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My Final Spring Quarter

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Going to Madrid (Again)

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

Breaking My Bad Habit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get the Most Out of DePaul

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

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

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

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

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

Apparently School Is Starting

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

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

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

My Summer in Chicago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Presenting at the Honors Student Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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


It's Graduation Time

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

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

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

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

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


In Defense of the Quarter System

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

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

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

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

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

Let me know what you think about the quarter system!


Where to Study: Group Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck studying!


Be a Student Employee

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

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

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

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

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

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


Spring Quarter Fun on Campus

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

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

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

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

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

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


Resumes and Recommendations

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

RESUMES

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

LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION

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

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


Searching for Summer Jobs

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

Start Early

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

Know What You’re Looking For

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

 

Find Something Good

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

Diversify

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

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


Honors Program: What Actually Is It?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


New Quarter, New Events Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


New Quarter, New Events Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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


Introduction to BA/MA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ace That Essay!

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

1. Turn It Off

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

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

2. Spread It Out

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

3. Phone A Friend

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

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

4. Ask an Expert

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

5. Go to the Source

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

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


In Love with the Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Picking My Major (And My Master's)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The First Week of School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Class in Chicago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discounts at DePaul

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

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

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

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

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


Procrastination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Classes and Breakfast

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

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

I have some serious recommendations.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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