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My New Grocery Obsession

My academic career at DePaul began four and a half years ago. Since then, as I’ve lived in Lincoln Park, I have sort of fallen into a rhythm of how I live my life. I know where I like to go, I know the exact route I like to walk, I know where I like to eat, I know where I like to shop. But at the end of the day, knowing all of that means that I just go to the same places over and over again, and I don’t try many new things anymore. 
  
Treasure Island Foods
Why is there a car in the middle of Treasure Island Foods? I don’t know. 
You know those places that you always walk by, and every time, you say to yourself, “I should really go there,” but you never actually end up going there? Recently, I finally stopped at one of the places that I had always passed but had never entered: Treasure Island Foods.

When I started at DePaul, the grocery store on campus was a Dominick’s rather than a Whole Foods. After Dominick’s closed, my dad suggested that I try out a place called Treasure Island Foods, located about six blocks away from the student center, but instead I started shopping at Trader Joe’s, a twenty-minute walk from campus. And when Whole Foods opened, I just started shopping at Whole Foods because… it’s convenient.

For whatever reason, I never went to Treasure Island… until about two weeks ago. But let me tell you: I will never go anywhere other than Treasure Island from now on. 

For starters, it’s so nice to go to a normal grocery store, rather than a specialty store, because I can buy name brand food again. Sometimes you just want Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing and not some off-tasting store brand, you know what I mean? 

More importantly, I’m saving so much money by shopping at Treasure Island. Not only are prices lower in general, but Treasure Island has some really good sales. But the biggest money saver is the 10% student discount. Yes. You read that right. Just for being a student, you get 10% off your groceries (just show your student ID!). You know I can’t resist a discount.

In all seriousness, I definitely suggest checking out Treasure Island Foods, if for no reason other than trying some samples. It’s so easy to get to, and the savings can really add up!

Mother's Day in Chicago

A few years ago, maybe when I was a sophomore, I didn’t go home for Mother’s Day. I had just been home the week before, and I think I was pretty busy working on stuff assignments for school, so my parents said I should just stay at school and get some work done. Probably around 2 P.M. on Mother’s Day, I got a call from my parents. On the other end of the phone was my mom, bawling her eyes out. Apparently, she discovered, Mother’s Day did mean a lot to her, and it was tough on her for us not to be together. Ever since then, my family has made it a priority to be together on Mother’s Day.
Sweet Mandy B's

This year for Mother’s Day, we had planned to go to one of the many farmer's markets around Chicago. On a side note, one of my favorite things to do when it’s nice out is to just walk around Chicago, and nothing makes me happier than stumbling across a farmers market that I had no clue about! I typically end up at the one at Division and Dearborn , since it’s about halfway between DePaul and Downtown. But alas, my parents got into Chicago later than expected, so we weren’t able to go to the farmers market.

We were, however, able to run over to my favorite breakfast spot, Ann Sather . I don’t know if you’ll ever find a better cinnamon roll (you can get up to four cinnamon rolls as part of included side dishes!). We spent some time at my mom’s favorite store in the world, Five Below , and then did a little bit of shopping at some thrift stores in Lincoln Park. Unsurprisingly, we ended our day at Sweet Mandy B’s to get some baked goods. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s nowhere better for anything sweet than Sweet Mandy B’s . In the end, not a single tear was shed on Mother’s Day.

Meet the Cookie Dough Brownie in the photo above. It’s a brownie (obviously) covered in a thick layer of cookie dough, then splashed with some chocolate ganache, and topped with some chocolate chip cookie crumbles. My mom and I both loved it (my dad got his favorite—the lemon bar).

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Sprinting to the Finish Line

Things are looking up for Willy. Even though it took me a little bit, I think my sleep schedule is finally back to normal. It was messed up way before I went to Madrid, but I think the jet lag may have helped to fix it in the long run. So, I’ve been enjoying sleeping decently again. Even though I was only in Madrid for 10 days, it felt so weird coming back to school. I seriously felt like I was gone for a month! My mind was already in summer break mode. It was tough to get back into the swing of things, but now I’m back on top of my game, and I’m excited to do some serious work on my thesis! 

FEST
Because I knew I was going to be gathering primary sources while I was in Madrid, I sort of pushed back the timeline for writing my thesis. I didn’t want to write chapters before I left because I knew I would end up rewriting the same chapters because I found new information in Madrid. I wanted to write my chapters around the material I would collect rather than try to jam the material into preexisting chapters. However, I ended up collecting about 325 pages of interview transcripts, so I’ve been trying to sort through all that information as quickly as possible so I can get back to actually writing my thesis. Hopefully, I’ll be able to start writing again by the end of this week!

Honestly though, I can’t believe that the end of the quarter is only about a month away! This school year went by so quickly for me. While the end of spring quarter signifies the beginning of summer break, at DePaul, the end of spring quarter also means that FEST, DePaul’s annual music festival, is quickly approaching! Just a few days ago, DePaul Activities Board (DAB) announced the lineup for FEST: Logic and Jesse McCartney​. Yes, Jesse McCartney. Your childhood dream of seeing Jesse McCartney will be coming true on May 26th. Tickets are only $10 and go on sale on May 15th, so make sure that you don’t miss out! 

Back from Madrid

When I wrote my last blog, which feels like forever ago, I was finishing up the first half of my time in Madrid. A week later, I’ve now returned from Madrid and I’m suffering from severe jet lag. I still haven’t totally processed the fact that I just spent ten days in Madrid. While part of me feels like my time in Madrid went by way too fast, another part of me feels that I had to have spent a lot longer than just ten days in Madrid. Maybe that’s just because I did so much in ten days; according to my phone, I walked over 75 miles while I was in Madrid (the weather was amazing, so I never took the subway). I’m very happy to be home, but not so excited about returning to my uneventful day-to-day life. 
 
View from airplane
My first glimpse of Chicago on my way back from Madrid. 
The real reason I went to Madrid was to do research for my thesis, and surprisingly, my research actually went way better than I ever anticipated. The DePaul Graduate Research Fund paid for me to go to Madrid so that I could visit both the National Library of Spain and an independent archive to gather sources for my thesis. However, I unknowingly booked my trip during Easter festivities in Spain, so the library and the archive were closed for several days while I was in Madrid.

To make matters worse, about a week before I left for Madrid, the archive’s website suddenly said that the archive would be closed until January 2018 for renovations. Just my luck, right? WRONG. Even though I was convinced the archive was closed, I was also pretty deeply in denial. One day, because I’m so obsessive, I decided to take a quick walk just to at least see the building of the archive. Shockingly, I discovered that not only was the archive open, but also that I would be able to take home copies of the documents that I wanted to study!

Before becoming convinced that the archive was closed, I had planned to spend three days at the archive, taking notes on as many documents as I could go through. Now, in a fortunate twist of fate, I could take the documents home, spend as much time on them as I wanted, and spend even more time at the National Library in the meantime! For a master’s student, that’s about as exciting as things can get. Now to get back to actually writing my thesis.

Why I Love DePaul

It’s pretty clear that I love DePaul. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t have stayed at DePaul to get my master’s. I could have bounced right after the first four years and never looked back. Why didn’t I? Because DePaul has become a second home to me.

To be honest, the major reason I chose DePaul is because I wanted to be in Chicago. First and foremost, despite growing up in a town of less than 10,000, I always knew that I wanted to go to school in a big city. Plus, like I wrote about a few months ago, most of my extended family lives in the suburbs, so I was never completely on my own. And because it’s Chicago, there are always so many ways for me to get home to Wisconsin whenever I want. Most significantly, I had the best memories of taking trips to Chicago to see musicals with my dad, so being in the city had a lot of nostalgia for me.

Willy
Look at all the school spirit I had at my high school graduation party way back in the day.
Being in Chicago brings with it a lot of opportunities and possibilities. Because I chose to do the Discover Chicago program, I spent my first week at DePaul running around Chicago, examining issues of criminal justice. We sent books to women in prison, met with prison reform advocates, and toured the Chicago History Museum. And that kind of unique hands-on interaction really made a lasting impression on me. Professors construct assignments based on the opportunities here in Chicago; I’ve had to go to Spanish cultural activities, observe labor demonstrations, visit memorials, and go to film festivals for various classes. It’s a deeper way of learning that I really appreciate.

And most importantly, I’ve just had really good experiences with professors at DePaul. Just a few days ago, I was talking to one of my past professors (who is also one of the members of my thesis committee), and we were laughing about how I feel the need to list all of the ways that she’s changed my life every time I write her an email. But it’s totally true. My professors have pushed me to expect so much more from myself and for myself. When I first came to DePaul, my only goal was to graduate within four years. That was it. But my professors made me realize I had the potential to do so much more. Four and a half years after starting at DePaul, I just returned from a DePaul-funded research trip to Madrid and I’m finishing up my master’s in International Studies. It’s a no-brainer for me to say that I chose the right university.

Easter in Madrid

Hola! I’m writing to you all the way from Madrid, Spain, where the weather has been so perfect, I ended up walking around for 8 hours yesterday. As a result, I now blend in when I stand in front of a stop sign. 

Despite the sunburn, it probably goes without saying that I’m having the time of my life right now. Both fortunately and unfortunately, I have a lot of free time to enjoy Madrid because I messed everything up. When I booked the trip, my one goal was to travel as early in the quarter as possible, so that I could keep up with my classes and still have a chance at finishing my thesis on time. Logical, right? Nevertheless, somehow, despite my intense research on air fares and hotels, I seemingly missed the fact that my trip coincided with Easter.
 
Grand Via
This is the view of Gran Vía from my balcony. Yes, you read that right. My balcony. Overlooking the busiest street in Madrid. I’m living it up. 
So while I’m here to do research for my thesis, most of the places where I’m trying to do research are closed a few days for Easter weekend. As a person who wants to get work done, it’s slightly frustrating, but as a human being, I’ll happily take any free time in Madrid. So far, in my free time, I’ve discovered that one of the traditional Spanish Easter pastries, the torrija, is actually a modified version of French toast, but somehow way creamier. I mean, the center is almost like a custard. I thought it was going to be terrible, but now I’m craving it and I think I’ll get another tomorrow.

In case you didn’t know, DePaul is funding my research here in Madrid through the Graduate Research Funding program. This trip is really all about working on my thesis. I spent a few days last week at the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library) going through newspaper archives, and I’m hoping to spend as much time as possible going through transcripts of interviews at a different archive this week. Until then, I’ll be eating as much torrija as possible!

Presenting and Flying

I’m a perfectionist, so I have a tendency to put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. While I appreciate that it pushes me to do quality work, I’m not so much a fan of the anxiety I give myself. I just unnecessarily stress myself out a lot. For the past few months, I have been stressing myself out about presenting at the Midwest Political Science Association conference. Back in October, I applied to present because, I mean, why not? But after I got accepted to the conference, and as the date of the conference got closer and closer, I just really started psyching myself out.

Presenting
On one of the 500+ pages of this book, you will find my name. Good luck searching. In case you were wondering, this thick book is just a schedule of the presentations.

In the weeks running up to the conference, I regularly panicked about whether or not my paper was good enough, and I had trouble falling asleep because my mind would keep running. I psyched myself out so much that the day before I was scheduled to present, I decided to reorganize my whole paper and re-do my entire presentation. Against every piece of advice, I never slept the night before my presentation, choosing instead to change and revise my presentation. I may have gone a little crazy.

But on Friday, I finally presented my paper, and you know what? It went better than I ever anticipated. Not only did I get really good feedback, but I discovered that I just really like being at conferences. I loved going to panels and sessions to hear what other people are researching, and if you’ve never been in the Palmer House, it’s beautiful (and surprisingly huge—I got lost a few times). So, despite the mental torture that I put myself through, I’m actually super happy that I did the conference!

I’m writing this blog from my bed in Wisconsin. Even though the conference isn’t over, I had to run home right after my presentation so that I could finish packing for my trip to Madrid! I can’t believe it’s already time for me to go. It feels like I booked my trip just a few weeks ago, but now I leave in less than 24 hours! Next time you hear from me, I’ll be writing to you from Madrid while chomping on churros (and, of course, while doing lots and lots of research).

My Final Spring Quarter

​Welcome to spring quarter, everyone! I hope you all had a great spring break. I’m finishing up the master’s part of my BA/MA program, and I was just thinking, everything is becoming a “last” for me again. That was my last spring break at DePaul, and this is my final spring quarter at DePaul. It’s sort of sad, particularly because I had a ridiculously busy spring break. So much so, in fact, that I’m currently pretending that I’m on spring break. I’m only taking two courses this quarter, so my schedule allowed me to head home on Wednesday and try to relax a bit. Of course, I’m still doing a ton of work at home, so it’s not very much of a break, but being home makes me feel like I’m on a break. I’m enjoying it.

Madrid
I took this screenshot the night that I booked my trip to Madrid. As you can see, when I booked the trip, I was 49 days away from check-in. I’m now down to single digits.
But really, I’m home right now because I’m trying to rest up before tackling one of the most exciting and stressful weeks of my life. This week is the big one. In between thesis work and homework, I’ve been working on my presentation for the Midwest Political Science Association Conference. Lucky for me, the conference is just downtown, so I don’t even have to figure out travel plans. I could walk there if I wanted to!

During the official spring break for DePaul, I laid on my couch and stressed myself out about finishing my paper for the conference. Now, during my unofficial spring break, I’m lying on my couch, eating cake, and stressing out to a lesser degree over the presentation. At least I’m making progress, right? I present at the conference on Friday, and you better believe that I’m going to treat myself with Pizza Hut afterwards.

Then, just two days after the conference, I’m flying out to Madrid. I can’t believe how fast time has gone by! It’s crazy to think that I booked my trip less than two months ago and now I’ve already started to pack. I’m going to Madrid to do archival research for my thesis, so I want to make the most of my time. I’ve been doing whatever I can to prepare; I’m going to an archive with transcripts of over two hundred interviews, so I’m going through the list of interviews and creating a new, organized list that arranges the interviews in order of priority based on guesstimated relevance.

All in all, it’s a busy, but exciting, time in Willy’s life right now. Be on the lookout for my upcoming blogs from Madrid, where I will be regaling you with stories of my experiences while also vociferously praising the DePaul Graduate Research funding program for making my trip possible.

Wrapping Up Winter Quarter

It’s to the point in the quarter where I’ve lost all track of time. I’ve stopped trying to keep track of the month or what day of the week it is. I was in shock last week when I found out I had to start working on finals already. I feel like I just finished midterms! But it turns out that I just haven’t been paying attention to how much time has passed. I’ve just been trying to keep my head down and race to the finish line this quarter.

On Saturday, I started my day by throwing a tantrum that the Pizza Hut on campus suddenly closed. For the record, I’m still only in the bargaining phase of the five stages of grief. After temporarily regaining my composure, I went out to go grab a wrap for lunch. It took me twenty minutes to figure out why everyone except me was inebriated and wearing green. I thought St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t for two more weeks! To be fair, I’m not that far off since St. Patrick’s Day isn’t until the 17th. But still, I probably still would have been just as blindsided.

Food
The most important thing is that the wrap that I bought was delicious.
Anyways, I got my sub, went home, ate it, and got back to work on finals. It was starting to get late, so I glanced over at my clock and saw that it was 1:45am. “Okay,” I told myself, “I’ll just work until 2 and then go to bed.” I look up just a few minutes later and I see that it’s now 3:04am. You guys, I panicked hard. I thought maybe I fell asleep, but I didn’t remember sleeping or waking up. Then, I thought that maybe my laptop was breaking and the clock on it wasn’t working anymore. But my phone read the same time. I felt like I was living in The Twilight Zone. A half hour later, I discovered that Daylight Savings Time had just started.

Needless to say, I haven’t really been on top of things lately. Between my thesis, finals, preparing to present at the conference, and getting everything ready for Madrid, I’m desperately trying just to keep my head above water. But I’ll admit that it’s somewhat a relief to know that finals will be done in just a few days.

Planning for Madrid

In less than five weeks, I’ll be on my way to Madrid. I’m already to the point of excitement where I can barely fall asleep at night. I usually end up lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, just thinking about all the things that I’m going to do in Madrid. I’m boring like that. But with my trip coming up so quickly, it’s probably actually a good idea for me to start preparing plans for my time in Madrid.

As I’ve been working on my thesis, I’ve been forced to accept that not everything is accessible online. Since I’m researching Spain, it would make sense that there are some resources that are only available in Spain. The Graduate Research Funding program is paying for me to go to Madrid so that I can access those kinds of resources. To that end, I officially submitted my library card application for the National Library of Spain last night. The personal significance cannot be understated. With this application, I will finally able to settle my personal vendetta against the National Library of Spain.

National Library of Spain
This is a picture of the National Library of Spain that I took after the security guards refused to let me enter. Depending on the outcome of my library card application, they very well may have to let me in this time.
Back when I was studying in Madrid in 2014, one of my professors in Madrid recommended that I visit the National Library, knowing that I worked at DePaul’s library and would probably be interested in seeing the National Library. Very excited about this suggestion, I ran over to the National Library that same day after class. However, when I tried to enter, I was told that I would need a researcher ID card in order to enter, and was politely directed to the exit. Over two years later, I’ve only become more bitter about being rejected. This time, with card in hand, no one will be able to stop me from looking at books.

While I’m very excited about restoring my pride and digging through archives in the National Library, I’m mostly excited to eat my way through Madrid again. I already have a prioritized list on my phone of all the food that I need to consume once again. Expect a comprehensive blog about my culinary escapades after I get back.

Weekend with My Family

I’m heading to my family reunion as I’m writing this blog, and I’m so pumped. I look forward to my family reunion every year. Well, technically, my family has two family reunions every year: one in February, where we spend the weekend at a hotel, and one in August, where we throw a big summer party. In case you’re wondering, I’m going to the February one.

Fun fact: one of the main reasons I chose to go to college in Chicago is because I wanted to be closer to my extended family. My dad’s side of the family is incredibly tight-knit. My dad was the youngest of ten children, eight of whom ended up living in the suburbs. I ended up with fifteen cousins and, of course, I’m the youngest. Growing up as an only child, my cousins were the closest thing I ever had to siblings, so it felt natural for me to move closer to them when I went to college. 

Family
Just for kicks, here’s a real old school throwback picture of me and my cousins from one of the summer parties. Probably 2004 or 2005. I’m pretty easy to spot.
Six months into my freshman year, living close to family came in very handy for me. Heed my warning: when you get a really bad sore throat, go get it checked out. I did not, I thought it went away, a month later I woke up, thought I saw a balloon in the back of my throat because it was so swollen, and knew I had to go to the ER. At that moment in my life, the last thing I felt like doing was taking public transit to the hospital. But just ten minutes after calling my dad, I got a call from my cousin, asking me where I lived. Of course, my response was, “I don’t know,” because I really didn’t know my address. She somehow found me and we eventually ended up at the ER. It turned out that my airway was partially obstructed, so I’m pretty lucky that she figured out where I live.

