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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).

​​

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! 

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.

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!

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. 

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 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.

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.

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.

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!


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. 


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

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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.


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!​


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.​


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!​


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.​ 

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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.​


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).  

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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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.