lunch dates with friends I rarely see, or catching up with my five siblings. I don’t waste a single moment because I understand how precious this time truly is.

Although it is difficult when one of my roommates meets her family downtown for dinner and I’m missing my family, or my other roommate calls her parents to bring her something she forgot at home and I crave that convenience, I do not regret my decision to go to school in another state. I would not be the person I have become if I had not pushed myself to do this, and there is truly no place I would rather be than living and learning in Chicago. My experience at DePaul ​is simply not something I would have been able to have at any school in Ohio where I am from.


Alpha Omicron Pi Semi-Formal

 
As some of you may know I recently joined Alpha Omicron Pi which is a sorority here at DePaul. This past Saturday was our semi-formal, and it was one of my favorite experiences of this year! 

Here are a few reasons why:

  1. AOII Semi was on a yacht! Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Rather than having our semi-formal at some fancy hotel downtown, it was on a yacht that took us up and down the Chicago River. The backdrop of all of the beautiful skyscrapers lit up at night was truly indescribable, and it was an unforgettable experience I would likely not have gotten through any other organization.
  2. Chicago weather this October has been surprisingly perfect. On Saturday night it was warm enough for my friends and me to spend most of the night dancing up top on the open-air part of the yacht rather than down below deck. The weather could not have been more ideal!
  3. The food. Chipotle was catered this year, which meant endless amounts of guacamole for free! I did not even have to try to hide it under extra lettuce which was a huge perk. Eating good food while surrounded by beautiful buildings and dancing with my friends between bites made for such a fun time.
This year’s semi-formal was such a blast, and I can not wait to see what the rest of the year brings within Alpha Omicron Pi. I have only been a part of this amazing group of girls for less than a month, but it already is starting to feel like home!
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#WhyApply

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.


Bid Day

As recruitment came to an end last weekend, my nerves were at an all-time high. The night before bid day my roommates and I stayed up late running through every possible scenario, but we really did not know what to expect. On Sunday morning, hundreds of girls crowded into Cortelyou Commons to wait to see which sorority gave them a bid, and it was such an exciting environment! Everyone was dancing and having a good time while trying not to think about the sealed bid cards our recruitment counselors were holding.

When I opened my bid, I found out that I had received it from Alpha Omicron Pi. When I met with them for Preference Tea on Saturday I had really enjoyed the conversations I had and the people I spent time with, so I was really excited to receive an offer to join. After finding out my bid, I walked over to the quad where I “ran home” to Alpha Omicron Pi​. It was such a heartwarming experience to arrive at their spot on the quad and receive countless hugs from people I was excited to get to know better. Spirits were high and everyone was happy and excited to see the new members of their chapter.

After hanging out on the quad and taking tons of pictures, we headed to Buckingham Fountain to take even more! Everyone boarded trolleys and we ended up blasting some throwback hits and singing our hearts out the whole way there. The girls in AOII were all incredibly welcoming and inviting, which made the experience that much more fun.

Once a million pictures had been taken, we boarded the trolleys once again and headed back toward Lincoln Park to an arcade called Replay. When we arrived, there was tons of food waiting for us and free games to play ranging from pinball to Pacman. With icebreakers, good food, and lots of laughs, we ended the day right and had a blast doing so.

Bid day was a really great experience for me this year, and I am so glad I ended up signing up for recruitment and giving Greek life a chance. Although I came in with a lot of preconceived notions and misconceptions, the process taught me a lot about what Greek life at DePaul truly stands for, and I am incredibly excited to find out all that this year has to offer within AOII​ and the Panhellenic community as a whole. ​


Welcome Back!

With Fall Quarter beginning last Wednesday, DePaul students are finally getting back into the academic routine. For me, this means transitioning from focusing solely on working to balancing work with my class schedule and school activities. Although it will be a challenging ten weeks since I am taking five classes and maxing out my credit hours, I am eager to delve deeper into some of the subjects I’ll be studying such as Global Climate and American Sign Language .

Planner

Most students at DePaul typically take 16 credit hours per quarter which is a total of four classes. However, the tuition that you are paying includes 18 credit hours, so you get more for your money if you enroll in the full 18. This quarter, I am using this to my advantage by picking up an extra two credit class that fulfills a requirement for my Peace, Justice, and Conflict studies minor. Although I do not have to do this by any means, it is helping me to get ahead and potentially graduate early.

Taking this class along with my regular schedule is difficult, but it is manageable since a two credit hour class is not nearly as much work as my other classes. I highly recommend maxing out your credit hours, but it is also not necessary for many students. If it is going to be too much, don’t stress yourself out about it and simply take the normal amount. I’ve always been one to take on more than I can handle, so maxing out my credit hours was not a decision I took lightly.

For example, I signed up for 18 credit hours in the spring, but dropped my two credit hour class when I realized it was going to be too difficult to balance with my internship, job, and other activities. Finding what works for you is all about balance, and sometimes it takes making some mistakes to realize what will work best.