In summary, I’m looking forward to my family reunion. Not just because my airway is no longer partially obstructed, but also because I get to relax after writing my first thesis chapter!

I’m Going to Madrid (Again)

In the fall of my junior year at DePaul, I went and studied abroad in Madrid for a quarter (you can read more about that here). I was a Spanish and International Studies double major, so I figured I should probably visit a Spanish-speaking country at some point. To say that it changed my life would be an understatement. I encourage anyone and everyone who has the opportunity to study abroad to do so.
 
I consider studying in Spain to be one of the greatest decisions of my life. Not only did studying abroad help me improve my Spanish and nearly complete my Spanish major, but studying in Spain also inspired me to get my master’s in International Studies and write my thesis on the Spanish transition to democracy.
 
Madrid
I’m going back to Madrid and I’ve never been more excited about anything in my entire life.
A little over two years after returning from Madrid, I sat in the International Studies department conference room and defended my thesis proposal. At some point during my defense, I made an offhand comment about how I was having a hard time finding some specific information on the transition because so many records and papers aren’t available online and are only held in Madrid.
 
The members of my thesis committee encouraged me to apply to the Graduate Research Fund, which funds graduate students who want to conduct research or present at a conference. At the very last moment possible (you can’t even imagine), I submitted my application for funding to go dig around in some archives in Madrid.
 
Ever since I submitted the application, I haven’t been able to think about anything else. I’ve just been looking up flights and hotels in the hope that I’d be accepted. And then, finally, just a few hours ago, I got the email. My request for funding had been approved. I started screaming and booked everything right away. In less than two months, I’ll be on the plane back to Madrid.

Breaking My Bad Habit

So, I have a lot of terrible habits in my life. That should surprise no one. I am a super bad nail biter, I procrastinate a lot, I’m a stress eater, I have a tendency to make impulsive purchases (especially when it comes to buying things for other people), I’m never on time for anything… The list goes on and on. I don’t think it’s even up for debate that I have way more bad habits than I have good habits. Recently, one of my worst habits has gotten even worse.

I’ve written before about how stressed I get, and about my attempts to cope with stress. Whenever I get stressed, I sort of shut down and withdraw from the outside world. It’s really not the worst response to stress; it sort of has the effect of eliminating distractions and forcing me to focus all of my energy on addressing the cause of the stress. 

During finals, I might be stressed for a week or two. Prolonged stress can be mentally and physically taxing. In those situations, I typically try to give myself one free day to do literally anything else so I can give my mind a break. I’ll schedule all of the work that I need to around that one day. On that day, I usually take a long walk, go downtown, work out, and treat myself to some of my favorite food and watch a movie. Anything to distract my mind and that makes me stop putting pressure on myself for a little bit. 

Long Walk
It felt so good to finally get out of my room today.
Since I started work on my thesis last summer, I’ve reached a new level of stress in my life, and I haven’t been coping with it well at all. I’ve always been able to power through the stress of finals because finals might only last a week or two. With my thesis, I’ve been dealing with constant finals-level stress for six months at this point, and I won’t be done with my thesis for at least another four months. 

At some point, I suddenly just stopped letting myself take days off like I used to. Whenever I thought about taking a day off to escape from the stress, I would think about how much work goes into a thesis, and I’d force myself to stay at home and do more work instead. Of course, since I never allowed myself to recover, I’d struggle to focus, the quality of my work would decrease, and I’d get even more stressed. As a result, for the past six months, I essentially lived Rapunzel’s life. I locked myself away, and I only let myself leave for class or groceries. When I had to go out for special occasions, I was always doing work in my head and writing down ideas in my phone.

This week, I had a moment of clarity and decided that I had to cut myself some slack. I went to the gym twice this week (something that probably hasn’t happened in six months), took a mini-road trip with my cousin, and today, I finally let myself take my long walk again. Suddenly, everything seems a lot more manageable. 

Valentine’s Week Ideas

It’s that dreaded time of year again. Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. For people not currently dating anyone, it has the potential to be super depressing, but it can also be the perfect opportunity to show appreciation for friends (don’t forget, February 13th is Galentine’s Day). For people in a relationship, it can be a time of great financial expenditures. Luckily for me, I live far away from my significant other and have no friends, so my only concern is which flavor ice cream to buy. But for people who are trying to figure out plans, I’ve come up with a few flexible ideas that can fit into any schedule, but will still make this year’s celebration extra special:

Chicago Theatre Week is a total misnomer because it actually runs for ten days: February 9-19. Over those ten days, you have the chance to go see tons of discounted plays, improv shows, and musicals. This is your opportunity to act super cultured. Tickets for shows participating in Chicago Theatre Week are typically $15-$30, but some are even cheaper than that. 
 
Eataly
There’s no better way to spend Valentine’s Day than watching someone make fresh mozzarella at Eataly. 
If you want to do something really romcom-like, head over to Eataly for some fun classes and cooking demonstrations. Seriously, there’s something for every budget level. For those of us with the least resources, for $10, you can celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 11th by watching someone make mozzarella by hand and then sampling the fresh cheese. If you’re looking for something a little more fancy (and filling), you can learn how to make lasagna from a real chef for just $25 on February 15th. And, of course, you get to eat the lasagna afterwards! Take note: these classes fill up quick, so sign up soon!

If you’re looking for something a little more active, try Ice Skating at Lincoln Park Zoo. The rink is only open until February 26, so this could be your last chance to live your Olympic fantasy! As far as Valentine’s Day dates go, this one is pretty affordable: just a $5 admission, $5 to rent a pair of skates, and probably a few more dollars for ice packs after you fall. 

The Next Phase of My Thesis

Previously, on the “Willy is Getting His Master’s” show, I was a mess. I mean, you can read that blog and tell I was a mess. Not much has changed in that regard, but I am in a completely different place in the thesis process now, which is VERY EXCITING. I’ve been working on thesis research for a long, long, long time. Like, at least a year and a half now. In that time, I’ve read so much on my topic and my topic has gone through so many revisions. 

For the past few months, I’ve been slowly putting together my thesis proposal, which essentially outlines my argument, some preliminary research, and the general outline of my thesis. Right at the end of Fall Quarter, I decided to sort of shift my topic and take a different approach. I threw out most of the work that I had done up until that point and started anew. Well, this week, I successfully defended my thesis proposal! WOOHOO! This means I can finally get started on actually writing my thesis. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m so excited to finally be done with the proposal.
 
MPSA
I’m almost as proud of this picture as I am of the picture of me auditioning for American Idol back in the day. 
On a similar note, one day back in October, I got an email from the International Studies department that the following day was the deadline for applications to present at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference. I was pretty sure that I had no interest in presenting, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to apply anyways. Sure enough, I got accepted! Despite my initial apathy, and despite now being incredibly nervous and intimidated, I’m officially registered to present at the Conference in April! I have no clue what the preparation process for presenting will look like, but I will definitely keep you all in the loop! 

I Saw Hamilton

Yes, you read that title right. I finally saw Hamilton. I’m just as shocked as you are. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Hamilton is the musical phenomenon of the decade. An R&B/rap musical based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers and the first U.S. Secretary of State, Hamilton is easily the hottest ticket on Broadway. Ever since it premiered in February of 2015, virtually every performance has sold out. It has won 11 Tony awards, a Grammy, and a Pulitzer Prize. Last October, Hamilton officially opened in Chicago.

Hamilton
For the past six months, I was lucky enough to intern at a fantastic non-profit organization where I was able to work with some unbelievably smart and kind people. I always felt valued and appreciated, which isn’t something everyone can say. Still, my mind was blown when, as a (very big) token of appreciation, my supervisor gave me and my boyfriend tickets to go see Hamilton. We’ve been waiting for months, and last Wednesday, it was finally time for the show.

It was so worth the wait. It’s so much better than I ever could have imagined. And best of all, Wayne Brady had just joined the cast the day before. The cast was phenomenal, and the music is so catchy. However, I’m not going to lie: I feel like I barely watched the actual actors. Since some of the raps go so fast, there’s a little prompter on the side of the stage that displays the lyrics for the audience. I swear, my eyes were glued to the prompter. But when I did glance over, it was a beautiful thing to witness. I can’t tell you how badly I want to see it again. Ever since I came home from the show, I’ve just been watching the PBS documentary on Hamilton on a constant loop. I’m addicted. Trust me, you need to see it. However, it’s pretty much sold out, so your best bet is the lottery (and if you win, tickets are only $10!). Luckily for you, I’ve already written a blog all about the Hamilton​ lottery, so you have no excuse not to try!

Winter Quarter 2017: Things to Do

I’m always grateful that I go to a school where there is so much to do. Not that I have a ton of free time, but I like to venture outside of my bedroom occasionally. When I do finally go outside, I want to make the most of my time. These are the events that I’m looking at this quarter:

January 23rd: Are Ya Smarter than Your Professor

Blue Demon Dance
DePaul Activities Board (DAB) is hosting an awesome event pitting students against professors in a trivia game-show style event that definitely has nothing to do with and is not inspired by the TV show Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? I might show up just on the off chance that there are some questions about Parks and Recreation and the students might need my expertise.

February 22nd: The Scholar’s Improv 2: Academic Boogaloo

I love the DePaul Humanities Center. This quarter, they’re reprising a popular improv event starring comedians and professors. In between improv sketches performed by the comics, professors improvise a lecture as they present a PowerPoint that they’ve never seen before. Not only is it hilarious, but it gives you an appreciation for what professors actually do on the daily.

February 23rd: Polarpalooza

Every year, DAB hosts a big, free winter concert, just for DePaul students: Polarpalooza. Every winter, 600 students fill up Lincoln Hall for a private concert with an up-and-coming music act. Tickets are free, but limited, so you have to be on your game if you want to snap up some tickets. DAB has a knack for picking acts that get way bigger right after performing at Polarpalooza (see: Fun., Walk the Moon, Chance the Rapper). Be sure to check out their website at the beginning of February when they announce the performer!

February 25th: Blue Demon Dance

Every year, DAB also hosts a dance for DePaul students. It’s held somewhere fancy off-campus (last year it was held at Navy Pier!) and there’s food and music, and dancing, I assume. Keep an eye on DAB’s website ​to see where the Blue Demon Dance will be held this year!


There’s a Rooster in My Basement

Welcome back to winter quarter! I don’t know if it was just me, but for whatever reason, winter break seemed to go by faster than ever this year. I’m guessing it just seems that way because I stayed in Chicago for most of the break and only went home for a few weeks at the end. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love going home. It’s relaxing, I get to see my parents, I get to sleep in my real bed… But let me tell you about the last few weeks that I spent at home: there’s a rooster in my basement.

Yes, you read that right. Let me paint the picture for you. So, after finishing up my last day at my internship and traveling several hours back to Wisconsin, I get home pretty late at night.  I’m excited to be home, but I’m ready to relax and recover from the stress of school. I go into my room and see a tidy stack of freshly washed and folded sheets and pillowcases laying on my bed. My parents are so nice to me. Resting on top of my still-warm sheets, however, is a small box of ear plugs. I ask my parents why there’s a box of ear plugs on top of my bed. In response, I’m told that it’s “so the rooster won’t wake me.” Yes, this is how I was informed there was a rooster in my house. Apparently, it somehow slipped their mind to inform me of the new resident. 

“Don’t worry,” my dad reassures me, “he only crows from 6am to about noon.”

“He’s never done that before,” my dad also says to me when I call at 4pm the next day to ask why the rooster is still crowing.
 
Krokus
This is the culprit. His name is Krokus. 
While my sleep was indeed severely negatively impacted (I lost the entire box of ear plugs before even falling asleep on the first night), I can’t be that mad. My mom volunteers at an animal sanctuary every week. She loves it and says that volunteering there has been the best decision of her life. However, my mom has also always been a bleeding heart with animals, which can cause some problems. Apparently, the barn at the animal sanctuary isn’t heated, so every winter, the sanctuary has to find temporary homes for all of the chickens. Of course, in comes my mother, eagerly volunteering to host a loud, flying, barnyard animal in our basement for the winter. And that is why I’m happy to be back in Chicago.

Winter Break in Chicago

The end of Fall Quarter is upon us. More importantly, Winter Break is just around the corner! This winter is the first winter that I will be mostly staying in Chicago instead of heading home back to Madison! And I’m so excited to spend break in Chicago. But let’s be honest. The real question is: What am I going to do in Chicago over Winter Break? If you’re like me and you’re staying in Chicago, here are a few fun things to do to celebrate the season:

McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade (November 24th): If you have the opportunity, head down to State Street at 8am on Thanksgiving morning (or turn on WGN if you can’t make it downtown). The McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade is fun Chicago tradition that features a ton of local organizations and talent, including the Windy City Ghostbusters. That’s reason enough to go.
 
Thanksgiving Parade
I’d go to the parade just to see this Arthur balloon, to be honest.
Christkindlmarket (Now-December 24th): I’ve never bought anything at Christkindlmarket, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to go to Christkindlmarket. Set up in Daley Plaza, Christkindlmarket is the crowded German Christmas shopping village that you never knew you needed. Perfect for shopping for gifts or eating vaguely European foods.

Winter WonderFest (December 2nd to January 8th): Every year, Navy Pier holds a huge indoor winter festival that I always miss. While a ticket to enter Winter WonderFest costs a bit of money ($25), there’s so much to do. You can ride one of the many rides, play mini golf, sled, or go ice skating, all in a single room. How crazy is that!?

Chi-Town Rising (December 31st): Last year, Chicago launched a New Year’s Eve celebration. This year, it’s coming back, bigger and better. This is your chance to party along the Chicago River as you ring in the New Year. Tickets are free (I’d register now if I were you) and, as of now, Chicago (the band) and American Authors are scheduled to perform.

Update: My Life as a Master’s Student

​I’ve written almost 50 blogs for DeBlogs. When I started at DeBlogs, I had so many ideas that I knew I wanted to write about. But after about the 30th blog, it started getting a little trickier to come up with new ideas off the top of my head. I was coming to the end of the list of things that I thought more people needed to know about (like Demon Discounts or all of the resources at the Library), so I just started writing more about my experiences and basically what I had been doing for the past week.

So every week, I sit down and grab my phone and go through all of the pictures that I’ve taken recently. Usually, I’ll find a picture that’s funny or has a good story, and then I’ll go write about where I was or what I was doing when I took that picture. Well, today, I went to look through my pictures. What do I find? Just a wall of pictures of random pages from books and my notebook and two pictures of bags of oranges in front of a sign that says “Apples” (see photo). Now, I know that I’m not the first person to take photos of pages in a book. I didn’t invent the wheel either. But this wasn’t just one day where I studying and snapping pictures of books —these pictures were taken over a five-day period.

Willy's Photos
This is very representative of my life right now.

So I guess what I’m saying is that my life has revolved around schoolwork and my internship this quarter. Since I’m a BA/MA student, I’ve had to take three graduate courses this quarter. A typical graduate course load is just two courses. I started the quarter off strong and thought that I’d be able to handle everything. By the third week, I had submitted my letter of resignation to the library, where I had worked since my sophomore year. The BA/MA program is no joke. It’s been incredibly challenging, but it’s also been so exciting to see myself progress in my research. I still so happy that I chose to do the BA/MA program. But in all honesty, nothing is more exciting to me than the fact that Winter Break is just a few weeks away.

Get Ready for Finals

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Now let me spoil your celebrations. News flash: hold on to your hat because finals are quickly approaching. I hope you’re ready. Finals Week officially begins on Wednesday, November 16th—just a little over two weeks away! However, if your schedule is anything like mine (I hope for your sake that it isn’t), your finals are coming up even sooner than that. My last final is due on November 14th, two days before the start of the so-called “Finals Week.” How does that make any sense!? It doesn’t. But it does mean that I have to start getting ready for finals ASAP. Now, as a master’s student, this is my fifth year of finals. I know what I’m doing. I’ve developed and perfected my own strategies for getting through finals. Here are a few of my suggestions:

-- Ideally, start working on your finals as early as possible. As teachers and professors have told you a thousand times, if you do a little bit of studying, reading, and writing every day, you’ll retain the information better and finals will be a breeze for you. Plus, you have time to go back and edit your writing. If this is how you work, be proud of yourself and know that I’m extremely jealous.
Halloween
In honor of Halloween, my mom dug out several different pieces of costumes that I wore when I was in elementary school. Here I am modeling a Harry Potter robe and part of a grim reaper costume. It had a hood, but it covered my face, so my parents made me cut it off.

-- Be realistic about yourself. If you wait until the last minute to do homework, you’re probably going to wait until the last minute to prepare for finals. So even though working a little bit each day is ideal, you can’t expect to suddenly adopt that kind of schedule just in time for finals. Instead, try to set achievable goals and benchmarks that improve, rather than change, how you normally work.

-- Building on that idea, prepare for the worst case scenario. I know that I’m a severe procrastinator. I always try to work on that. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not. But I’m always prepared in case I procrastinate until the last minute. So now in the days leading up to finals, I’ll try to stock up on healthy(-ish) snacks and get extra sleep so that I’m as clear-headed as possible if I need to pull an all-nighter to write the essay that I’ve had four weeks to write.


Halloween in Chicago 2016

I can’t say it enough: I love fall. I’ve written about how much I love fall many times. I do not get bored of talking about how much I love fall. But as much as I love fall in general, I especially love Halloween and everything Halloween related. And everyone around me is an enabler: my parents and multiple members of my extended family contact me every time that Hocus Pocus is airing on TV. So you can just imagine how much I love being in Chicago for Halloween.

One of the best things about living in Chicago is that there’s always something to do. It’s hard to be bored. This is especially true for the Halloween season. Here are a couple of things to do in Chicago to get into the Halloween spirit:

The Horror of the Humanities: Pontypool (October 26th): I’ve written before​ about how amazing I think the DePaul Humanities Center is. On Wednesday, they will be hosting a super eclectic and creepy event that will totally gear you up for Halloween. The event begins with some sort of interactive Halloween/haunted house exhibit. But the meat of the event is a screening of the zombie film Pontypool and a discussion with the director and star of the film. 

The DePaul Humanities Center
Halloween at Navy Pier (October 29th): Okay, so this event really runs the 28th-31st, but I highly recommend going on the 29th if you can. Not only will you be able to see that day’s costume contest (there’s one each of the days), but Navy Pier will be hosting an outdoor screening of The Addams Family, and Miller Lite is sponsoring a big Halloween Fireworks show at 9:30pm. 

