Author Archives: Holly Brenza

College kitchen essentials & recipes

I realize that I don’t have a kitchen and haven’t had one at any point in college, but I pretty much feel like I do because my boyfriend has been needing some help in this department. It’s his first time having to cook for himself and not having a meal plan for the cafeteria. He isn’t complaining, and I can see why; it would be awesome to be able to cook every day. But with school, internships, student orgs, and whatever else is going on, it can be hard to find the time to cook a decent meal (or so he tells me). Plus it isn’t always easy to find time to go to the grocery store.

For someone with a busy schedule who has to make themselves meals, making a plan for what you will be eating that week or for the next two weeks is essential. You won’t have the time or energy to go to the store every day/couple of days and get what you need, so trying to get it taken care of in one trip at a time is beneficial. This way you can make a shopping list and know what you are supposed to buy when you go to the store and not have to wander around aimlessly.

Make sure you are bookmarking or somehow saving recipes that you see so that you don’t get to the point where you are eating ramen or PB&J every day. Having your own kitchen is an absolute benefit because you have the choice to eat healthy, so don’t (literally) weigh yourself down with junk food or super easy/frozen meals all of the time. Keep your recipes somewhere and try to have a variety of things.

Don’t let yourself run out of essentials. Every person may have a different list of staple items for their kitchen, but here are a few things that you might want to keep on hand at all times:

-milk

-butter

-olive oil

-salt/pepper

-eggs

-condiments

-fruit and/or vegetables

-rice and/or pasta

-your comfort snack/dessert

-salad dressing

I’m sure I’m missing things on this list, and there are also things that are personalized for each person. But the point is- don’t run out of things you’ll always expect to have. Especially since you’ll need them for a lot of different things.

Things you pretty much need in your kitchen to survive (or so I’ve convinced my boyfriend):

-pots, pans, dishes of ASSORTED SIZES

-measuring cups and spoons

-pizza cutter

-baking supplies

-microwave plate cover

-sharp knife

-can opener

-water filter/Brita

-set of plates, bowls, etc.

-spatula

-cooking utensils

-ice cream scoop

-toaster

If you’re already running low on ideas for things to cook, here are some ideas I have for you.

1. Quesadillas: These are so easy to make…at least my cheat version. You will need:

-tortillas

-shredded monterey jack cheese

-optional: chicken, cubed

Lay a tortilla on a plate. Sprinkle the cheese all over. If desired, add the chicken. Cover with second tortilla. Place in microwave for 30 seconds to a minute. Take it out, cut it up, and eat! Told you-simple.

2. Chicken Caesar Salad. You will need:

-chicken, cubed or sliced

-bag salad or romaine

-caesar salad dressing (or any other kind of dressing)

Put it all together. Ta-da!

3. Baked meatball subs. You will need:

-sandwich roll(s)

-shredded mozzarella cheese

-meatballs

- sauce

Cook your meatballs. If they are frozen, the instructions will most likely call for you to cook them in a pot over the stove in sauce. Do this! Slice open bun/sandwich roll and place it on a cookie sheet. Spread some sauce on bread. Add the meatballs. Cover with mozzarella cheese and then more sauce. Cook at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

4. Fajitas. You will need:

-tortillas

- green, red, yellow pepper (any, all, just one…up to you)

-onion

-monterey jack cheese

-chicken (optional)

Cut the peppers, onion, and chicken into slices. Cook them in a stir fry pan until done. Warm tortillas in microwave. Spread cooked peppers, onion, and chicken and cover with monterey jack cheese.

5. Stir Fry. You will need:

-rice

-peppers, snap peas, carrots, broccoli…as many or as few veggies as you want!

-chicken/beef/no meat (optional)

Cook your rice as directed. Set aside. In a stir fry pan (how unusual), put cut up vegetables and meat. Cook until done. Put finished product over rice.

6. English Muffin Pizzas. You will need:

-English Muffins

-pizza sauce

-any toppings (pepperoni, sausage, etc.)

-mozzarella cheese

Warm up your oven to 400 degrees. Cut english muffins in half and lay out on cookie sheet. Spread marinara. Top with any pepperoni, sausage, whatever. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Remove from the oven when cheese looks melted.