Succulents and Pens

Although I’ve only had one full day of classes, I can already tell this quarter is going to be full of interesting lectures/debates and engaging assignments. Taking 18 credit hours will be a challenge, but it is one that I am prepared for and excited about. Sophomore year is going to be a good one, I can already feel it!​


Why You Should Be Excited About Taking College Courses

Throughout high school, my class schedule was mainly dictated by which courses would allow me to receive college credit. Rather than taking classes I was interested in, I packed my schedule with AP​'s and dual enrollment courses. In college, the experience is a lot different and here's why.

As I began scheduling classes last summer, I realized just how vast my choices are now that I've entered an entirely new educational setting. There are still core courses required for every student, but they don't even come close to filling up an entire schedule. Rather than only taking classes that I have to take, I'm taking classes that I want to take. What an exciting concept! Even though homework, essays and finals aren’t exactly thrilling, they’re much easier to deal with when they’re centered around subjects that I'm excited and passionate about. A class centered entirely on the multitude and variety of food in Chicago? Sign me up! 

Class Schedule
Another thing I’ve noticed with college classes is that I have more free time than ever before. Instead of being in class for seven hours straight, five days a week, I'm in charge of choosing which times work best for me. Being able to create my own schedule allows me to do a number of things I couldn’t in high school, such as picking up a dog walking job in the morning or spending time during the week at an internship. 

In college, Rate My Professors​ is an extremely valuable resource for students across the entire nation. Before scheduling classes, I am able to see which professors will work best with my learning style, and which ones probably wouldn't be as good of a fit. Even though I am not always able to get into the classes with the professors I want, being able to look through reviews of all of them is helpful in the scheduling process.

We all had a guidance counselor in high school, but how many times did you actually meet with them one-on-one? If you're like most high school students, your answer is probably fairly low. In college, it's a completely different story. I've already been assigned two advisors, one is an advisor in my major and the other is an advisor in the honors program that I'm a part of. When I attended orientation, they helped me immensely with scheduling and figuring out a solid plan for my educational path. I had expected to be pretty much on my own because it's college and we're all supposed to be "experiencing the real world" and all that jazz, but my advisors went to great lengths to help me figure things out in regards to not only my schedule, but being a freshman in general. 

Throughout high school, many teachers constantly bombarded me with homework that was not beneficial to either me or my teacher. Frequently, a teacher would give an assignment and tell the class that we needed to do it simply because we didn't have any graded work in yet. For me, this seemed pointless and I tended to get pretty frustrated. Although it's scary that in college your final grade only depends on a few tests/papers, it also makes me relieved that I'll never have to do any more "busy work." 

Although my classes are much more challenging than they were in high school, having a say in my education makes it a lot more exciting than torturous. More time out of class also means more time studying but hey, at least I didn't schedule any 8 AM’s!

Introduction to Sustainability

As spring quarter began, I anxiously (and excitedly) awaited the start of my Introduction to Sustainability class. Having just declared my major as Environmental Studies with a Sustainability concentration, I was eager to dig in to a subject I was interested in and felt passionate about.

When I read through the syllabus for the class, one thing stuck out to me as especially daunting: the Impact Project. The main idea of the Impact Project is for students to lessen their environmental impact on specified days throughout the week by altering how they consume food, use transportation and electricity/water, and produce waste.

Shower Timer
The picture is of the shower timer I’m using
For food, students are encouraged to become vegetarian in order to conserve resources (such as land and water), reduce their carbon footprint, and lower the amount of methane emissions going into the atmosphere. Since I am already vegan I decided not to pursue this category, but many of the students in my class did choose it and are giving up many of the foods they previously thought they couldn’t live without.

For those who choose transportation, there is the option of either committing to entirely self-propelled transportation (biking, walking, etc.) or simply refraining from driving/riding in Ubers and instead taking public transportation. This seemed like a good challenge for me because I am often taking users when I am in a rush. Rather than paying extra money for an Uber, I have been trying to wake up a little bit earlier in order to make time for getting on the bus or the ‘L’.

In the electricity/water category, students are supposed to lessen their water and electricity use by at least 50% through strategies such as using a shower timer, unplugging appliances, charging electronics during the day so they’re not plugged in all night, etc. This part of the project has shown me that it’s easier than most people think to lessen shower time and conserve water.

Finally, the hardest category (for me anyway) is waste. On these days, students are challenged to produce zero waste. This includes food packaging, plastic bags, plastic cutlery, etc. I initially did not think it would be as hard as it seemed, but this changed immediately when I woke up and realized I couldn’t even eat my usual granola bar for breakfast because it was wrapped in plastic packaging. I am learning to carry around reusable containers/cutlery in my backpack and never leave home without my reusable water bottle.

Though the Impact Project has just started, I am already gaining a different perspective and understanding of the Earth and how I can make lifestyle changes that have the potential to significantly benefit it. Although this project is already extremely challenging, I can’t wait to learn more about what I can do to help the environment, and I’m so glad that DePaul offers classes that have the capacity to alter students lifestyles and make them into better and more well-rounded members of society.