Northalstead Halloween Parade (October 31st): If you’re looking for something to do on the day of Halloween, look no further. I don’t know you, but I do know that the Northalstead Halloween Parade is exactly what you’re looking for. Northalstead Halloween Parade hosts Chicago’s largest costume contest. This year, there are over 2,000 (!!) registered entries for the contest. And the parade is held in Boystown, so you know these people aren’t playing around. The theme this year is “Scream, Queen!,” so I don’t think I need to say anymore.

Fall at Home in Wisconsin

Willy
Here I am as a child sitting outside of the same petting farm/corn maze that I went to this weekend. Always been about that fall life.
I’m an only child, so it’s been just me and my parents my whole life. As a result, I’m super close with my parents. From the moment that I started my college search back in high school, I knew that I wanted to go to college in a city that would allow me to visit home as frequently as I wanted. Not only is Chicago relatively close to my hometown of Oregon, Wisconsin (located just outside of Madison), but Chicago offers so many transportation options. Between two airports, Megabus, Greyhound, and Amtrak, you never have to be that far away from home. And ever since I got into a long-distance relationship with someone living back in Madison a year and a half ago, I’ve become even more grateful that I live somewhere where I can buy a Megabus ticket home for just $1. 

Corn Maze
Apparently I got so excited towards the end of the corn maze that I just started running. I don’t remember this happening. 
So  let me tell you why I went home this weekend. First off, I love Chicago. I may have grown up in a town of under 10,000 people, but I’m definitely meant to live in a city. If nothing else, I love how late restaurants are open. That’s reason enough for me to stay in Chicago after graduation. Having said that, there are no corn fields in Chicago. As both a fall enthusiast​ and a transplant from Wisconsin, corn mazes are extremely important to me (see picture for proof). Fall is incomplete without a corn maze. Over my 22 years of life, I think there’s only been one or two years where I haven’t been able to make it to a corn maze (and I don’t like to talk about those years). So this year, I blocked out some time so that I could head home and get my corn maze fix on. After picking pumpkins, feeding a goat, running through the corn maze, and drinking a life-endangering amount of apple cider, I realized that my $1 ticket home was totally worth it. 
​​

Harry Potter Is Back on the Big Screen

​Who doesn’t love the Harry Potter movies (and books)!? Some of the best memories from my childhood are the times when my mom would take me out of school early so that we could go see a new Harry Potter movie that had come out that day. The Harry Potter movies are amazing no matter what, but there’s something special about watching them in a movie theater. If you never got that chance, NOW IS YOUR TIME TO SHINE.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Starting on Wednesday, October 13, the entire Harry Potter series is coming back to IMAX screens for just ONE WEEK. Luckily for us, there’s a participating IMAX movie theater just a twenty-minute bus ride away from DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus. Regal Cinemas City North will be showing each movie multiple times over the week (you can see the schedule of Harry Potter screenings here). And I haven’t even told you the best part: it’s actually pretty affordable. Going to a single movie (on IMAX, nonetheless) only costs $6, but the real deal is the $30 event pass that lets you go to as many showings as you want over the week. That means that you could potentially go to 42 screenings for just $30. THAT IS A STEAL.

This week-long event is a big promotion for the upcoming movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a spin-off of Harry Potter set to be released on November 18. If this week-long Harry Potter overload has you amped up for Fantastic Beasts, be sure to keep up with DePaul Activities Board (DAB). Every year, DAB does some kind of big ticket giveaway for the premiere screening of huge movie. A few years ago, my friends and I got tickets to go see Maleficent and we had the best time (especially because the movie theater that hosts the premieres has super comfy reclining seats). This fall, DAB will be at the Lincoln Park Student Center on November 17th to hand out tickets to the premiere of Fantastic Beasts. SO PREPARE YOURSELF FOR A MAGICAL AUTUMN.

Hamilton in Chicago

So. You may have heard about a little musical named Hamilton. In the super unlikely event that you haven’t heard about it, let me just say that Hamilton is the musical phenomenon of the decade. An R&B/rap musical based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton is easily the hottest ticket on Broadway. Ever since it premiered in February of 2015, virtually every performance has sold out. It has won 11 Tony awards, a Grammy, and a Pulitzer Prize. The music is so popular that the Original Cast Recording hit #1 on the Billboard Rap Albums chart. On top of all of that, Hamilton has made such a huge impact that the U.S. Department of the Treasury reversed its previously-announced plan to replace Alexander Hamilton with a historically significant woman on the $10 bill (instead, Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill). And now, as of last week, Chicago has its own sit-down production of Hamilton.*

Hamilton
Now, it’s no secret that I like musicals. Nor is it a secret that I’m super cheap. I’ve written at length (here and here) about how much I love doing student rush or trying the lottery in order to see shows in Chicago for cheap. For the uninitiated, most musicals have some sort of promotion that allows a few people to get cheap (but good) tickets on the day of the show. Hamilton has one of the best lottery systems. Just for comparison, when I was trying to win the lottery to see Wicked, I had to run downtown every day to put my name in the drawing, and then I would have to wait around for hours just to find out that I lost. For Hamilton, it’s way easier. On the day of the show, you go to this website​ to enter your name in the lottery for up to two tickets. Four hours before the show, you’ll get an email letting you know if you won. If you did win, I’ll be jealous, and you’ll have an hour to buy your tickets online. They give out at least 44 tickets for each show, and each ticket is just TEN DOLLARS. And then you just pick up your tickets at the theatre right before show time. IT’S THAT EASY. 

Let me know if you have plans to see Hamilton. And definitely let me know if you win the lottery!

*Most productions that come to Chicago are tours, meaning that the production will perform in Chicago for a limited, pre-determined period of time before moving on to another city. A sit-down production is open-ended, meaning that it will stay in the city as long as tickets continue to sell. Hamilton is already selling tickets through September 2017.


The PIZZA POT PIE

This summer, I had to take a graduate thesis research course. One day, while I was diligently researching the Spanish Transition to Democracy, I stumbled across this video. In case you’re like me and you actively avoid clicking video links, let me summarize the video for you (but I highly recommend that you watch it because I guarantee you will fall out of your chair).

bread
I’m assuming (re: hoping) that they regularly clean these tables because my Mediterranean Bread was not very well contained on the plate.
There’s a show on Food Network called “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” which features Food Network chefs talking about the best [insert name of food here] that they had ever eaten. During the episode entitled “Road Trip,” Marc Murphy profiled the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company, a small restaurant in Lincoln Park. Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. is famous for a little thing called the Pizza Pot Pie.

The Pizza Pot Pie is made by brushing a ceramic bowl with butter and then filling it full of cheese. Like, real full. Like, comically full. And then once that bowl is full of cheese, then they pour the sauce on and add some mushrooms (if you’re into that kind of thing, which I am most definitely not). They throw a slab of dough on the top and bake it. When it’s all done, they bring the bowl to your table and flip it upside down onto your plate so that you can see all the cheese.

As I watched this video, I went through so many emotions. At first, I was upset. How had no one told me about this before? How had I lived here for four years and never heard about it? I figured that no one else must know about it either, so I went around and starting telling everyone about it. To my surprise, everyone else apparently already knew about it. Despite my obsession with all things cheesy, somehow I dropped the ball on this one.

pizza
LOOK AT THESE. Tell me these aren’t the best looking pizza pot pies that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.
So you know I had to go as soon as I possibly could. I cleared my schedule and made plans to go the next weekend. So I show up at 12:30pm, and there’s already a line out the door. I literally must have been the only person in the tri-county area that was unaware of this restaurant. I ended up having to wait an hour and a half for a table. Why? They don’t take reservations. And when you get to the restaurant, they don’t even take down your name. The host just stares at your face for a few seconds and then somehow apparently just remembers what order people came in. The whole set-up was simultaneously impressive and questionable.

At the end of the day, it was actually the best pizza item I’ve eaten in my entire life. I could not recommend it more. Get there ASAP.

Get the Most Out of DePaul

Every morning, from my first day of kindergarten through my last day of 12th grade, as I left for school, my mom would remind me to “take advantage of my free education.” Well, when I arrived at college and realized that my education was no longer free, I felt even more pressure to get the most out of it. DePaul has so many resources for students, but tons of students don’t even know what they’re missing out on! So I figured I’d just compile a few of the ways to get the most bang for your buck at DePaul: 

I’m a huge advocate for regularly meeting with advisors. Especially because advisors can really help you strategize and maximize your time and credits at DePaul. I came into DePaul hoping to just be able to graduate within four years. I quickly realized that if I was going to pay for the credits anyways, I might as well try to get as many majors and minors as I can. Four years later, I graduated with two majors, a minor, and a few master’s courses already under my belt. It was only because I kept in touch with my advisors that I was able to figure out how to finish all the requirements within four years. 

Taking care of your mental and emotional health is extremely important. There have been times when I definitely haven’t taken care of myself like I should have, and my metal health suffered. And when that happens, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed and unmotivated. The good news is that you definitely don’t have to handle that all by yourself. 
Don’t submit a resume without having someone look it over! I cannot recommend strongly enough that you go visit the Career Center (or, at the very least, their website). The Career Center offers so many great services, but my favorite one is easily the resume review. You can meet with a Peer Career Advisor who can help you with any questions you have about resumes, cover letters, and interviews. If you’re in a rush, they also offer handy walk-in appointments. 

career center
If need help with an essay or want feedback on your writing, you can make an appointment to meet with a Writing Center tutor. If you’re trying to clarify or strengthen an argument, write your thesis statement, fix your grammar, or whatever, the Writing Center can help. No matter your skill level, your paper will only get better if you meet with a Writing Center tutor. Pro tip: ask your professor if they offer extra credit for meeting with a Writing Center tutor.

There's nothing worse than having computer problems when you have work to do. Luckily for you (and me), DePaul’s Genius Squad is FREE and has locations both at the Lincoln Park Campus (in the library) and at the Loop Campus (in the Lewis Center). Next time, bring it to them and see what they can do before you give even a dollar to anyone else.

Apparently School Is Starting

Willy
As you can see from my technique and form in this picture, I almost made the Men’s Gymnastics team to compete in Rio this summer.
Like I do everyday, I got hungry today. After realizing that the only food I had in my apartment was half a bottle of ranch dressing, I decided to venture outside and wander aimlessly until I found some food. This has become my routine over the summer — I never remember to buy groceries until one day when I open the fridge and see tumbleweeds just blowing around a vast, empty space. So off I went to take my usual route and cut through the quad. Today, however, my trusty shortcut became a longcut. I quickly found myself in the middle of the DePaul Involvement Fair, stuck in an unmoving mass of people. Using the giant inflatable rock climbing wall as my North Star, I was able to make my way through the sea of people (and make a pit stop at a table that offered free cake) in a few minutes. As I walked away, it finally sunk in that the school year has officially started again. 
 
So, WELCOME BACK (or just WELCOME if you’re new to DePaul)! I hope everyone had a great summer. Personally, I had a roller coaster of a summer. It started off real rough for me. The second week of summer break, I went to get my hair cut because I was starting to look like a Beatles impersonator. I asked for a trim, but I can only assume that the hairdresser heard “buzz cut” instead. The result was not pretty.

Other than my new haircut that made me look like a moldy Mr. Potato Head, my summer was surprisingly fantastic. I had a summer thesis research course that was intense, but also super helpful (and it only made me cry a few times). In addition to working at the library a few nights each week, I started an internship that has been better than I ever could have imagined. I actually loved it so much that I decided to continue interning there through the fall! 

Willy Haircut
After receiving a panicked call from me about my disastrous new haircut, my parents demanded that I send them a picture so that they could assess how bad it really was. At the time, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. 
Since I’m a BA/MA student (which you can read all about here), I have to go above and beyond the standard graduate course load this fall and take three courses. By the end of fall, I will have to have a formal thesis proposal completed and ready to present. I’ve been super lucky in that I’ve already secured a thesis advisor, so hopefully the rest of the thesis process will go just as smoothly! I’m way excited to get deeper into thesis research and to see what I can come up with when pushed to the brink of mental collapse.
 
So it is time to buckle up and brace yourself for harrowing accounts of me stress eating my way towards my master’s degree. Welcome back to school! 

My Summer in Chicago

I am now officially a graduate student! This week, I started my summer graduate class. This is my first summer staying in Chicago. Let me tell you, things at DePaul work a little differently during the summer. I’m taking one night class during the summer. While night classes usually meet once a week for ten weeks during a normal school term, the summer term is actually divided into two five-week sessions, so my night class meets twice a week for five weeks. It’s short, but intense.

cake
I spent a few days at home between my last final and the start of my summer class. Look at the cake my mom made me to celebrate my graduation!

Actually, my whole schedule is intense (at least for these five weeks). Following my own advice, I found a great full-time summer internship. So I work at my internship from 10am-5pm Monday-Friday. After work, on Mondays and Wednesdays, I then run to work at my other job at the Lincoln Park campus library from 6pm-10pm (because my internship is unpaid and I need money). On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I head over to my summer graduate class from 6pm-915pm. And then in all my free time, I will try to finish all the coursework for that class. It’s looking to be a super relaxing summer. Despite my overwhelming schedule, I’m still hoping to find time to enjoy my first summer in Chicago, especially after my class ends in early July. There’s so much to experience during the summer.

To be completely honest, I just really want to go to The SpongeBob Musical. If you haven’t heard, there’s a new Spongebob musical that is premiering in Chicago before it moves to Broadway. The super unique thing about this musical is that rather than a single composer writing all of the songs, a bunch of famous musicians each composed a single song. So imagine a musical about Spongebob Squarepants featuring songs composed by Lady Antebellum, John Legend, Panic! At The Disco, T.I., and David Bowie, among others. I cannot imagine what a T.I. song about Spongebob sounds like and I need to find out.

banner
When I got home after my last final, I discovered that my parents had repurposed my high school graduation banner.

If you’re not into Spongebob though, there are plenty of other things to do in Chicago during the summer. If you like music but aren’t as interested as I am about hearing a Panic! At The Disco song about Spongebob, you can try to find tickets to Lollapalooza. You can find the lineup for Lollapalooza here. Or if you’re more like me and you’d rather spend your money on food, you can always try to brave the crowds at Taste of Chicago. I’ve always wanted to go to Taste of Chicago, but I’ve never gotten a chance, so my goal this summer to is find time to make it to Taste of Chicago.

I’m so excited to finally be able to spend the summer in Chicago. Let me know if you have any exciting plans for your summer!


Presenting at the Honors Student Conference

On Friday, May 13th, the unluckiest day of the year, I was lucky enough to be able to present at the third annual Honors Student Conference. This year, over 100 students presented research papers, artistic works, or thesis projects at the conference (you can see the program here!). 

While Honors thesis students are obligated to present at the conference, any Honors student is eligible to present a poster at the conference. In order to present a poster, an Honors student can either apply for the conference or be nominated by a professor. If you apply, you submit your paper or work to the Honors Student Conference Committee for consideration. If a professor nominates a work you completed for class, you’re automatically accepted to the conference. I was honored to be nominated by one of my favorite professors (thank you, Professor Steeves!) for a paper I wrote for my Honors Senior Seminar. 

To be completely honest, I almost turned down the opportunity to present at the conference. Unlike most people (I imagine), it wasn’t the idea of public speaking that gave me anxiety. I did theatre for years; I have no problem speaking in public and I knew my topic well. I got anxious when I found out that I would have to make a poster. Not only am I not a very visual person in general, but my paper topic was very conceptual and theoretical and did not lend itself very easily to visual representation.

Thankfully, the Honors Program offers two short workshops to prepare everyone for the conference. While everyone had to attend a workshop about how to present a poster, I opted to also attend the workshop on how to create a poster. I furiously took notes and started working on it that night. While I was able to format everything right, I still struggled to figure out how to visually organize my topic. I stressed out about it for weeks. Unsurprisingly, I finally had my flash of brilliance the day before the conference and stayed up until the early hours of the morning working on my poster. In the end, the stress was worth it and I could not be more proud of my poster.

The actual conference experience was amazing and stress-free.  Everyone was so complementary about my poster and at least pretended to be super interested in my paper and what I had to say. I had sort of forgotten that there are so many students studying subjects other than my own. Of course I’ve taken classes with students from different majors, but I rarely get the opportunity to see students represent fields of study that aren’t my own. So it was exciting to see people that I know and actually be able to see what they are studying. Likewise, it’s exciting to speak to professors outside of your department about your field of study. Each professor ends up approaching your topic from a different perspective and their questions make you understand your own topic even better. 

Presenting at the Honors Student Conference was really the best experience. If I weren't a senior, I would already be looking to present again next year. If you're ever on the fence about presenting, do it and I promise you won't regret it.


It's Graduation Time

Unsurprisingly, I think I'm holding a candy bar wrapper in my hand at my high school graduation.
Four years ago, during the rehearsal for my high school graduation, a reporter from the local newspaper interviewed me about my post-high school plans. Apparently, I told him that I wanted to major in Spanish at DePaul and then continue on to get my law degree and specialize in tort reform or immigration law. Four years later, I’m getting ready to graduate and I can definitively say there’s no way I’m heading to law school. And while I’m a little atypical in that I start (graduate) class again two days after the graduation ceremony, the fact is that I’m finally graduating and it’s a pretty good opportunity to reflect on how I’ve changed during my time at DePaul.

I had a really rough start at DePaul and almost dropped out. I don’t think I had emotionally prepared myself for such a big change in my life. I was so homesick and overwhelmed that for the first month of school, my dad would drive to Chicago all the way from Madison every Thursday, pick me up right after my last class, drive me home, and then drive me all the way back to Chicago on Sunday night. I remember my parents begging me to just try to finish out the quarter. I had a similar experience with International Studies as well—after I finished the first course, I contemplated dropping International Studies as a major because I thought I wasn’t smart enough and I just wasn’t good at it. I just felt so inadequate.

Here I am getting ready to sumo wrestle at my high school's party for seniors. I look super excited for college.

When I first came to college, my goal was just to graduate. I did not have high expectations for myself at all. And when I think about that, I realize that I’ve accomplished so much more than I ever thought I was capable of doing. All throughout high school, I knew that I wanted to study abroad at some point during college, but I sort of doubted that I would ever actually go through with it. Not only did I study abroad in Madrid, but I discovered that Spanish political history is pretty interesting. I got back from studying abroad and applied for my master’s (which never even crossed my mind in high school) so that I could study Spanish political history. The kid who almost dropped out of DePaul and International Studies because he thought he couldn’t handle it is staying at DePaul for a fifth year so that he can get his master’s in International Studies.

This summer will be the first summer that I’m staying in Chicago rather than going back home. It’s sort of bittersweet because I feel like it means that I’m finally officially an adult, but I’m also excited because I have a great internship lined up, I get to work on my thesis, and I'm just ready to start a new phase of my life. 