7. Tuna salad. You will need:

-1 or more cans of tuna

-carrot

-relish

-mayonnaise

Open and drain tuna. Add into mixing bowl. Shred carrot over bowl. Drop in relish and mayonnaise as needed. Stir. Put salad on crackers, bread, etc.

8. Ham, cheddar and ranch wrap. You will need:

-tortillas

-ham from deli

-cheddar cheese, shredded or sliced

-ranch dressing

Lay out tortilla. Put down two pieces of ham. Include cheese and spread ranch dressing. Roll up and eat!

There you have it. Hopefully you got a few more ideas and will continue to think of more. When you go shopping, have a plan and know what things will help you make multiple meals (ex: in the above cases, a package of tortillas can go a long way.).

The recipes I provided are obviously not the absolute healthiest, but they aren’t all bad for you. There are a million other things that can be made. It’s just a matter of setting aside the time to figure out what you are going to do.

Good luck! Enjoy your meal.

You’ll thank yourself later…

Now that the first week of school is behind us, it’s really time to get down to business. First off, awesome job on getting through a stressful week of finding classes, ordering and purchasing books, figuring out when and if you have time to eat or nap, and trying to navigate through a sea of students! Since everything is settling down and we will all fall into routines pretty soon, it’s time to start habits…but only the good kind. Make it your mission to avoid forming as many bad habits as possible. Obviously the occasional procrastination or all-nighter will pop up, but do whatever you can to keep those sorts of things occasional. Focus as hard as you can on making the following things happen (as well as any additional things you can think of), and soon enough they will become another part of your routine, even more so something that made your semester significantly better- or even changed your life.

Ever since we were little, people have been telling us to make friends at school. There are quite a few ways to do this, obviously. But there are a couple things about this that I think are exceptionally important. If you live in Campus Housing or in an apartment with people you don’t know very well or even at all, get to know them. You’re living with these people after all, and whether or not you have a relationship with these people will dictate how your entire living experience will go. Plus, if everything works out, there is a chance you will become lifelong friends. If you don’t speak with your roommates, there are simple ways to go about changing that. My freshman year, one of my roommates had the same morning math class as I did. My senior memory isn’t serving me as best as it should be, but on either the second or third day of class, I asked her if she wanted to walk to class together. Even though the first few times were forced interactions, it eventually became natural, and we are now best friends. It definitely won’t always go that way, but remaining at least cordial and having conversations is important to being happy in your living space.

Another important thing to do in the first few weeks is to “make friends” in class. I don’t necessarily mean it in that exact way. It is a good idea to make friends wherever possible, but I’m referring to finding a buddy or two for class purposes. You may want to study together, to text one another and ask about homework, or to let one another know what was missed during an absence. This is something I tended not to do (unless I already knew someone in class) and it made it really difficult to study on my own or move on without the notes from a day I missed.

Along the exact same line, take good notes. Don’t take notes that will only make sense when you are writing them down; take notes that will make sense in December during finals week when you suddenly forget everything you’ve learned all semester. Write out full sentences if need be. Highlight when necessary. Take notes that would make sense to someone else – whether or not you plan to ever share your notes with someone else. There’s really no point in ever writing anything down in class if you aren’t going to do it well…the professor most likely doesn’t care if you take notes. It’s for you. So do it well!

One thing your professors most likely do care about (and that will affect you, too) is whether or not you are awake and alert in class. We all get tired, more like exhausted, pretty much every week. College is hard, and there are a lot of obligations and hours of sleep lost. But the point is – it all comes full circle. Don’t be falling asleep in a class that you stayed up for many nights in a row studying. All that exhaustion is for a reason, and it’s silly to wind up trying to catch up on sleep or even just be accidentally falling asleep when you were staying up for your education. Do whatever it takes to stay awake. You can sleep later on.

