Over the course of two years, I’ve written about 70 blogs for DeBlogs. As I went through and counted the blogs that I’ve written, I realized that this will be my last blog that I write for DeBlogs! So, in honor of my last blog, I thought it might be fun to compare where I was in my life when I started to where I am in my life now.
When I first started at DeBlogs, I was a junior at DePaul, majoring in Spanish and International Studies, who had just found out he had been accepted to the BA/MA program in
Now, all I have left to do for my master’s is to finish my thesis, which I’ll do over the summer. I’ll (hopefully successfully) defend my completed thesis when school starts back up in the fall, and then I will officially be a master’s graduate!
When I applied to work at DeBlogs back in Spring 2015, I had to submit a sample blog to show that I was a decent writer,
and that I could come up with something interesting to say. I had returned from studying abroad in Madrid just a few months prior to applying to DeBlogs, so I chose to write my sample blog about my time in Madrid.
This year, I suddenly found myself returning to Madrid in
order to do research for my thesis (thank you for funding my trip, DePaul!). While the last minute trip meant that I had to push back my timeline for finishing my thesis by a few months, it was absolutely worth it. Not only did I get to return to my favorite city in the world, but I also got tons of information for my thesis.
I’d like to end my final DeBlog with my last-ever food suggestion. During my time at DeBlogs, I’ve recommended countless restaurants and bakeries. As my parting gift, I urge you to visit Annette’s Italian Ice
at some point during the summer. Of course, despite the name, I go just for the ice cream. If you go once, you’ll go again: I’ve gone like four times this month to satisfy my need to stress eat.
In case you didn’t know, for the past two years, I’ve been in a long(ish)-distance relationship. Even though a long-distance relationship is never ideal, we’ve made it work. To be honest, it definitely helps that my boyfriend lives just a few minutes away from my parents. While he always offers to travel to Chicago to see me, I nearly always choose to travel back home to Wisconsin since it means I can kill two birds with one stone. So roughly every other weekend, I pack my bags and head home to Wisconsin to spend time with my parents and hang out with my boyfriend.
However, last weekend, my boyfriend knew I had way too much to do to spend the whole weekend back in Wisconsin (it’s so hard for me to get anything done at home), so he decided to drive down to Chicago on Sunday to spend the day with me. Since we don’t get to spend a ton of time together in Chicago, I immediately started wracking my brain for something special to do. Then, the idea hit me.
I’ve written before (here
) about how much I love rush tickets for
musicals. Rush tickets allow you to get up to two last minute tickets for popular musicals at super discounted prices on the day of the show. The catch is that the tickets are first-come
and generally pretty competitive, so you might have to get in line an hour or two before the box office opens. So, at 9:30am
on Sunday, I got in line for rush tickets for Aladdin .
Just an hour and a half later, the box office opened, and after a few minutes, I walked out with two tickets in the twelfth row for just $25 each.
The show is worth seeing if for no other reason than to see Aladdin and Jasmine fly around the stage on the magic carpet during “A Whole New World
.” Like, seriously, consider seeing it just for that reason. If you need even more reasons, the sets and special effects are stunning (I never knew that indoor fireworks existed). The show is seriously one of the most beautiful shows that I’ve ever seen. Plus, the actor playing Aladdin originated the role on Broadway, so you know the cast is insanely talented.
Aladdin is in Chicago until September 10th, so if you have a couple free hours and $25 burning a hole in your pocket, definitely head on over to Agrabah!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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!
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.
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.
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
, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
) 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
bridge that connects Lakefront Trail to Lincoln Park
(the actual park, not the
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
This is totally my favorite path to walk in Chicago. Let me
know if you have anywhere you love to walk!
. When 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.
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
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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
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!
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
have any favorite things to do in Chicago during the holiday season, let me
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).
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
consumption of bao gave us the energy to walk to Eataly
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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?).
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).
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.
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:
First off, if you've never been to Eataly, you need to go. A grocery store-food c
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.
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.)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.