In Defense of the Quarter System

Every May, right about halfway through the month, you start hearing DePaul students complain about the quarter system. It’s not hard to figure out why. I know firsthand how brutal it can be to see pictures of your friends from other schools already enjoying summer break (or even worse, graduating) when you just finished midterms. I don't think that the quarter system gets the respect that it deserves. Here are a few reasons that I love the quarter system:

It's easy to fall behind and hard to catch up in a ten week quarter. At the beginning of the school year, I downloaded an app to try to stay organized and on top of my work. I spent six hours one night inputting every assignment I had during the quarter. I don't think I ever looked at the app again.
You get to take more classes. In a semester system, you typically take 4-5 classes per semester. At DePaul, the typical course load is 4 classes per quarter. Over the span of four years, the quarter system allows you to take 8-16 more classes than you would in a semester system. So while the 10-week courses in the quarter system move fast and can be hard to keep up with at times (these pictures show my desperate attempts to stay organized), those extra classes can make adding a minor or a second major so much easier.

If you have a bad quarter and your grades drop, you have plenty of opportunities to raise your GPA. Rough quarters happen to the best of us. Whether you’re dealing with personal issues outside of class or you just don’t understand the material in class, it’s way easier to recover your GPA in the quarter system. Under the semester system, your final GPA is the average of eight semesters. Under the quarter system, it’s the average of twelve quarters. So when it comes time to calculate your overall GPA, a single semester has a way bigger impact than a single quarter.

If you don’t particularly like your professor, you don’t have to deal with them for that long. Somewhere along the line, you’re inevitably going to end up taking a class with a professor who, for whatever reason, you wouldn’t take again. The good news is that, in a quarter system, your class with that professor only lasts for ten weeks rather than fifteen weeks. You can always see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The schedule just makes way more sense. The semester system is fragmented in ways that the quarter system isn’t. In a semester system, Thanksgiving break interrupts fall semester and spring break divides spring semester. In the quarter system​, Thanksgiving means the end of fall quarter and the beginning of winter break, which is the entire month of December. Spring break marks the end of winter quarter and the beginning of spring quarter.

Let me know what you think about the quarter system!


Date Ideas That Aren't Netflix and Chill

No, Lake Michigan didn't suddenly grow. This is a map of all Divvy bike stations in Chicago. You really shouldn't have a problem finding a station, no matter where you  are.
Whether you’re going on your first date or your hundredth date, it can be hard to brainstorm ideas. Nine times out of ten, you end up just watching Netflix and eating pizza. Here are a few ideas for that other 10% of the time!

The Vic​ is a popular concert venue located close enough to campus that I routinely pass it while I walk to get ice cream. When The Vic isn’t hosting a concert, The Vic becomes The Brew and View, one of the most underrated and underappreciated institutions in the area. In a pinch, The Brew and View can be the quintessential cheap date; most nights, you can go watch a double- or triple-feature for only $5. Where it can become pricey (for me, at least) is food and beverages (shocker). For whatever reason, The Brew and View sells White Castle hamburger sliders and I can never say no.

If you and your special someone have eaten too many White Castle sliders yourselves (or you just want to enjoy a nice day), it might be time to finally try out those blue bikes you always see everyone riding. Divvy Bikes offers a 24-hour pass for just $10, allowing you to take an unlimited amount of trips for a whole day. The caveat to this deal is that you can only take a bike out for up to 30 minutes at a time before you have to return it to any Divvy station (but once you return your bike, you're free to immediately take out another bike!). Divvy bike stations can literally be found all over the city (as evidenced by the map of Divvy bike stations), so finding a station is never too much of a hassle.

This is a representative sample of texts from Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! I highly suggest you subscribe to their texts.
I’ve already written plenty about Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!, so I won’t repeat myself. But let me just say that Spanish tapas are the absolute best first date food. They’re small plates and you naturally order several rounds (or at least I always do). What this means is that if you’re totally not feeling it, you could finish the first round in ten minutes and be like, “Wow, I’m so full. I had a great time and it was nice meeting you,” and just run out the door. On the other hand, if it’s going fantastic, you can be like, “Oh my, I’m just so hungry today. I think I could go for a seventh round of croquetas,” and just have the date that never ends. If you’re to the point in the relationship where you feel confident enough to use a coupon, sign up for Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!’s text messages while you're there and enjoy the frequent free food.

If you and your not-so-secret admirer are both DePaul students, why not spend a few hours becoming cultured at the Art Institute of Chicago? While tickets for the Art Institute can usually be a little expensive (especially on a student’s budget), you can get free tickets just by showing your DePaul ID at the ticket desk! The Art Institute is home to some of the most famous paintings, sculptures, and installations in the world. Suggesting the Art Institute is a surefire way to impress your significant other.


Chicago's Famous Foods

​​
This isn't an uncommon sight at Garrett's Popcorn.
I’m always on the search for great food. In a city as big as Chicago, it’s not hard to find great food. Whenever friends from home come to visit me, I know they’re only coming to visit because they know that I’ll lead them to the best food. Still, everyone always wants to get those iconic Chicago foods: popcorn, pizza, and hot dogs. The truth is that, sometimes, eating like a tourist is the best way to experience Chicago and to enjoy those famous foods. If have you haven’t been before, or if you have an out-of-state friend coming to visit, you have to visit these restaurants.

You can never get enough of Garrett Popcorn (but really everyone calls it Garrett’s and I just learned it’s actually Garrett). There's a reason that there's often a line out the door for it. Garrett Popcorn is best known for their Garrett Mix (formerly, and more popularly, known as the Chicago Mix until a trademark kerfuffle forced them to change the name), a mix of cheese popcorn and caramel popcorn. No one does cheese popcorn like Garrett’s. Note: ask for extra napkins. If you thought Cheeto dust was hard to get off your fingers, just wait until you try Garrett’s cheese popcorn.

I tried to make a homemade version of Portillo's Chocolate Cake Shake. It wasn't nearly as good.

Embarrassing story: throughout my first year in Chicago, because I’m stupid, I always heard Illuminati whenever people said Lou Malnati’s and I would wonder why they’re talking about the Illuminati and pizza. Luckily, Lou Malnati’s has no known affiliation with the Illuminati. But, they are known for having some of the best Chicago-style deep dish pizza in all of Chicago. And since Chicago is obviously going to have the best Chicago-style pizza, that means that Lou Malnati’s probably has some of the best Chicago-style pizza in the world. Even better, there’s a Lou Malnati’s a couple blocks off of DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus, so it’s convenient as well!

While people will always argue over the authenticity of different Chicago-style hot dogs, Portillo’s is definitely one of the more popular and more common places to get a hot dog. Or if you're brave, try out The Wiener’s Circle, which is right in Lincoln Park. The Wiener’s Circle is legendary not just for its food, but also for its “feisty” late night interactions between staff and customers on the weekends.

I'm not totally sure if Chicago has any claim to a famous dessert, but if it does, it might be the chocolate cake shake at Portillo's. Hypothetically, that means you can kill two birds with one stone if you get a hot dog and a chocolate cake shake at Portillo’s. The chocolate cake shake is exactly what you’d think it would be. It’s literally ice cream and chocolate cake blended together. What could be better than that? Now Portillo's is a chain with restaurants all around Illinois, so it may not be a big deal to people from Illinois, but to this Wisconsinite, it's the biggest deal.


Where to Study: Group Edition

Let’s get one thing clear: no one likes group projects. It’s impossible to find a time when everyone is available to meet. There’s always either someone who does nothing or someone who tries to do everything. If you’re lucky, you might even have one of those people in your group who asks a thousand questions or that one person that does all of their work, but does it all wrong. You can never decide on a place to meet up. Now I may not be able to help you with your annoying group members, but I’ve come up with a list of the best places for groups to study on campus.

I'm always at the library (and not just because I work there).
Probably the most obvious place to study is the library. All four floors of the library have tons of tables and chairs and desks, but for group work, definitely stick to the first two floors. Each floor of the library is supposed to get quieter as you go up and you don’t want to be that group that everyone else on the floor complains about. If you want to talk as a group, but don’t want to be distracted by everyone around you talking, you can reserve one of the study rooms in the library.

If your group is working primarily on your computers, try out one of the media:scape tables on the first floor of the library if you haven’t already. While you can reserve the media:scape tables in the Information Commons on the first floor of the library, the media:scape tables in the Scholar’s Lab in the library are first come, first serve. Each media:scape table has one or two big monitors, either a PC or a PC and a Mac, and a bunch of connection cables for laptops. After everyone plugs their laptops into the media:scape table, you can switch which screen is displayed on the monitor with the push of a button. It’s especially amazing for doing research as a group. Whenever someone finds a really helpful source, they can push the button and everyone can see that same source up on the big screen.

The media:scape tables could not be better for when your group has to make a PowerPoint.

If your group is a little more casual, or you’re just studying for a test with a bunch of people, the SAC Pit is the place to go. While the SAC Pit is super busy during the morning and early afternoon, it quiets down and turns into a great place to study. If you’re looking for somewhere quieter during the day, you can just go up to meet at one of the tables on the second, third, or fourth floor of Levan Center, which is connected to the SAC. The tables are right next to huge windows, which obviously provide tons of light, and aren’t used nearly as often as they should be.

My other favorite place to meet up and study is at the Arts and Letters Hall​, right across the street from Levan Center and the SAC. All four floors of Arts and Letters have different arrangements of tables, couches, and chairs that make studying a lot more comfortable. That being said, I get distracted way more often in Arts and Letters than I do anywhere else, so I can only study here when I'm feeling particularly motivated. It's one of the most popular places to meet for group work, so good luck finding a table during the day.

Good luck studying!


Lakefront Trail

Like I’ve said dozens and dozens of times, I love walking around Chicago. Walking relaxes me. I’m a very high-strung person, so I need all the relaxation I can get. Even though every full-time student gets a U-Pass​, I try to avoid taking the L​ and try to walk everywhere instead. My favorite place to walk though is easily Lakefront Trail​ and I have one particular route that I take all the time.

​How could you not want to walk forever and ever?

Lakefront Trail is an 18-mile-long biking/running/walking path that runs right alongside, you guessed it, Lake Michigan. Lakefront Trail (and Lake Michigan) is only a 15-20 minute walk directly east from DePaul, so it really couldn’t be easier to get to. When I go walking though, I usually walk north first and enter Lakefront Trail at Belmont Harbor​. I do this for three logical reasons: 1. I can stop at Wow Bao​ on the way and get a chocolate filled bao to eat, 2. After I finish my bao, I can stop at Ann Sather​ and get some cinnamon rolls, and 3. There’s a dog beach near Belmont Harbor and it makes me happy to watch the dogs swim around. I highly recommend all of these pit stops, especially the dog beach.

Tell me this isn't the best view of the skyline.
When it’s nice out, I’ve been known to walk from Lincoln Park to Michigan Avenue or Navy Pier (but I usually take the L back because, let’s face it, I’m not a professional athlete). It’s pretty motivating to get on Lakefront Trail and see the skyline in front of you, so I usually just keep walking and walking and walking. When I’m lazy though (which is more common than I’d like to admit) I usually will just cross over Lake Shore Drive​ on the bridge that connects Lakefront Trail to Lincoln Park​ (the actual park, not the neighborhood).

When I’m lucky, Forever Yogurt​, a frozen yogurt shop, will have a pop-up trailer at the other end of the bridge inside of Lincoln Park. It’s super convenient because by the time I cross the bridge, I’m usually just starting to feel healthy and that frozen yogurt stand ensures that I never have to feel healthy. I usually walk north in Lincoln Park towards the Lincoln Park Zoo​. It is important to note that the path in Lincoln Park that borders Lincoln Park Zoo has maybe the best view of the Chicago skyline that you can imagine. I’ve probably walked this path 100 times, yet I still take a picture of the skyline almost every time. And from here, it’s only a twenty-minute walk back to DePaul.

This is totally my favorite path to walk in Chicago. Let me know if you have anywhere you love to walk!​


Be a Student Employee

​​Like most people, I’m not a Rockefeller, so I’ve had a job (or two) on the side during college. In fact, as I’m writing this, it is currently National Student Employment Week (or something along those lines). For the record, I feel appreciated, but also devastated that I had to miss the student employee dodgeball tournament the other night (the library’s team was called The Late Fees). Nevertheless, I realized that I’ve been working at the library for almost three years now. Now that I’m searching for internships and jobs off-campus, I’m realizing all of the benefits of on-campus employment.

I can't belie​ve I missed out on dodgeball.

The most obvious benefit is straight-up proximity. There are tons of jobs on both the Lincoln Park campus and the Loop campus. The first year I worked at the library, I lived across the street from the library. I could literally go from my bed to the front door of the library within four minutes. You can’t beat that. You also can’t overstate the efficiency of being able to get from class to work in minutes, which is why on-campus jobs are especially convenient for commuters.

As you probably know, DePaul operates on the quarter system, which is obviously different than the typical semester system. Unlike many internships (most of which are based off of the semester system), on-campus jobs are structured around the quarter system. So instead of trying to schedule your classes around an internship that may overlap two or three weeks with the next quarter, you can build your work schedule each quarter around your class schedule. And if you drop a class or add a class early in the quarter and realize that now you have class when you’re supposed to be working, most supervisors are pretty willing to work with you and to be flexible to accommodate your new schedule. You can expect supervisors to be extra understanding during finals as well!

Furthermore, since on-campus jobs are based on the academic calendar, most jobs are reduced or optional during academic breaks. I’m very close to my family, so I spend all my breaks at home. Even though the library is open during breaks, I’ve never worked during a break (and I still have my job!). Plus, if the university closes because of weather or something like that, that most likely means that work is closed, too.

Nine times out of ten, I recommend searching for an on-campus job rather than an off-campus job, especially if you’re like me and you’re lazy and you don’t want to travel that far for work. I think an off-campus job is best for those who really want experience in a specific, specialized field. But if you’re just looking to earn some money on the side, you don’t need to look that far.


Spring Quarter Fun on Campus

​​​​​I hope everyone had a great spring break and got to go do something wild and crazy and fun! Some of my friends went to Europe, some went skiing, I went to IKEA​ and got lost in the lighting department. But school has started back up and the mourning period for Spring Break is now over. But still, you need some fun stuff to do during your free time this quarter! So. It’s that time again. I’m back to tell you all about events happening this quarter!

At the beginning of each quarter, I always hit up the websites for DePaul Activities Board (DAB) and for the Office of Student Involvement . DAB releases their event calendar (around which I plan my personal calendar).  My favorite programs are usually the movie premieres, where DAB hands out free tickets to the premiere of a popular upcoming movie at the movie theater a couple blocks away. This quarter, the premiere is Captain America: Civil War​ on May 5th, which you know everyone will be trying to get tickets to. 

As you can see on the calendar, DAB hosts a wide variety of events. All I need to read is “Canines on Campus” for me to get excited. I’m definitely hoping to go to An Evening with the Upright Citizens Brigade​. If you don’t know what the Upright Citizens Brigade is, all you need to know is that Amy Poehler was one of the original members. And, of course, FEST, DePaul's annual end-of-the-year concert, is at the end of May, so keep your eyes open for more info about the headliner and how to get tickets.

I also visit the Office of Student Involvement’s website to find out about DemonTix​, DePaul’s discount ticket program, to see what events they’re selling tickets for this quarter. While the sporting events all went on sale last month and are probably sold out, you can always buy discount movie passes through Office of Student Involvement. And this quarter, starting on May 5th, you can buy discount tickets to go up to the SkyDeck​ in Willis Tower! It’s also definitely worth keeping up with both DAB and the Office of Student Involvement on Twitter or Facebook, since they sometimes announce impromptu giveaways (that’s how I got tickets to Book of Mormon​ last year!).

I wrote about the Humanities Center​ events last quarter, but I just want to review once again how amazing the events are. While DePaulywood Squares (a take on Hollywood Squares​, substituting professors for celebrities) most likely will have already come and gone by the time you read this blog, there are still four other events hosted throughout the quarter, including an event about Moby-Dick that somehow incorporates a screening of Star Trek II . It is my personal mission to make it to Hungry Hungry Humanities: The Secret Life of Food​, because you know I love my food.

Let me know what you’re planning on going to this quarter!​


Testing My Spanish

​​​​​HolaWhen I was in seventh grade, I took my first Spanish class. On my first quiz ever, I forgot the word for ‘angry’ so I made up my own Spanish-sounding word (“angrioso,” in case you were wondering). When I was a sophomore in high school, my entire Spanish class became so obsessed with Rebelde​, a Mexican telenovela​ about some teenagers at a boarding school who form a band named RBD, that we had a viewing party and each dressed up as a different character. When I was a junior in high school, we had to share our talent for Spanish class, so I performed “Genio Atrapado,” the Spanish version of “Genie in a Bottle​” by Christina Aguilera. When I was a junior in college, I studied abroad in Madrid​ for three months.

Almost nine years after my first Spanish class, I’ve officially completed my Spanish major. After I finished my last Spanish class last fall, I realized that I never have to take another Spanish class again. Pretty bittersweet. Two months later, my friend, who knows four languages and makes me feel terrible about myself, told me about the DELE test​​. Let’s talk about why I’m kicking myself for not taking a Spanish class this quarter.

Look how fluent I look here. How am I supposed to get good at Spanish again if I can't meet with Spanish-speaking Minions​?

The DELE test​ is basically a Spanish fluency exam endorsed by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science. So when my friend mentioned it, I imagined it being like the ACT or SAT. I thought I’d casually go in and take a test and they would tell me how fluent I am. NOPE. It’s no joke. You register to test for one of six fluency levels and then it’s 4+ hours of writing, reading, listening, and talking. If you pass, you’re certified at that level. If you don’t pass, then you just end up wasting $150. That stresses me out. By the time I take this test, it will have been five months since I was last in a Spanish class. Of course no one told me about this test when I came back from studying abroad in Spain and was at the top of my Spanish game. I basically sounded like a telenovela at that point in my life. Now I can barely pronounce the menu at a Mexican restaurant.

Like a geek, I bought the big study book in order to prepare myself. A day later, I’m already realizing that I’m in over my head. You may be wondering why I’m doing this to myself. I’m sort of wondering that, too. In all honesty, I just think it’d be nice to have an official certificate saying that I’m fluent at a specific level, rather than just saying that I majored in Spanish. I think it’d be something nice to have on my resume. Furthermore, since I’m done with Spanish classes, my Spanish is only going to get worse (unless, of course, I somehow get a Spanish-speaking job or move out of the country or become famous for my rendition of "Genio Atrapado"). If I do move, the certificate is internationally recognized and if I pass the level that I’m attempting to test into, I will officially be fluent enough to enroll in Spanish universities. Since it’s permanent and I’d never have to take the test again, I might as well take it as soon as possible. It’s not like I have anything else going on in my life right now.​


Strategies to De-Stress

​​​​​It’s finals time once again! Personally, I love the quarter system, but the only downside is that it feels like you’re constantly in the middle of either midterms or finals. I end up just perpetually stressed. Over the years, I’ve had to develop different ways to handle the stress because I can only lay in the fetal position for so long before my back starts hurting. Here are some of the ways I handle my stress on a daily basis:
Why wouldn't I always be walking around if this is what I get to see?