A good method to try and prevent extreme exhaustion is to maintain a sleep schedule. Obviously this isn’t that easy to do, and I don’t mean a ridiculously strict sleep schedule. But going to bed around the same time (within a decently sized window) and getting up at the same time each day will help your body adjust to the change. Even if you are off Tuesdays/Thursdays or have a day where you start later, wake up at the earliest time you need to get up at during the week. That way you’ll be ready to do it again the next day, and you’ll have more time in the day with which to accomplish things. It is college after all…always make time for a nap! One of the perks of being a college kid…

The best way to be able to stay on a sleep schedule is to accomplish things when you can and avoid procrastination like the plague. Writing down any and all due dates on the PLANNER that I so frequently recommend will help keep you on track and aware of what is to come. It allows you to figure out things in advance and (hopefully) prevent you from scrambling at the last minute to complete assignments and study for exams. This may even motivate you to do homework/projects/studying ahead of time and cause less stress as it comes, since things can pile up fast with multiple classes. The best part of it is that when you get things done ahead of time, you have more room for fun and sleep (what are those?)

As you are writing assignments down, make sure you aren’t doing so for no reason. Yes, there are the assignments that professors will know whether or not you’ve completed, like responses, problems, essays, etc. But there are also those that people try to get away without doing…most often reading assignments. Just do them. I’m not just saying that because I’m an English major or because I will usually read anything that is put in front of me. Once again- what’s the point of taking the class if you aren’t willing to learn and motivated to do so? Do the reading assignment. Besides-what if the teacher calls on you to answer a question?

Lastly, keep it clean. That is, your living space and homework space. The less clutter or mess around you, the less stressed out you’ll feel. Having a clean environment to do work and relax in will help you be the best student possible. Make time each week (or day, if you need to) to clean up your space. It’s a simple thing that you can do that will make a huge difference in your happiness in the long run.

Good luck with your week!

Here we go!

It’s the first week of school! Some people may be excited and ready to start and a lot of others are probably dreading getting back to the daily grind of classes, studying, exams, and caffeine drinking. Whatever emotion this first week brings you, it is inevitably time to begin another year of education…not to mention my final year of undergrad! Here is my advice on how to start the semester off on the right foot and to ensure success in the coming months.

Get a planner. I don’t care who you are or how organized you think you are. You are never too organized for a planner. I could not function during the school year without one of these babies. There is no better way to keep track of every requirement, event, assignment, exam — whatever you need to know — without having one of these handy contraptions. I especially recommend the daily planners with the whole month in calendar format at the start of each new one. These are awesome and allow for more things to be written down on each day. Some people recommend color coding things in the planner, which is great, too.

Save money on books. My first semester of college, I walked into the bookstore and was shocked to see the prices for my textbooks. I did buy quite a few of them because I didn’t understand the other ways to get books and because it was already the first week of school and I was worried things I ordered online wouldn’t arrive quickly enough. I now realize how wrong I was. You really, really, REALLY need to save money on books because it’s easy, it feels awesome, and just because you can!

~Order books from Chegg. I heard of this site as a freshman but never looked into it. Now, I wish I had been doing this all along. This online textbook rental service is fantastic, and they even send first time customers surprises in the box of books. Through this website, I was able to rent books that were originally priced at $200 for $50. They even include the return shipping label and box so that everything is free once your package arrives. Also, if your books don’t arrive in time for assignments or the first week of class, they often offer an online e-book for temporary use. Overall a great resource!

~ Rent at the UIC bookstore if reasonably priced. Oftentimes, the bookstore does also offer an option to rent textbooks, so long as you don’t damage or misplace them during the semester. This is a super simple way to save money on books; just this week, I was able to rent a book for one of my classes for $6. Make sure that when you are at the bookstore you are checking out the labels that show how much it costs to rent a book. Totally worth it.

~ Check the various Facebook pages where students sell books. When people are done with books they’ve purchased, they very frequently attempt to sell them to other students online. Check those pages before you ever pay big bucks for a book, because a lot of times, someone is selling the very book you need (especially those that are a UIC-only edition) and is willing to negotiate a price with you.

Get an accordion folder. Honestly one of the best things ever invented. Picking out multiple folders to match notebooks is fun, too, but when it’s time to get work done, I really just need to find whatever I’m looking for quickly, and I don’t want to have to search for it. That’s why this comes in handy. Having an accordion folder with multiple pockets-preferably even more pockets than you have courses so that you can also have a misc. pocket/student org pockets/etc., allows you to have everything you could ever need in one place with the added bonus of staying organized. 