Go on a Walk

Whenever I get stressed, I constantly go on walks. I don’t know if that’s me subconsciously trying to run away from responsibility or me trying to work off all of the food that I stress eat, but I’m always walking. Fortunately for me, Lincoln Park is an amazing place to walk around. Who could blame me for always walking when I get to walk on the beach and see the skyline?

Work Out

Obviously, it goes without saying that going on a walk can constitute a workout. In fact, I’d be lying to you if I told you that I’ve never gone on a walk to an ice cream store and then called it my workout for the day (truthfully, I did this three times last weekend). But still, for some people, walking outside doesn’t have the same effect as going to gym and jogging on the treadmill or hitting the weights. Working out can be especially helpful if you’re struggling to focus or if you just can't sit still and you have to use up some energy.

This is a picture of the inside of my backpack that I found on my phone. In case you ever thought I wasn't serious about being a stress eater, a backpack full of candy is pretty damning evidence.

Treat Yo Self

I feel like I say this in every other blog post: I’m a stress eater. I always joked about being one, but I recently realized I genuinely stress eat without even noticing it. So instead of passively letting myself stress eat everything in sight (the other week I ate a burger, a sub, a bowl of soup, and three desserts from Sweet Mandy B’s​ just for lunch), I have started taking a more active approach. If I feel myself getting super stressed or if I know that I have a stressful day coming up, I try to stock up on my favorite healthy snacks and buy only one dessert from Sweet Mandy B’s instead of three.

Take a Break

Duh. If you know that you’re starting to get overwhelmed, shut it all down for a while. The other night, I was once again stressed about a different paper that I had to write. I woke up super early (which was my first mistake) and had been working on it all day. I was getting hangry​ and burnt out, it was just not a good situation. So I just shut everything down and took a break. I ordered a pizza from Pizza Hut (they messed up my order, but that’s another story that I’m still bitter about) and watched The Craft​. An hour and a half later, I was back to working on my essay and in a much better mood.

Create Something

A lot of people unwind by cooking, baking, drawing, painting, writing, or knitting. Taking an hour to create something or continue working on a project can help take your mind off of schoolwork. Plus, some people find it especially therapeutic to be able to see the finished product or the progress they’ve made. When you return to schoolwork, you might find that you can focus on your work much more easily.

Let me know if you have any special ways that you cope with stress!​


Resumes and Recommendations

Last week, I wrote all about how to find the perfect summer job​. At the end, I promised a follow-up blog about resumes and letters of recommendation. I’m a man of my word, so here I am. In case you couldn’t tell, I was in the middle of searching for a summer job when I wrote the last blog about how to find a summer job. Now I’​m working on the applications for the jobs that I found, so I’m super ready to talk about resumes and letters of recommendation.

RESUMES

If you’re writing a resume for the first time, it can be super intimidating. But luckily for you, DePaul has amazing resources to help you construct your resume. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you go visit the Career Center (or, at the very least, their website​). The Career Center offers a ton of amazing services, but my favorite one is easily the resume reviews​. You can meet with a Peer Career Advisor who can help you with any questions you have about resumes, cover letters, and interviews. If you’re in a rush, they also offer handy walk-in appointments. Even if you’re just updating a resume that you know is already great, I still recommend meeting with a Peer Career Advisor. I always think it’s best if you can find someone knowledgeable to look over your resume before you submit it.

LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION

I know a lot of people who get really hung up on how to ask a professor to write a letter of recommendation. When I first had to ask a professor for a recommendation, I didn’t know if I was supposed to ask them in person or if I could just ask over email. I just ended up just stress-eating. Years later, I can tell you with great confidence that the answer is whichever feels right to you. If you’re asking a professor for a recommendation, you should be relatively familiar with them (hopefully you’ve taken at least two classes with them). If the professor is more of an old-school type, then I would ask in person. If your professor regularly uses email or D2L to interact with the class, then they are probably cool being asked over email. If you’re ever in doubt, be safe and ask in person.

Personally, I’ve always asked for letters of recommendation over email and let me tell you why. If someone agrees to write a letter of recommendation for you, they are doing you a favor. You should make it as easy as possible for them. Asking over email allows me to make sure that I include all of the information that the professor could possibly need and that the information is easily accessible for the professor. At a bare minimum, you should let the professor know where you’re applying, when the recommendation is due (try to give them at least a month before it’s due), and where to send the recommendation. But I like to add as much information as possible. I often summarize the company and position I’m applying to and let them know why I chose him/her for a recommendation. If the position lists any required skills or qualities that I know I’ve demonstrated in the professor’s class, I will explicitly tell them that I am hoping that they can speak about these specific skills. If the application requires that I respond to a written prompt or write a personal statement, I will attach that to the email. Adding more information will make the writing process easier for the professor and I promise it will result in a more personalized, detailed recommendation that will impress whoever reads it. And most importantly, I always write a handwritten thank you note to the professor after it’s all done and submitted. Gotta keep it classy.​


Searching for Summer Jobs

All throughout my undergraduate career, I went home to Wisconsin and worked at my hometown library​ during each summer. This year, I won’t be going back to Wisconsin. As part of my BA/MA program​, I have to take a grad class during the summer, so for the first time, I will be staying in Chicago! While it’s super exciting to be staying, I’m starting to realize that I actually have to find a decent job for the summer. The process of searching for a job or internship can be sort of intimidating and overwhelming, so I thought I’d offer a few tips to make the search easier for you!

Start Early

In case you didn’t know, the application period for most summer internships is right now. You can only imagine my reaction when I found out that I had already missed the deadline to apply for some summer internships (one of them literally closed on January 1st). The sooner you start looking, the more options you will have. Also, if you need to get any letters of recommendation or if the application has any unique requirements (like a written response to some prompt), you're going to need time to prepare and complete your application. 

Know What You’re Looking For

Before you even start searching, sit down and figure out what you’re looking for. Are you able to work full-time or can you only manage part-time? What is your availability during the summer? Can you afford an unpaid internship or do you need to be paid? If you need to be paid, what’s the minimum you need to be paid? Figure all of these questions out before you even start looking so you don’t waste your time looking at jobs that won’t work for you.    

 

Find Something Good

Actually finding interesting jobs can be the hardest part sometimes! Luckily, there are so many resources available to you. For just a standard job search engine, I like to use Indeed​. But if you didn’t know, DePaul also has its own job search engine called Handshake​. In addition to listing on-campus interviews, after you make a profile, Handshake points out all the jobs listed that you’re qualified for. It’s a great tool, especially if you’re new to looking for jobs. Also, after you’ve declared your major(s), make sure you’re receiving (and opening) all of the emails sent from your department! Most departments regularly include job listings in mass emails. And finally, talk to your professors and friends. Your professors have most likely seen hundreds of students search for and secure summer jobs in Chicago. They can tell you with which companies or organizations past students have been successful. Your friends can do the same. Ask them if they have heard of any openings or if they have seen anything that might fit you (and obviously, if you see a job listing that sounds perfect for someone you know, be a good friend and tell them about it).

Diversify

This should go without saying. Just like when you applied for college, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Apply to as many jobs as you find interesting. The more options you give yourself, the better chance you have at actually getting hired. Even after you've applied to several jobs, make it a habit to regularly search for any new job listings. I usually check every three to four days to see what's new. It can only help you.

After you’ve found some potential new jobs, it’s time to get some letters of recommendation and polish your resume! Check back next week for more tips on how to write the perfect resume and how to ask professors for recommendations!​


Best Food in the Neighborhood

The other day, I found out that I’m known as “the food guy” at work. I’m proud, but not surprised. I like to think that I’m deserving of such a title. I know my food and everyone knows that I know my food. Now that I know that that's my official title, I'm taking it very seriously. As such, you can only imagine how shocked I was when I realized that I have yet to write about my favorite restaurants around DePaul. I’m so sorry to everyone that I took so long to write this. I’ve wronged each and every one of you.​

Barn and Company​ is seriously four or five blocks away from campus (not to mention pretty hard to miss), yet it seems like no one knows it exists. That’s a shame. Barn and Company has some of the best barbecue I’ve ever had. It’s worth mentioning that I once talked to the owner who casually mentioned that Dave often stops by when he’s in town. Who is Dave, you ask? The Famous Dave’s Dave. That Dave. If it’s good enough for Famous Dave, it’s good enough for you. I highly recommend going for their Friday special: the $12.99 Chicken, Pork, and Ribs Platter.​

I went to Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! the other week for brunch because I had a coupon (because I'm subscribed to their texts, shocker). No regrets.

Branko’s Sandwich Shop​ is absolutely one of the most underappreciated restaurants I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s located directly across the street from the Quad on Fullerton. The family who runs it is comprised of the nicest, sweetest people you could imagine. I genuinely don’t have enough good things to say about them. Branko’s is the greasy diner you’re always looking for. Whenever I have a craving for cheese fries or a Pizza Puff​ (one of my favorite foods in the world), this is where I go. The unexpected winner on the menu: the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. If you know anything about me, you know I wouldn’t recommend a chicken sandwich if it weren’t absolutely spectacular.​

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!​ is getting a mention because I have such a sentimental connection with it. I’ve written about my experiences studying abroad in Madrid​. I’ve been back for over a year and I still miss it. One of the things I miss most is the food. Luckily for me, DePaul is near one of the best Spanish tapas​ restaurants in Chicago. Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! just celebrated its 30th anniversary and trust me, there’s a reason that it’s been around for so long. If you go, get the croquetas. They are the food I miss most from Madrid and they’re amazing at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!

Last, but not least, State Restaurant​ is literally my life. You can ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that my life revolves around State. It’s located a block off of campus and I have their weekly specials​ memorized. Why would I memorize the weekly specials? Because the weekly specials are amazing. Every Wednesday, almost everything on the menu is $5.99. On Thursdays and Fridays, almost everything on the menu is $6.99. Where else can you get a truffle burger for $5.99!? I’m not ashamed at all to admit that I’m obsessed with State. State also apparently hosts some intense trivia contests (with cash prizes) every Tuesday night and I want to go so bad. Let me know if you’re a walking encyclopedia so I can have you on my team.​


Honors Program: What Actually Is It?

​​​​​​ANNOUNCEMENT (and update to my previous blog​): If you haven’t heard, DePaul Activities Board​ has announced that We The Kings​ will be playing at Polarpalooza​ this year!

It’s crazy to think about how my time as an undergraduate is coming to a close. Last quarter, I completed the last of the requirements for my Spanish major. After next quarter, I will have finished my International Studies major and will be registered as a graduate student at DePaul​. Right now, though, I’m taking my final Honors class.

No matter what you study at DePaul (during your undergraduate career, at least), you will have to take some series of liberal arts classes to fulfill your degree requirements. For most students, this requirement takes the form of the Liberal Studies Program​. For other students, the Honors Program​ replaces the Liberal Studies Program. I know when I was applying for the Honors Program, I really had no clue what it was. And now even as a senior, I still meet students who have never heard about the Honors Program and know nothing about it. With the deadline for Honors Program applications approaching quickly (March 2nd, in case you were wondering), I thought this would be a great time to talk about how the Honors Program differs from the Liberal Studies Program.

The Liberal Studies Program is comprised of two parts: the Common Core​ and the Learning Domains​. The Common Core is a series of 7-8 classes that all students in the program have to take, including the Chicago Quarter​ class, the Focal Point Seminar​, and the Sophomore Seminar on Multiculturalism. The Learning Domains, on the other hand, are extremely broad categories. Each student must take at least one class (depending on your major) from each of the six Learning Domains. Each Learning Domain can be fulfilled by taking one of ~100 eligible electives​.

A genuinely embarrassing throwback photo from freshman year. Here I am with the incomparable Steph Wade at an Honors event.

The Honors Program is designed for students who want an extra academic challenge. In particular, the Honors classes really emphasize writing and critical analysis. That being said, participation in the Honors Program severely limits your course options. While Honors students similarly have to meet the same Common Core and Learning Domain requirements as Liberal Studies students, Honors students are generally limited to the courses offered by the Honors department. For instance, while Liberal Studies students can choose from a list of over 100 courses​ to fulfill the Arts and Literature requirement, Honors students take HON101: World Literature​ (to be fair, the content of which can vary with the professor). While I’ve heard of one or two people that really didn’t like the limited options, I can say in all honesty that I’ve been genuinely satisfied with almost every class I’ve taken in the Honors Program.

In addition to your transcript reading “Honors Program Graduate,” the Honors Program offers a ton of perks​. Seriously, I tell everyone to apply to the Honors Program for one main reason: priority registration. At DePaul, freshmen get last choice for signing up for classes. By the end of registration week, a lot of classes are already full. As an Honors student, you have first choice for signing up for classes, even before seniors. It’s amazing (and a good way to make sure you always get the schedule you want). Beyond that, the Honors classes are never more than 20 students. Never. I have four years worth of emails from the Honors advisors reminding students not to waste their time asking professors to make an exception for them. Because the program is relatively small, you end up seeing a lot of familiar faces in your classes. And if you want even more of a familial atmosphere, the Honors Program has its own floor​ in Seton Hall​.

The Honors Program may not be right for everyone, but I recommend it to anyone who thinks it might be right for them.​ Check out their website​ and apply soon!


New Quarter, New Events Part 2

​​​​​Last week, I told you all about DePaul Activities Board​ and the awesome events they are hosting this quarter. At the end of that blog, I promised you more events and I’m delivering. I recently learned about the DePaul Humanities ​Center​ and I’m so excited to share this discovery with you.

I’m currently taking my Honors Capstone​ and my (incredible) professor is the director of the Humanities Center, which I had never really looked into (re: never really heard of) prior to taking the class. After he passed out a flyer in class with all the events for this quarter, I was instantly devastated that I had missed out on years of these… eclectic events. These events may be slightly more academic than you had anticipated, but there’s a reason that I’m so excited about them.

This is apparently somehow related to Moby-Dick. I need to find out how.

Now while I had originally intended to just write about the events that are happening during this quarter, one of the events for next quarter is too bizarre not to mention at this exact moment. Just to give you an idea of the insanity that has apparently been taking place at Humanities Center events for years without my knowledge: Next quarter, there’s an event​ about Moby-Dick​ that includes a screening of Star Trek II​. Let that sink in. Also next quarter: DePaulywood Squares​, a take on Hollywood Squares​ where nine professors from DePaul have to answer trivia questions about their areas of research. And the best part is that audience members have the chance to win prizes!

During this quarter, the Humanities Center is hosting five events and it is my goal to be at every single one. Each event is seriously like five events combined into one event, so let me break down a few for you!

I
This  is the band Typhoon. Come see (three of) them on February 1st!
f you love music, there are a few events perfect for you. On February 1st, three members of the Portland-based band Typhoon​ are coming to perform and then discuss their music and art. On February 8th, you have the opportunity to attend an event about Noah’s Ark​ comprising of an opera performance, a lecture on Noah and animal rights, and a climate change scientist giving his interpretation of the parable of Noah. Or perhaps you want to join me on March 7th for the newest installment in the “Hungry Hungry Humanities” series, “Eating is Understanding.” At this event, billed as a “multi-sensory, interactive foodie event,” the first 100 audience members get a bento box​ filled with food to eat throughout the presentation. And if you’ve ever read my blog before, you know I love food.

There’s so much going on this quarter. You have no reason to ever be bored. Let me know which events you’re thinking about going to!


New Quarter, New Events Part 1

​​​​​Welcome back, everyone! Like I said in one of my blogs at the beginning of last quarter​, I start every quarter by looking for any changes or anything new at DePaul. Yesterday, while I was perusing the campus, I made a terrible discovery. It is with a heavy heart that I announce that the Chinese food station at the Student Center is gone. Fortunately, they’ve now added a wings station, a Korean-Mexican fusion station, and an ice cream station. So things aren’t all bad.

Speaking of food, if you’re anything like me, you’re currently broke because you spent all your money buying new clothes to disguise the fifteen pounds you gained over winter break. If that sounds like you (or even if you’re lucky and didn’t gain fifteen pounds over break), you’re probably looking for some cheap stuff to do during this quarter. Luckily for you, I’ve found a ton of stuff to do over the next two and a half months! 

I love to write about the DePaul Activities Board​’s event calendar. DAB always hosts events you actually want to go to. You all know what I mean by that. Unfortunately, by the time you read this, you will already have missed (or maybe not, I don’t know if you went) what may have possibly been the event of the year: DePaul After Dark​: Harry Potter​. Every Thursday night, DAB hosts DePaul After Dark at the Student Center. Each week has a different theme with new activities. It’s always free and usually includes some sort of free food and giveaways. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’ve ever looking for stuff to do on a Thursday night.

It goes without saying that DAB does way more than just DePaul After Dark. This quarter, in addition to a ton of smaller events, including a Superbowl Party and an Oscar Viewing Party, DAB is going to host two of its biggest annual events: the Blue Demon Dance​ and Polarpalooza​. The Blue Demon Dance is the culminating event of Blue Demon Week​, a week dedicated to fostering school spirit at DePaul. This year, the Blue Demon Dance is being held on January 29th at Crystal Gardens​ on Navy Pier. Tickets are only $10 and totally worth it.

Last, but definitely not least, is Polarpalooza, DePaul’s free winter concert! I give DAB credit for somehow always picking acts that get way bigger right after performing at Polarpalooza (see: Fun.​, Walk the Moon​, Chance the Rapper​). Tickets are free, but limited, so you have to be on your game if you want to go. Every winter, 600 students fill up Lincoln Hall​ for a private concert with an up-and-coming music act. Be sure to check out their website​ on January 22nd when they reveal the artist who will be performing!

When I told you that I found a ton of stuff to do this quarter, I wasn’t exaggerating. Check back next week to find out about more free events happening on campus this quarter!​


Introduction to BA/MA

​​​​​For a long time, I never imagined myself getting a degree past my bachelor’s. I had no interest in it and I just didn’t feel it was for me. While I was studying abroad in Madrid last fall​, I became fascinated by Spain’s transition to democracy​. When I got home, I decided that I wanted to continue my education and get my master’s in I​nternational Studies​. When I began researching different master’s programs, I found out that DePaul had recently begun offering a combined bachelor’s/master’s program in International Studies​. In February, I applied for the program. It was the best move I ever made. In June of 2016, I will be complete my bachelor’s. In June of 2017, I will complete my master’s. And I’m so pumped about it.

Combined BA/MA programs are relatively new in the grand scheme of higher education. You can see the ever-growing list of DePaul’s BA/MA programs here​ (they’re the ones with the asterisks). The conventional path to a master’s usually takes six years: four years to earn your bachelor’s and another two to earn your master’s. At DePaul, the BA/MA programs allow you to complete both your bachelor’s and your master’s within five years. On top of that, the BA/MA program cuts the cost of a master’s almost in half!

In my BA/MA program, the BA/MA students and the regular master’s students have the same class requirements. The difference is the distribution of those classes. During the two years of a regular master’s program, a full course load is generally two classes per quarter. Right now, during the senior year of my undergrad, I will be taking one graduate class and three undergraduate classes each quarter. Next year, I’ll be taking three graduate classes each quarter. So while it’s a shorter program, it is definitely more intense.

On the left is the cost for each year of the conventional master's program. On the right is the cost for the year (plus a summer) of the BA/MA program.

If you’re thinking about going for your master’s, but the price is intimidating you, I would definitely suggest looking into the BA/MA programs. The three graduate classes that I take this year are covered by my undergraduate tuition (and the credits go towards both my bachelor’s and my master’s). But that’s not even the best part. The real MVP is the Double Demon Scholarship​. Before I met with my advisor, I had never heard of the Double Demon Scholarship in my life. Don’t let the ridiculous name fool you. It’s pretty amazing. If you went to DePaul for your undergrad, and you’re coming back for a graduate program, you receive 25% off all of your graduate credits. So not only am I getting twelve graduate credits included in my undergraduate tuition, but the rest of my credits are discounted.

How much does that actually change the cost? The conventional two-year master’s program in International Studies at DePaul will cost $32,552. For me to earn my master’s through the BA/MA program, I will pay $18,503. That’s a savings of $14,049, not to mention a year of my time (which is priceless, as everyone who knows me will tell you).

Right now, I’m loving the program. All the International Studies grad classes are held at night, so it has been really easy to schedule around (especially since night classes only meet once per week). It’s definitely a new level of stress to be balancing the requirements of three undergrad classes and a grad class at the same time. But to me, a little extra stress is worth saving the money and time.


Winter Break in Chicago

Finals were crushing me and, as you can imagine, I was stress eating like it’s an Olympic event and I’m going for gold. Whenever I’m stressed, I invariably seek out baked goods and Chinese food. I am currently typing this up while eating a double doozy (it’s like a chocolate chip ice cream sandwich, but instead of ice cream in the middle, it’s buttercream frosting) from Sweet Mandy B’s​. And in case you were wondering, I’ve become a regular customer of the Chinese food station in the Student Center this week (it’s actually pretty bomb and watching the flaming wok soothes me).

But besides the copious amounts of food, there’s only one thing getting me through finals right now: winter break. While I’m going back home to Wisconsin for break, if you’re staying in Chicago, consider yourself lucky. There are tons of amazing things to do in Chicago during break.

Christkindlmarket is apparently famous for their boot-shaped mugs. Some people collect them. I don't know what else to say about that.

For a lot of families, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade​ is a tradition on Thanksgiving Morning. But if you’re not from Chicago, you may not know that Chicago also has its own Thanksgiving Day Parade. The McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade​ is held on State Street and runs from Congress to Randolph at 8am on Thanksgiving morning. It’s huge. The route is a mile long and the projected attendance is 400,000 people. And to top it all off, David Arquette​ is the Grand Marshal of the parade. If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. 

And as long as you’re on State Street, I don’t know why you wouldn’t go see the famous window displays at Macy’s ​(R.I.P. Marshall Field’s​). This year, the story is “Santa’s Journey to the Stars,” everyone’s favorite Christmas tale of the child who uses a magic telescope to celebrate Christmas on different planets before ending up back at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. While I was skeptical of the story at first (I’m still unsure if it will enter into the holiday canon), the windows are actually beautiful and absolutely worth going to see. The windows will be up until January 10th, so you have plenty of time to check it out.

All I want in life is to have as much fun as these people look like they are having.

The Christkindlmarket​ is a Chicago (but really German) tradition that has to be experienced. In the middle of Daley Plaza, a little German Christmas market pops up from November 20th-December 24th. It’s a very big deal. If we’re all being honest with ourselves, everything is a little overpriced, but just the experience of walking around is worth it. Actually, in reflecting on that point, I don’t think I’ve ever purchased something from the market. It just makes me feel good.

Every year I say I'm going to go ice skating at the rink at Millennium Park​. Literally, every single year. I have yet to go. But I swear this year is the one. Or next year. But I'm feeling good about this year. I get bitter every time I see pictures of people ice skating in front of the Bean​ while I’m sitting at home watching Elf​ for the 74th time. For the record, I’m not complaining about watching Elf, that’s just what I’m usually doing when I see the pictures and become bitter. This year (or next year) will be mine, though, and I will have that picture for myself. I have plenty of time to try to squeeze it in this year: it runs all the way until March 6th. 

If you have any favorite things to do in Chicago during the holiday season, let me know!​


Ace That Essay!

​​​​​It’s getting to be that time of quarter again: finals. I don’t know about you, but every single one of my finals for this quarter is an essay. That's why I've already started stress eating. No matter how many essays you’ve written (and I’ve written my fair share), the process of writing an essay can be tricky. And if you’re a freshman, your first college essay can be particularly daunting. In anticipation of the stress of finals, I’ve compiled a list of my tips to writing an essay:

1. Turn It Off

Everyone who knows me knows about my laughable attention span. So naturally, the hardest thing to do is to get away from distractions. I physically gravitate towards distractions, so this just kills me. Sometimes you really need to get work done and the Candy Crush​ request notifications just won't stop. There have been times when I have had to take extreme measures. I have (in order of insanity): turned off my phone, taken the batteries out of my remote, placed my phone on the other side of my room, and at my lowest moment, I even turned off my WiFi. But I got my work done, and that's what is important.

A relic from my freshman year, evident by the cringeworthy hashtags. I've known the struggle of essay writing all too well, as you can see. (Also, feel free to follow me if you're so inclined.)

2. Spread It Out

No, I’m not one of those annoying people who believe that you should write “a paragraph a day” or any of that nonsense. Honestly, I have yet to meet someone who actually does that. I am very much someone who has to write an entire paper at once. Nevertheless, I still spread my work out. How? One day, I might pick my topic and find some sources. Another day, I might outline my argument. Then, usually at the last moment, I write the paper. No matter what, I know I will put off the actual writing until the last second, so anything I can do in advance to prepare just makes my life easier. Try different ways of dividing the work and see what works best for you!

3. Phone A Friend

As my poor friend Joanna can tell you, I’m a talker. I talk all of my ideas out. Unfortunately for her, she’s always around when I have an epiphany about my thesis, so she is routinely forced to listen to me go over my argument. If you're struggling with a concept or you’re not sure if you're making sense, try to talk it out with your friends (especially if they’re in the class too!). Most of the time, they will be able to tell you where you’re going wrong or give you suggestions.

Disclaimer: Not all friends are made the same and it's up to you to pick one who will make your paper better, not worse.

4. Ask an Expert

If you’re struggling up a storm (we’ve all been there), you can make an appointment to meet with a Writing Center​ tutor. They can help you with almost anything you need. If you’re trying to clarify or strengthen an argument, write your thesis statement, fix grammar, or whatever, they can go over your essay with you. They won’t write it for you, but they can help you every step of the way.  And for the record, they can even help with papers for foreign language classes! 

5. Go to the Source

The most obvious and most underutilized resource you have: your professor. If there is something you don’t understand about your assignment, you can’t pick a topic, or you just need a little guidance, no one can help you more than your professor. DePaul professors are usually really good about being open and available for questions. Obviously, this varies from professor to professor. I’ve had professors who were only willing to meet during office hours or who wouldn’t reply to emails on weekends. I’ve also had professors who hand out their home phone number and tell students not to hesitate to call if they ever have any question. One of my professors even came in on a weekend to meet with me. No matter what, professors are there to help and want you to do your best, so don’t be afraid to talk to them!

I’m getting ready to write a ton of essays for my finals, so if you have any more tips, let me know!​


In Love with the Library

​​​​​Lamest title ever, right? I couldn't resist it.

Anyway, due to the fact that I’ve been working at libraries (on and off) for over four years now, I guess it’s not surprising that I have an affinity for libraries. In my professional opinion, libraries aren’t given enough credit and definitely aren’t appreciated as mu​ch as they should be. The reality of the situation is that a lot of people aren’t aware of all the resources that libraries offer. With finals creeping up, I thought it would be the perfect time to highlight some of my favorite things about DePaul’s Lincoln Park Library​!

Proof of my library credentials. And what you read is true- I have been mistaken for Ryan Gosling before. And I am also an icon and trendsetter. All credit for this magnificent poster goes to Laura from the Oregon Public Library. I still owe her baked goods.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the library has lots of books (and DVDs and CDs). But what if the library doesn’t have the exact book you’re looking for? Through the library catalog (found on the library's homepage), you can request books from other libraries as well! Most of your requests will come from in-state (through I-Share​), but if no I-Share member has the book, it will come from the next closest place (through ILLiad​), whether that be University of Chicago​ (which strangely isn’t a member of I-Share), or somewhere in Australia (what book could you be looking for!?). Right now, I have a book from University of Connecticut. Even better, you can do all of this requesting from the comfort of your home so you never have to get out of bed!

If you’re doing research and having a hard time finding sources on your topic (we all know that struggle), there’s a research help desk​ in the library! They can help you find sources, navigate databases, refine your search terms, anything you need. They’re amazing. Even more amazing is how accessible they are. If you can’t make it to the library, you can call them, email them, or even chat with them online. If you’re really struggling with your research, you can make a one-on-one appointment with the research help desk for up to an hour!

If you’re like me, there are times when you are trying to distract yourself from the disaster that is your academic career. In case you haven’t heard, the library now rents video game consoles​. Yes, you read that right. You can check out an Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, or PlayStation Vita from the library (and the library in the Loop has even more to offer!). If you already have a console, there are dozens of videogames to choose from (for older consoles, too)!

This is the desk of someone starting a thesis. I'm so lucky there isn't really a limit for how many books you can check out (there is, but it's 99 and who has the time to even find 99 books to check out!?). In case you were wondering, I did not get the pumpkin from the library.

Probably the most popular feature of the library is the study rooms​. If you’re doing group work, you can reserve a private room so you can all work together without being bothered (or bothering anyone else). If you’re trying to work on a presentation or watch a movie with a group, you might want to reserve one of the media:scape ​tables or theaters (which is just a booth instead of separate chairs, but it’s so comfortable and highly recommended). What’s cool about media:scape is that each table (or theater) has two big computer monitors that you can either hook your laptop up to or you can use the PC attached to the monitors. Either way, it’s a really easy way for everyone in your group to be able to look at the same screen!

Finally, there's nothing worse than having computer problems while you're in the middle of writing a paper. Last year, my brand new (well, refurbished) laptop suddenly refused to charge right while I was writing my final paper. As you can probably imagine, I just immediately started crying. After three hours of waiting, I was able to get an appointment at the Apple Store​ (conveniently located one stop south on the Red Line​). If I had been thinking at all, I could have brought my laptop to the Genius Squad​ at the library and I wouldn't have lost those three hours (and I probably would have had time to realize I somehow used two different colored fonts). The students working at the Genius Squad are always super friendly, helpful, and quick. I still owe them for helping me get WiFi on my Xbox during my freshman year.

I get way too excited talking about the library. I honestly had to delete stuff from this blog because I was going overboard. Rather than listen to me go on and on, go and check it out yourself next time you're on campus!


Another Day in Chicago

​​​​​A few Fridays ago, I was laying in bed (shocker). Surprisingly, I was actually doing homework. Actually, if I remember right, I was eating avocados and Mickey’s House of Villains​ was playing in the background (for the record, if you haven’t seen Mickey’s House of Villains, I highly recommend it for no other reason than the vintage Halloween cartoons). In that case, I probably wasn’t doing homework, but rather homework was probably somewhere on my bed, laying untouched. I can’t resist Mickey. Either way, my friend Olivia texted me, reminding me that she also lives in Chicago and that I hadn’t seen her for a year.

Olivia and I go way back. We first met while doing community theatre together when I was in fourth grade. That’s eleven years ago (that realization was brutal for me)! I had no plans for the weekend and neither did she, so we had a quick brainstorm of things we could do. Twelve hours later, Olivia and I were standing in line at the Bank of America Theatre, waiting to buy tickets for the musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder​.

Now, if you’ve never done student rush for a musical, you’re missing out. Almost every popular musical does some sort of student rush (or lottery) nowadays. Each show does student rush a little bit differently, but for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, the tickets went on sale when the box office opened at 10am (but Olivia and I got there around 9am so we could be close to the front of the line because I stress about these kinds of things). The show sells whatever seats were still open for $25 to any student/senior/veteran. Other shows (like Wicked​) use a lottery system where you can put your name into a drawing, and then two hours before the show, box office agents will pull 10-12 names. Each chosen person can buy up to two tickets for $20-$30 (it depends on the show – for Wicked, the seats are usually $25 and in the front row).​

Me in Maggie Daley Park with Olivia. I don't know how my head and the only dent in the mirror aligned so  perfectly.
With four hours between buying the tickets and the show, Olivia and I went on a walking tour of downtown. We stopped at my new favorite chain restaurant, Wow Bao​, where I shared with Olivia the glory of bao​. The consumption of bao gave us the energy to walk to Eataly​, Ghirardelli​ (you know I needed my free piece of chocolate), and through the beautiful Maggie Daley Park​. I can’t stress enough how important it is that you run to Maggie Daley Park as fast as you can and walk through the Enchanted Forest. If only you could have seen me running on those logs and spinning the boulder... you would have been embarrassed.

The show itself was great and we had amazing tickets. I can’t lie though: the highlight of the evening was the woman sitting behind us that was just absolutely confused by everything that was happening in the show. She spent the entire 15-minute intermission trying to talk through who had died (one man plays eight parts and she could not tell them apart at all) while I tried to discretely wipe my tears away from laughing so hard.

All in all, it is days like these that I’m grateful that I live in Chicago. Ten-year-old me would be very proud that I chose to live somewhere where going to see a Broadway tour is something I casually decide to do with a friend on my free time.


Halloween in Chicago

As you probably already know, I love fall​. Which means that I also love Halloween. What may surprise you is that I occasionally turn off my TV, which is usually playing Hocus Pocus​ on a constant loop during this time of year, and do something outside. Of course, despite the implication, I’m not talking about doing any sort of athletic activity (my current excuse is that I’m gaining protective fat in order to survive through winter). I bravely venture outside, wearing the jack-o-lantern t-shirt that I bought at Walmart, to go do Halloween-related things or, as you read​, to buy pumpkin-flavored goods.

Now, some of you may be wondering what Chicago offers for Halloween. Others of you may be questioning how you can pick from the seemingly endless number of Halloween parties and events. Or if you’re like me, you’re sitting in bed and wondering why Disney Channel stopped showing Don’t Look Under The Bed​. 

If you’re in the third group with me, the answer is that Don’t Look Under The Bed was supposedly too scary for the intended audience (although I don’t remember trying to burrow into my couch to hide from the monster in Don’t Look Under The Bed like I did during Halloweentown​).

If you’re in either of the other two groups, you’re in luck. I’ve gone through and selected the best of the best so that your Halloween is all treat and no trick.

The Halloween Gathering​ (October 24th)

I can’t believe a bunch of artists are throwing this and the best name they could come up with is “The Halloween Gathering.” That being said, the actual event has a lot of promise. Hosted by Chicago Cultural Mile in conjunction with a ton of fine arts organizations (including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra), this first-year event has tons of music and drama performances planned, tons of crafts, and some really interesting art installations. The culminating activity (besides the super expensive after-party) is a costume parade through downtown, complete with a Thriller​ flash mob.

19th Annual Northalsted Halloween Parade (October 31st)

What happens when you cross a pride parade​ with Party City​? You get the 19th Annual Northalsted Halloween Parade. Running straight through Boystown​, one of the costume contest categories is drag​. If that doesn’t make you want to go, I don’t know what will. I want to go just to count how many queens are dressed up as one of the Golden Girls​. If drag queens aren’t your thing, you really shouldn’t be in Boystown there’s a pet parade earlier in the day as well.

Day of the Dead​ (November 1st)

This year, The National Museum of Mexican Art​ is hosting its biggest and most interactive Day of the Dead celebration ever (which is saying something if you’ve been to any of them in the past). Anyone can upload a photo of a loved one who has passed on their website​ and it will be projected onto the side of the museum during the festivities. Apart from that art installation, you can expect tons of live music, hot chocolate, art, and skulls.​ 

​​

Be a Tourist!

There’s a huge difference between visiting somewhere and living somewhere. I had this exact conversation with my friend the other day: when you visit somewhere, you might spend hours and hours researching places to go and sights to see. When you live somewhere, you just don’t have the same urge to explore.

I mean, look at me- when I was originally looking at colleges and figuring out where I wanted to go, I was insistent on being in a big city. I wanted to live the city life; I wanted to experience different kinds of people, sights, foods, and events. Being in Chicago was one of the main reasons that I chose to go to DePaul. When I first came to DePaul, I lived in residence halls and had all my classes in Lincoln Park, so I never really left campus. I'd go to class, go eat at the student center, and then go home. For whatever reason, I just never really ventured out.

I won the Wicked lottery. And yes, you see that I marked only one ticket. Because I have no friends and went all by myself.

Why did I insist on living in the city if I wasn’t going to take advantage of it? I’m that person who always dismisses everything as being “too tourist-y”, while always secretly wanting to go up to the Skydeck​. So I decided to bust out the (figurative) fanny pack and try to approach Chicago like a tourist would! Since this spring, I’ve decided to abandon my pretensions and make it a point to actively seek out tourist-y types of activities (although I have retained my dignity and continue to refuse to take a picture of my reflection on the Bean​).

At the same time, I’m (obviously) a student, so I have no time for tourist prices. Honestly, I only finally went up to the Skydeck because I realized I could use my airline points from my flight to Madrid to buy passes. Because you can’t use points on everything, I have a few discounted suggestions for fall and winter.​

I’m not going to lie: I used to be a theatre nerd. And I still love theatre. Tickets can run super expensive though, so I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to score cheap tickets. Like I’ve mentioned 1001 times, the​ Office of Student Involvement​ sells discounted tickets for at least one show per quarter, so they’re always my go-to. Another great resource is​ HotTix​, literally a website dedicated to discount theatre tickets. I also regularly check Broadway in Chicago​’s website for special offers. This is where they will announce if a show will be doing lottery or student rush​. This is how I got to sit in the front row of Wicked for only $25!

The famous Bean, also known as Cloud Gate. People love taking pictures of their reflections in it. I don't get it.
After three years at DePaul, I finally went to the Shedd Aquarium​ this spring. I had been meaning to go for years, but just never got around to it. It was so worth the wait. Even better: I went on an Illinois Resident day (you can find when the next one is on their website), used my DePaul ID, and got in for free. If you’re in the mood for a more traditional museum experience, The Art Institute of Chicago​ is ranked one of the best museums in the world. Located right next to Millennium Park​ (and the amazing new Maggie Daley Park​, as well), the Art Institute has tons of iconic art that you’ll instantly recognize. If you want to check it out, the Art Institute offers free admission for Illinois residents every Thursday from 5-8pm.
​Whether you just moved here or have lived in Chicago your whole life, seeing Chicago through the eyes of a tourist can open you up to a variety of new experiences!


It's Finally Fall

I’m a big believer that no matter how long you’ve lived somewhere, you should do all the touristy stuff at least once. When I sat down to write this blog, I had planned to write about discounted and free touristy things to do in Chicago (look for it next week). But then, right as I went to sit down, I made the mistake of spraying my fall scented air freshener.

I love fall. Fall makes me happy. Fall has always been my favorite since I was a little kid. For whatever reason, when I woke up this morning, it just felt like fall to me. In honor of that feeling, this post has become a celebration about fall and all the fall-themed adventures I had today.

I'm not kidding when I tell you that this is a picture of my freshman dorm. And yes, that's also a fan. It got stuffy in that room.

After Dominick’s​ closed (R.I.P.) and before the Whole Foods opened up on campus, I would walk to Trader Joe’s​ to get all my groceries. The weather was beautiful today, so I decided to walk there and pick up a few things. One of my favorite things about Trader Joe’s is its huge assortment of seasonal goods and decorations. Now as I’ve said, I’m an easily excitable person, so you can imagine my reaction when I walked into Trader Joe’s today and saw pumpkin flavored everything, including Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter. If you’ve had Cookie Butter, you know why this is so exciting. If you’ve never had Cookie Butter, you better have a good reason why not. If you’ve never heard of Cookie Butter, go read this famous blog entry​ about it. After 25 minutes on the phone with my mother, narrating every pumpkin flavored item I found to her, I was finally prepared to check out.

Now this is where my story just gets straight up shameful and embarrassing. I’ve truly hit a new low in my life. I’ve hit rock bottom. To paint the picture: my dad had just called to tell me about this showing of ​Hocus Pocus​ at a cemetery in Chicago in a few nights. As a child of the immediate gratification generation, I immediately want to watch Hocus Pocus, but I’m obviously not home yet and I’ve lent my DVD player to someone who hasn’t returned it (you know who you are). So here I am, walking home with both my groceries and a burning desire to watch Hocus Pocus.​

Yes, I own all four Halloweentown movies. Why wouldn't I?
I’m ashamed to admit that I grabbed my phone, went on YouTube, and started playing the theme song to Hocus Pocus. Now, you may think that isn’t so terrible, but let’s all recognize that I did not have headphones on me and that the theme music of Hocus Pocus​ was playing out of my speaker on my phone while I walked down the streets of Chicago with pumpkin-flavored groceries.

After I get home and recover from my shame spiral, I grab some apple cider and my pumpkin pie flavored yogurt and I surf the web, as the kids like to call it. I’m pulling up sources to write my blog when I inevitably end up on DePaul Activities Board​’s website. I notice an event I had not noticed before: a Halloweentown​ Party. Even though they aren’t showing my favorite, Halloweentown High, you better believe I have literally cleared my schedule in order to go. I expect to see you all there with me, eating as many pumpkin flavored baked goods as you can handle.​


Picking My Major (And My Master's)

When I was little, I dreamed of being either a chemist or the next Brad Pitt. Turns out that I hated math and that I have a slightly more chubby build than Brad Pitt. So both of those were a bust. While in middle school, I started to become a little more realistic in my career aspirations, telling people about all the work I would do as a lawyer with the  ACLU​ (there’s literally an article in the local newspaper with a quote from me describing how I plan on going into tort reform or immigration law). This idea lasted until I read a random article about the overabundance of lawyers and panicked that I would end up like Warner at the end of Legally Blonde​: single and without any job offers.

The result is that going into my freshman year of college, like tons of students, I had no clue what I wanted to study. Having taken six years of Spanish throughout middle school and high school, I figured that I would just continue studying Spanish and get my degree in that. After a quick talk with my Honors academic advisor, I discovered that my (alleged) proficiency in Spanish meant that in order to fulfill my foreign language requirement for the Honors Program​I would either have to pick up another foreign language or pick up a second major.
Look at Freshman Willy! Vanessa (now the president of Student Government Association) and me on the El during our first week of our freshman year.

Not wanting to confuse myself with another foreign language, I chose to take on a second major, despite having no clue what that major would be. At the suggestion of my advisor, I took some sociology classes, but I quickly realized it just wasn’t for me. One night, after scrolling through the majors offered by the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences​ while having a marathon of all four of the Halloweentown​ movies, I made the rash decision to declare a major in International Studies​.

I don’t know why I chose International Studies. I didn’t really know anything about the major and I didn’t know anyone else who was in the program. To be honest, I was just lazy and wanted to be done with picking my second major.

After the first meeting of my first International Studies class, I was pretty sure I could not have made more wrong of a choice. I was super intimidated by everyone and felt so out of place. I was tempted to drop the major right then and there, but my pride got the best of me and I decided to stick it out for the rest of the quarter. At the end of the quarter, I had made so many friends in the International Studies department that I decided to take one more class to prove to myself that it wasn’t the right major for me (that makes total sense, right?).

I walked into that second class prepared to drop International Studies and pick a new major. I had been looking at possible new majors the night before. By the end of the first week of the second class, I couldn’t remember ever wanting to drop. I was calling my parents and telling them that the major was the greatest thing to ever happen to me.

Two years later, I’ve just started the 5-year BA/MA program in International Studies. The BA/MA program is an accelerated program that allows me to get both my bachelor’s and my master’s within five years. Instead of completing my bachelor's in four years and spending another two on my master's, I start taking graduate classes during the senior year of my undergraduate career. Basically, I eliminate the second year of graduate school. Not only do I save that much time, but the graduate classes I take during my senior year are included in my undergraduate tuition and I get a 25% discount on the other grad classes because I also will have completed my bachelor's at DePaul (and you know I love to save money). 

The moral of the story is that if you're trying to find the right major for you, keep looking. I promise it's out there. And if you already have found the perfect major for you, push yourself and go as far as you can with it! And if your program offers a 5-year BA/MA, do it (it's a pretty solid deal).


The First Week of School

After 21 years of life, I have finally accepted that I’m just an excitable person. Almost everything excites me. I genuinely called my dad at work today because I was so excited that there was a sale on yogurt at the grocery store. Five minutes later, I called him again because I saw a food truck. That being said, nothing excites me (and stresses me) more than the first week of school.​

It doesn’t help that I always see the beginning of the school year as the start of a new era of Willy. I get myself way too amped up about the possibilities of scholarly excellence. In my eyes, it’s basically the academic equivalent of New Year’s Day; each year, I make promises to myself that I won’t avoid homework by sitting in bed and binge-watching  30 Rock​ while eating a whole roll of Toll House cookie dough. I make my annual pledge to not procrastinate and to work ahead. Just like New Year’s resolutions, I give up my lofty academic aspirations by the end of the week.​

This is my ~special~ notebook that has led me to academic success for the past two years.

Nevertheless, the first week of school does bring many changes, even if I may not change. This year, for me, it means a new residence, new bedding (less than a week and I’ve already spilled pizza sauce on it), a new schedule, a new shirt, and a new notebook. It’s almost too much excitement for me. I found myself planning when to buy my ~special~ notebook from the bookstore a week in advance (I swear by this notebook and credit it for all of my success). But buying that notebook is part of my ritual that takes place before the start of each quarter. My ritual helps me to live my best life and to readjust to campus life.​

In addition to buying my notebook (and bulk buying Megabus​ tickets, but that’s another story), there are three other parts to my ritual:

1. I always hit up the websites for DePaul Activities Board​ (DAB) and for the Office of Student Involvement​. At the beginning of each quarter, DAB releases their event calendar (around which I plan my personal calendar).  My favorite programs are the movie premieres, where they hand out free tickets to the premiere of a popular movie. This quarter, the premiere is The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II​, so you better believe I will be near the head of the line. I also visit the Office of Student Involvement to see which shows are being offered through DemonTix, DePaul’s discount ticket program. Last spring, I got tickets to Book of Mormon​ through DemonTix, so now I watch that site like a hawk.

​Check out what DAB has planned for this quarter!
2. I go to Demon Discounts​ and see if any new restaurants or stores have been added. I don’t really have anything really clever or witty to say about this one, but a discount is a discount and it makes me feel good about myself.

3. In general, I try to snoop around and find out what’s new at DePaul. For instance, I’ve discovered that the library now rents video games AND video game consoles​. So if you want to try out PS4 or Xbox One, you know where to go. Also, a lot of the menus have changed at the Student Center, so look for a future blog where I review those changes (and most likely mourn the loss of the Santa Fe breakfast sandwich).

Let me know if you have any sort of ritual that you do before you start school!​


My Annual Summer Job

​​​Let me paint the picture for you: It was a sunny day in May 2011. I was a junior in high school. School let out at 3:30 and I had a job interview at the public library at 4:00. I lived on the same street as the high school, so I thought I would have enough time to run home, change into some nicer clothes, and walk to the library in time for my interview. Unsurprisingly, I’m pretty sure I got distracted with some food (typical) and realized I was running late. Thankfully, my biochemistry teacher saw me frantically sprinting to the library and asked if I needed a ride (Thank you, Mrs. Landsness!). A week later, the library gave me my first summer job (which was later extended throughout my entire senior year). This week, I returned to the library for my fifth summer in a row.

So, as you can probably infer from that masterfully written introduction, I’m finally back home for the summer! Words cannot describe how joyful I am to: (a) be done with school for a while, and (b) be in a house with a fully stocked kitchen again. I’m taking the time to be grateful for this situation, since it is most likely the last summer I’ll be spending at home. Next year, I have to stay in Chicago in order to take grad classes for my master’s (how impressive am I, right?).

The highly contested worm race trophies.
For this summer, I’m back at the library and I could honestly not be more excited. I love the staff, I have great hours, and there are usually some sort of treats in the break room. Today, someone brought in cookie dough brownies (I’m ashamed that I didn’t know they existed before today). Today was a significant day at the library for another reason, too: the annual worm race. 

“What?” you exclaim, convinced you misunderstood. Yes, you read that correctly. We race worms. We have judges, a wormbulance, and official team cheers. We even give out trophies for the fastest worms.

Amazing children’s programming aside, working at the library during high school helped me so much when I got to college. I mean, I knew how to navigate the library and its resources from the moment I walked in (which was so helpful). More importantly, it opened the door for me to find a job at school. I knew the basics about libraries, so during my sophomore year at DePaul, I applied to work at the library (and I still work there and make bank).  

An adorable selfie I took while waiting for worm race participants to show up. The wormbulance is visible in the background (located over my right shoulder, and I mean my right).
I guess this post is just my reflection about my final summer at home and the impact that my high school summer job has had on my life. I’ve gotten so much out of it and I’ve been so lucky to be asked back to the library every summer. It’s sad to think this is most likely my final worm race. Next year, everything is going to be different and I’m going to have to spend my own money if I want a kitchen as full as the one at my house. I’m so excited to move on with my life, but my little hometown library will always be special to me.
​​​

My Favorite Desserts

​​​​​I was trying to brainstorm a possible topic for my last blog post until fall when I realized I’ve never talked about the one thing I know best: desserts. I've made it no secret that I love food. I mean, nothing tastes better than food. And as far as food goes, dessert tastes best. In a city as big as Chicago, you can find a lot of desserts. As you can guess, I’m no stranger to many of those desserts. Here are some of my favorites so far:

Eataly​—Chocolate Chip Cookie
First off, if you've never been to Eataly, you need to go. A grocery store-food c
The absolute best chocolate chip cookie money can buy. Go to Eataly and get it.
ourt hybrid created by chef Mario Batali, Eataly is two floors of food heaven with 23 different food stations. While most people go to the Nutella Bar (a station that literally only serves baked goods with Nutella on them) in Eataly for dessert, I head up to the bread bakery and grab one of the chocolate chip cookies. Not only are they big and cheap (at least compared to the rest of the store), they’re super chocolatey, which is the most important aspect of a chocolate chip cookie.


Ann Sather​—Cinnamon Roll 
No one ever really says, “Wow, that was a great cinnamon roll.” Prior to my trip to Ann Sather, I was pretty convinced that a cinnamon roll is a cinnamon roll. They’re all pretty similar. I look back on my pre-Ann Sather life and see a naïve young adult, struggling to find the truth in life. After my first bite of the cinnamon roll at Ann Sather, I saw the light. It’s everything that you always wish a cinnamon roll would be without the disappointment that usually comes when you bite into a cinnamon roll. (Pro tip: never buy the cinnamon rolls as an a la carte item—they’re a little expensive. Always get an egg-based entrée; each entrée comes with two sides and two cinnamon rolls count as ONE (1) side.)

Sweet Mandy B's​—My Birthday Cake
I’ve name-dropped Sweet Mandy B’s so many times in my blog posts that you probably think they’re sponsoring me. I wish. The reality is that the bakery is ridiculously close to campus and is easily the best bakery I’ve ever been to. I could easily do an entire post just on my favorite things at SMB (which I’m now
My delicious birthday cake from Sweet Mandy B’s. My parents did me a solid.
thinking I should totally do), but I thought I’d pick my birthday cake since I have the best picture of it. This year, my parents finally listened to me and got me the birthday cake of my dreams: chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream filling and covered in Oreo buttercream. They have the best buttercream frosting I’ve ever had in my entire life. It’s so good that they now even sell cups of it by itself.

Glazed and Infused​—Maple Bacon Donut
I’m not generally someone who seeks out desserts that feature meat. I’m certainly not averse to meat (especially bacon), but I just don’t typically have a craving for pork roast brownies or anything. So when I first encountered the maple bacon donut at Glazed and Infused, I was apprehensive. Eating a donut with meat seemed like a Fear Factor​ challenge to me. After my friend convinced me to try it, I was hooked. I wondered what other delicious meaty desserts I had missed out on (spoiler alert: there are no other delicious meaty desserts). Now that Glazed and Infused sells their donuts at the DePaul Student Center, I can get my fix without even having to walk the two extra blocks to their storefront. It’s a win-win.


Reflecting on My First Year

​​​​​In honor of incoming freshman getting ready to go to orientation and start their first year at college, I thought I’d reflect on my experience at DePaul orientation and my first quarter at DePaul.

I took this picture on my way to DePaul’s orientation all the way back in 2012. I remember being so hungry and almost crying tears of joy when my orientation group went on a field trip to the bakery.
Three years ago, I was getting ready to step on DePaul’s campus for the first time. I (somewhat stupidly) never toured DePaul​ before officially enrolling, so orientation was the first time I ever actually got to see what the campus was like. I remember driving into Chicago that weekend, seeing the skyline, and not being able to believe that I would be going to school there for the next four years. Over the two-day orientation​, I enrolled for my first quarter of classes (I made the worst schedule ever and regretted it for the entire quarter), declared my first major, went to Sweet Mandy B's​ for the first time, attempted to figure out the layout of the campus, and made my first friend. Overall, I had a super successful orientation.

When I came back to DePaul to start school a month and a half later, I realized how much of a disaster I am on my own. DePaul's Lincoln Park campus is relatively small and ridiculously easy to navigate for 99% of people. The other 1% contains people like me, who have no intrinsic sense of direction. I got on campus and was instantly lost. Now, this had nothing to do with the layout of the campus or anything. I was 15 minutes late for every class on my first day of high school because I couldn’t find the classrooms (and my high school was a single one-level building). The campus is literally no bigger than eight square blocks, and my furthest class was only three blocks away, but I had to use Google Maps to get to my classes for the first two weeks. Bear Grylls gets dropped in the middle of a forest with no compass and finds his way out; I get placed in an urban area with clearly marked streets and can’t find my way to the student center three blocks away.

And like I said, I gave myself the worst schedule I can imagine. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I had class from 9:40 A.M. to 5:50 P.M.. Actually, let me rephrase that: I didn’t have class the whole time, I only had class from 9:40-11:10, 1:00-2:30, and 4:20-5:50. For some reason, I thought it was a good idea to give myself an hour and a half break in between each class. I envisioned myself doing all this homework and eating all of these great meals and working out. What did I do in between the classes? I played a bingo game on my phone. That’s how productive I was during those times.

I met these two during my first quarter at DePaul (ignore the ugly jacket I’m wearing). Three years later and Vicky, Kate, and I are all still best friends. We had to go to a cultural activity for this Spanish class, so we went to a Día de los Muertos party at a bar in Wrigleyville. Despite arriving at bar at the moment the party started and being the only people there, we were told they were out of tamales (which they were selling especially for the party).
On top of all that, I remember being super intimidated by the entire CTA system. While enrolled at DePaul, you get a U-Pass, which allows unlimited use of the CTA​ system. Throughout my first quarter, I think I used the ‘L’ by myself one time (in order to attend a required play for a class). I don’t remember why I was intimidated at all, but I’m pretty sure I was. It probably had something to do with me thinking that I would never find my way back if I left campus. Of course, I take the ‘L’ all the time now, comforted by the fact that Google Maps has transit directions and schedules.

Now, three years later, I have a second major, I’m starting my combined BA/MA program this fall, I’ve made a lot more friends, I’ve perfected scheduling classes, and I’ve recently mastered the layout of DePaul’s campus (but I’m still completely lost outside of it).  

Class in Chicago

​​​​​Like I’ve said before​, I’ve always known I wanted to go to school in a big city. I knew that I would function best (and have the most fun) in a big city. I also figured I could probably learn a few things from living in a big city that I hadn’t learned growing up in the Horse Capitol of Wisconsin.

As you probably know, one of DePaul’s slogans is “The city is your campus.” No matter how cheesy that slogan is (I’m from Wisconsin and even I think it’s ridiculously cheesy), it’s absolutely true. For instance, this quarter, I had field trips. Yes, you read that right. I’m a college student and I had field trips this quarter. And let me tell you: I learned so much from those field trips. And the more I thought about those field trips, the more I realized that my classes at DePaul have always pushed me to take advantage of the kinds of opportunities in Chicago that drew me to going to school in a big city.

Exelon City Solar Power Plant: This power plant has been built on land that is essentially unusable due to pollution. How future looking, am I right?
At the start of my freshman year, I took the Discover Chicago​ class (rather than the Explore Chicago class). Discover starts a week before the normal school year starts, but that week is spent introducing you to the city and exploring a theme in the city. Of course, because I’m me, while other students were enrolled in Discover classes about biking or chocolate, I enrolled in a class entitled “Race, Gender, and the Justice System” that had us visiting museums, sending books to women in prison, and meeting with local charities that provided services to underprivileged communities. Not only did I meet 90% of my current friends in that class, but I also think about that immersion week all of the time.

Over the years, various classes have had me visiting the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Library​ to look at unconventionally assembled books, attending a Día de los Muertos party at a Mexican bar (one of many Spanish cultural events I had to attend), going to a play (which for some reason terrified me as a freshman?), and participating in a social justice event of my choosing (in which I marched with Chicago Coalition for the Homeless​).

As I said, this quarter has been no exception. As a member of Sigma Iota Rho, the honors society for international studies, I was invited to attend an event with keynote speaker Ambassador William Burns​, former Deputy Secretary of State. It was exciting to hear someone with such a successful and lengthy career speak about the same topics I’m studying. That same night, my Latin American and Spanish Cinema class met at a movie theater downtown for the 31st Chicago Latino Film Festival​, where we (obviously) watched a movie and attended a Q&A with the director. As you can guess, I bought way too much food and nearly went broke, but I don’t regret the jalapeño poppers and an ice cream cookie sandwich at all.

Later on in the quarter, my honors science course on solar energy had two back-to-back field trips. We toured Argonne National Laboratory​ one week and then Exelon City Solar Power Plant​ the next week. It was so helpful and enlightening to the see the real-world applications of what we were learning in class.

It’s been so amazing to go to school in a big city and be able to get out of the classroom and learn these subjects in the actual city of Chicago. Every time I get to do experiential learning, I’m reminded why I chose to go to DePaul.

Discounts at DePaul

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love saving money. I, like my dad, am one of those impulse consumers who just can’t pass up a sale or freebie. Fortunately for me (and you), DePaul is constantly offering tons of sales, discounts, giveaways, and free events.

Throughout my years at DePaul, I’ve come to the conclusion that either everyone else is very uninformed about these resources or that I may be slightly obsessive. Obviously the latter is totally not the case, so I’m here to inform you all about the deals and steals you are (most likely) missing out on. 
For just $5, you can be the owner of this framed​ article detailing how DePaul’s students are the happiest in the nation. While I’m sure this artwork will bring you joy, you still most likely won’t be as gleeful as the woman on the left.

You never know what you will find on here. Some days, there are pages and pages to look through. Other days (like as I’m writing this), there are only 12 items. Almost everything that DePaul has bought, no longer needs, and still functions is sold on here. I’ve seen chairs, cell phones, computers, framed pictures… Right now, they are selling a 17-inch MacBoo​k Pro ​(Apple doesn’t even sell those anymore). I mean, really. Can someone please buy the 33 silk ties​ and 50 rectangular dishes​ already?

Now this is the real discount area. DePaul has partnerships with a ton of local and national restaurants, shops, companies, etc. in order to provide students (and often alumni, faculty, and staff as well) with discounts. I will tell you right now that I’m getting 10% off of my AT&T bill​ every month because of DePaul. Demon Discounts also has a big selection of local restaurants that I check every time that I’m trying to figure out where I want to go to dinner. Definitely check it out.
Of note: the Software for Personal Use​ section is actually one of the most useful resources I’ve ever encountered while at DePaul. A few months ago, I had to buy a new laptop and I couldn’t find the disks with my license for Microsoft Office that I had bought years ago (as all of my elementary teachers wrote on my report cards, organization has never been my strong suit). Just as I was preparing to shell out over $100 for a new license, I found out that I could download Microsoft Office and use it for free with my DePaul login. I’ve never felt more proud of myself than I did in the moment that I put my credit card back in my wallet.

This picture is a little like Inception​. Anyways, the show was amazing and I’m still so excited I won DAB’s contest for the tickets!
DAB is best known for organizing FEST, but in reality, they’re constantly hosting events and doing giveaways. This year, they began hosting DePaul After Dark, late night events with different games (including bingo, where the prize is Whole Foods gift cards). DAB holds a special place in my heart because not only did I get a free ticket for the premiere of Maleficent ​a year and a half ago, I won two free tickets to The Book of Mormon​ a couple months ago! Two weeks ago, they gave away tickets to the premiere of Pitch Perfect 2​. This is definitely a resource to keep up to date with.


Procrastination

​​​With the quarter finally coming to a close and finals on the horizon, now is (supposed to be) the time to start buckling down and doing work. Everyone, especially professors and parents, always tells you that if you start early and study and write a little bit each day, finals can be painless. According to that logic, I must just be a masochist. 

I am one of the worst procrastinators ​ever. I fully recognize that almost everyone says that and I fully recognize that almost everyone (else) is exaggerating. I’m genuinely terrible. Over my near 15 years of schooling, I have perfected the art of procrastination. Obviously, as I’ve matured, my methods of procrastination have become more advanced and time-consuming. I’ve moved on from Procatinator to much more worldly and profound distractions, like Buzzfeed ​quizzes and repeatedly pressing the random page button on Wikipedia​. It’s amazing how interesting the history of bread can be when you have so many other things you need to be doing. When I’m really desperate, I’ve even been known to clean on occasion.

Just to be clear, I know most of you reading this are expecting this post to be full of tips and tricks to beat procrastination and maintain your sanity (and a normal sleep schedule) during finals​. That’s not what’s happening here at all.

Actual image of me actually procrastinating (I didn’t want to go get my laundry).
When I started college, I decided I should finally try to start listening to that sage advice from my teachers and my parents. I promised myself that I would stop cramming and speed-writing at the last minute. Instead, I’d design a plan of attack, spreading out the work I needed to do over a week and a half at the end of the quarter. For six quarters, I tried to make this work for me. For that week and a half at the end of the quarter, I’d lock myself in my room every day, vowing not to sleep until I had completed everything on that day’s to-do list. Every quarter, the result was the same: I’d get nothing done and, due to my brilliant no-sleep clause, I’d be beyond sleep deprived when I actually needed to start working. All of my friends have heard the story about when I was so sleep-deprived, I hallucinated that Michelle Obama ​had walked into my dorm room (not to mention that about an hour after the Michelle Obama incident, I called out to my dad to make me some food, which obviously didn’t happen since he was back home in Wisconsin ​at the time).

This year, for the first time ever, I chose to accept the fact that I’m inevitably going to procrastinate. I’ve developed a new strategy that works around my procrastination instead of trying to fight it: If I don’t have anything due that day, I take the day off. I eat and sleep as much as possible and rewatch as many episodes of Parks and Recreation as I can.  If I do have a final due that day, I will still eat as much as possible, but I’ll just work up until that D2L Dropbox is about to close on me.

The moral of the story is this: find what works best for you. You know your weaknesses and your strengths: play to that. I can’t spread work out over days, but I work incredibly well under pressure. It’s in my best interest to rest up while I can so that I can do my best work when I start my essay six hours before it’s due. What works best for me is ordering General Tso’s Chicken​ and having a Halloweentown ​marathon the day before a 10-page paper is due. 

Do you have any special strategies to get through finals? Let me know so I don’t feel so alone!

My Time in Madrid

​​​​​Right around a year ago, I attended the DePaul study abroad​ orientation in preparation for my trip to Spain. This year, I returned to the orientation as an alumnus to talk to the group of students getting ready to go to Madrid ​this fall. It was an amazing opportunity to reflect upon my experience in Madrid.

Jennifer and Me in Park Güell in Barcelona. Fun fact: my host parents collected various Disney memorabilia, so I gave them this shirt at the end of my trip. I wouldn’t be surprised if they liked that shirt more than they liked me.
Just to set the mood, I had never been out of the country before.  The closest I had ever gotten to being an international jetsetter was walking around the World Pavilion at Epcot ​(I highly recommend the chocolate mousse at the French bakery). As a Spanish and International Studies double major, to avoid any potential irony, I figured I should probably get out of the U.S. at some point in my life. So after fantasizing about it for years and years, I decided to apply to study abroad in Madrid, Spain.

I decided to study abroad through DePaul rather than through an external company or by organizing my trip myself. There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages that accompany each choice, but as it was my first time leaving the country, I prioritized convenience and efficiency. Whenever I had a question, I could always go visit the Study Abroad Office on campus, which was very comforting to me and most likely very annoying to them (they probably wondered how one student could have so many questions about passports and visas). The program was conveniently scheduled so that I would only miss one quarter, a feat not often achieved when most study abroad programs are structured around the semester system. And because I studied abroad through DePaul, my credits transferred without me even having to think about them.

Chloe, Sarah, a garbage can, and Me in front of Toledo. In addition to having one of the most photo-worthy landscapes ever, Toledo makes some ridiculous marzipan. It was amazing.
Most importantly, by going through DePaul, I had a built-in group of friends during (and after) the program. The moment I boarded the plane to Madrid, I realized I was sitting next to another student in the program (Hi, Chloe!) and that there were six other students from the DePaul program on the flight. Knowing we were all going into this program with the common bond of DePaul made all of us fast friends and over the next two and a half months in Madrid, we did almost everything together.

In Madrid, I lived in a homestay ​with a husband and wife. Before I arrived, I could not have been more anxious about living in a homestay. I was pretty convinced that I would end up in some horror-movie caliber living situation. I had this recurring nightmare where I would go to talk to my family and realize that the language I had been learning for years wasn’t actually Spanish at all and that I couldn’t communicate with my host parents whatsoever. When I arrived, I was relieved to be greeted by two of the kindest, friendliest, funniest people I’ve ever met in my entire life and to be ushered into a beautiful apartment (situated above a Tupperware store and a GameStop, but still beautiful).

Over my two and a half months in Madrid, I had the best time of my life. I saw the musical The Lion King in Spanish (El Rey León, anyone?). I ate at a Chinese restaurant located in an underground parking lot. I became best friends with the cashier at a bakery who bought all my pastries for me on my final day in Madrid. I bought churros and chocolate at 4am, celebrated Thanksgiving at a 50s-style American diner, and ate a disturbing
Paola and Me at a Real Madrid game at Bernabéu Stadium ​(which was only a ten minute walk from my homestay!). You can bring your own food into the stadium, so you better believe we were taking advantage of that.
amount of ham sandwiches. By the end of the program, I finally felt comfortable conversing in Spanish. I even discovered that I had an interest in Spanish history (which is going to be the subject of my master’s thesis). 

If you’ve never left the country, the idea of living abroad can be daunting. I know it certainly intimidated me. It’s so cheesy, but studying abroad changed my life and I personally view it as the best decision I’ve ever made. If you get the opportunity, take it. You won’t regret it. Plus, you can make an amazing photo book out of the pictures you take. Trust me. 
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Festival Season Has Arrived

​​​​Technically, it has been spring for months, but the weather is only now starting to catch up with that fact. The sun and warm breeze have seduced me enough to get me to turn Netflix off, brush the Girl Scout Cookie crumbs off of my pajamas, get out of bed, and go outside. I’m always looking for things to do and the warm weather means one thing to me: it’s festival season.

While everyone knows about Spring Awakening and Lollapalooza and Taste of Chicago, there are a ton of smaller festivals happening all around the city all of the time!

Here are some that I’m thinking about going to this month:

Mayfest ​(May 15-17): For 20 years, Mayfest has prided itself on being the unofficial start to festival season in the city.  Mayfest is three days of music, food, beverages, and a children’s health and wellness expo (in case any of you were looking for that). Mayfest is held (relatively) near the Paulina Brown Line stop in a massive (I’m not
exaggerating) heated tent. I’m slightly confused why it needs to be heated with so many people in a confined space, but I’m excited to find out why when I go. 

FEST ​(May 22): The most important one of all! DePaul’s annual end-of-year music festival turns 30 this year and it’s celebrating in a big way. Held on the Quad on the Lincoln Park Campus, FEST is only open to DePaul Students and only costs $10! It’s an amazing way to blow off some stress before finals. This year’s line-up was just announced: Big Sean, American Authors, and Milo Greene. 

Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival ​(May 23-24): While I usually go to the Belmont Red Line stop to stress eat ice cream from Oberweiss, on May 23, I will be there for the Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival. For 31 years, BSMF has been bringing tribute bands to the Lakeview neighborhood. If you’re wondering, I’m most likely going to go see “Don’t Speak” in hopes that it’s a No Doubt tribute band. Besides Gwen Stefani covers blessing your ears (I’m hoping), BSMF also offers food, beverages, and a variety of local artisans displaying and selling their goods.

Randolph Street Market​
(May 23-24): I recently found out that the proper name is “Randolph Street Market Festival” (who knew?), so I am ecstatic to be able to include it in my recommendations. If you haven’t gone to it yet, you have to go. I went to Randolph Street Market two years ago and I’ve been wanting to go back ever since. Part flea market, part antique show, part bake sale. It’s basically the offspring of HGTV and Food Network. It’s ginormous and so much fun. Students can get in ridiculously cheap ($3 if you buy tickets in advance) and there are now free trolleys that pick up from Union Station or Water Tower Place (on Michigan Avenue). The best part is that it’s a monthly event, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t go.
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Morning Classes and Breakfast

​​​​​I’ve had the worst sleep habits for as long as I remember. I always stay up way too late, usually engrossed in a Wikipedia article about the history of bread or something. For the past two years, I’ve given myself a pretty cushy class schedule to accommodate this (most likely) life span-shortening habit. I had the same schedule (1-4:10 Monday-Thursday) for five out of the last six quarters (studying in Madrid ruined my streak). This quarter, after so long of barely waking up in time for an afternoon class, I decided to become a productive member of society and take morning classes for the first time since freshman year.

At my core, I’m still sloth-like and I hate mornings. I knew that I would need an incentive in order to resist the allure of the snooze button (True story: One time in high school, I hit the snooze button so many times that I slept through my Algebra 2 final). I knew the only way I would voluntarily depart from my bed would be for food. Whatever works, right? As any of my friends will tell you, I get way too excited about food. And now for the first time in years, I’m regularly getting breakfast.

I have some serious recommendations.

I live on campus and have a meal plan​, so I almost always go to the Student Center for breakfast. The two main breakfast spots in the Student Center are Brownstones​, which is a more a café/bagel shop, and Scramble, which serves typical diner fare. My first plan of attack is always to check out the weekly special at Scramble (which was chorizo con papas this week). If I’m not feeling the special, then we go to Plan B, which is repeatedly texting my friends until someone makes a decision regarding what I should eat. These are the typical pre-approved options that they are permitted to choose from:

DISCLAIMER: Yes, I know that it’s embarrassing that I already had all of these photos on my phone. I wasn’t lying that I get excited about food.  I knew they would come in handy some day.

So Cal Pita (with cheesy hash browns, from Scramble): If nothing else, this is probably the prettiest dish.
So Cal Pita
So Cal Pita
Mindblowingly, it tastes amazing, too. I wouldn’t lie to you. A grilled pita with guacamole, spinach, bacon, and eggs? I can even semi-convince myself that I’m eating healthy. I like to pair it with the cheesy hash browns because I’m fr​om Wisconsin and I refuse to eat a meal without cheese. 

Tuscan Villa (on garlic, from Brownstones): A modern classic. Pesto, egg, tomato, provolone, bacon, and turkey on whichever bagel you want. I get
Tuscan Villa
it so often that sometimes they just start making it as I walk in. This is usually when I’m running late and remember that there’s no discrete way to eat cheesy hash browns while a professor lectures. All in all, bagel sandwiches do not get much better than this.

Santa Fe Sandwich (from Scramble): If I’m being honest, this maybe the messiest sandwich I’ve ever eaten in my life.  It starts with an omelette filled with hash browns, chorizo, tomato, and onions. The omelette is then covered with pepper jack cheese and laid upon guacamole-slathered sourdough. I can guarantee that you’re never going to look attractive while
Santa Fe Sandwich
eating it, but once you take one bite of this sandwich, all you’ll care about is taking the next bite (and avoiding the falling guacamole).

Honorary Mention: Chocolate Chip Banana Bread French Toast Bananas Foster (with cheesy hash browns, from Scramble): While this ridiculous
string of nouns was one of the weekly specials at Scramble, it holds a permanent spot in my heart (it probably also permanently holds a spot in my arteries, but that’s another story). I’m usually a banana bread purist, but I welcome the addition of chocolate chips and bananas foster sauce on this dish. I’m only slightly ashamed to say that I ordered this three days in a row.
 
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread French Toast Bananas Foster


If you have any favorite breakfast dishes at DePaul or in Lincoln Park, comment and let me know! I’m always on the lookout for more sources of food.

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Why (and How) I Chose DePaul

​​​When I tell people I grew up near Madison, I’m always asked why I didn’t go to University of Wisconsin-Madison and why I ended up at DePaul. 

To answer the first part, almost everyone (more likely 10%, but it seems like everyone) from my high school goes to UW-Madison. Let’s be honest: four years of high school was already four years too many. Furthermore, the campus is just impossibly big. Not only am I prone to getting lost (one time, a police officer had to help me because I got lost in my hometown), but also I have no interest in walking a 5k in order to get to my next class.

As to the second part of the question, to be honest, my choice to apply to DePaul was sort of a “Why not?” moment. My parents had been pushing me pretty hard in the direction of small liberal arts colleges. Naturally, I had been rebelling (like a typical teenager) and applying to huge public universities on the side. As I went to submit my Comm​on Appli​cation​, I saw DePaul on the list of schools that accepted the Common Application. At the last second, I thought to myself, “They have great pizza in Chicago…and I guess I have some family who lives there, too,” and decided to apply.
 
Me at my graduation party. Clearly very excited about DePaul and about hitting the piñata with my face on it.
As I went from touring colleges that were the size of my high school to universities five times the size of my entire hometown, I realized that I felt no connection to any of them. I wanted a compromise between the two. I wanted a big school, but I didn’t want to be taught by teaching assistants or have 100 person classes. I wanted to be in a big city, but I wanted the campus to be compact (and navigable, for my sake).  

Confession time: I never toured ​DePaul. I literally drove past the campus with my dad and was like, “Okay, that seems nice.” But after I was accepted to the Honors Program and was guaranteed that all of my basic liberal arts classes were capped at 20 students, I realized that DePaul had everything I wanted.

As it got closer and closer to the deadline to commit to a school, I grew more and more sure that DePaul was right for me. I liked that DePaul is concerned with social justice and responsibility. I liked that I would be closer to my extended family (my dad has nine siblings and eight of them live in the Chicago suburbs). I like the quarter system and the fact I’m on break during all of December​. I also liked that there was a great bakery basically right on campus. With that in mind, I decided to pick DePaul. I’ve become a regular customer at the bakery (just for the record, Sweet Mandy B’s really is one of the greatest bakeries ever) and life has been uphill ever since.