Determine a study/homework space. I know it’s the first week, but this is the key time to start determining some things for the rest of the school year. With a lot of things, maintaining consistency is important. Finding a good place to study or do homework is vital at this time, because when it comes time to get down to business, you need to know where you’re going to go. Make a study space in your room, or find someone to go in public in which you feel comfortable. Sooner or later there will be a test, and I’ve learned from experience that studying in/on your bed is not the place to be.

Review each syllabus. Knowing what is going on in your classes-especially when you have a lot of them-is crucial. Make sure you know when all assignments/tests/etc. are so that you stay organized and get the best grade possible in all of your classes. Many classes have assignments due at a certain time each week or have a quiz on the same day of the week. Reviewing this after you leave the class will help you solidify that in your mind so that you are always on track.

Get involved…..You may or may not have read an entire blog about this last week, so there isn’t much more for me to say here. Don’t just go to class and go home or back to your residence hall room. Do something! Join an organization, run for your building’s hall council, go to programs, DO SOMETHING!

…..but still make time for yourself. It is so so so important (something I am still learning) to make time for yourself. You may get really caught up in academics and leadership on campus and completely forget to take care of yourself or do things you enjoy. Try setting aside some time every day or a few times a week where you can simply unwind, enjoy a favorite hobby, or be with friends/family.

Best of luck in the first weeks of classes and throughout the semester!

How to get involved in the res halls

While I and the rest of the student staff members have been moved into our room for a couple of weeks now, freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior residents are starting to move in. I don’t have any of my own residents this year, but I am living on the same floor as I did my last year. Five of my residents from last year are living in their same rooms again, too, which is really awesome. While I most likely will never know whether or not I had an impact on those residents’ decision to return to campus housing, I do know that I always tried to let all of my residents know about the many, many ways to get involved on campus, especially in campus housing. There are a lot of options, and they can truly change your college experience. If I had never gotten involved with all of the things I did here at UIC, I would be pretty unhappy person and would feel really lonely and unattached to the university. But because I joined as much as I could, I feel very committed to UIC, I enjoy what I’m doing every step of the way, and I have made some incredible friends.

Although every resident’s RA or Peer Mentor will urge them to get involved and truly become a part of campus housing, I am not necessarily saying this as a resident assistant this time, but as a resident- get involved! Now is the time and certainly the place. What better way to get the most out of college? Here are my tips to get involved within UIC Campus Housing:

1. Attend the New Student Days Events. This events are a great way to get oriented with the city of Chicago. You get to experience some really cool things at a discounted price. Other freshmen attend, providing you with an opportunity to get to know others, and the chaperones (RAs/PMs/supervisors) know all about how you can get even more involved. If the ticketed events are already signed up for, there are a ton of free ones you can check out. I don’t recommend missing these.

2. Get to know your clustermates/roommate/floormates. You’re going to be living with these people for the entire year. It’s ridiculous to ignore them or never get to know them, and think about how fantastic it would be if you became friends. Make a point to introduce yourself to them and to get to know them as well. Try inviting them to lunch in the cafeteria or to a Target run. They could wind up being your first friends here.

3. Go to programs. There are actually about 3 million programs planned for you in the first few weeks. Ok, not actually, but the point is there is a lot to do, and all of it is for you! Take advantage of this and attend everything that even remotely interests you…especially because once the school year starts, you won’t be able to go to as many programs because of homework and responsibilities. This is another great way to make friends, have a good time, and hear from staff members about other things you can do to get more involved.

4. Go to RHA. The Residence Hall Association is a great way to be a part of Campus Housing and your residence hall. If you live in housing, you are automatically considered to be a general assembly member. The meetings are every Wednesday at 7pm, and the first one is the first Wednesday of the school year. There are always awesome raffles and, frequently, discounted student tickets to events like Broadway plays or sports. Their meetings usually have a useful topic/guest speaker/program. Plus, you’ll get the latest updates before residents who don’t come to the meetings!

5. Look at posters on the walls & check your email. Pay attention to signage, whether its papers on the walls, emails in your inbox, or postings on social media. Either way, there is a lot of great stuff going on around housing, and you don’t want to become poster blind (stop seeing them and get acclimated to their presence) or one of those people who immediately deletes emails before checking their contents. All of these things are a way of contacting you and getting your attention to notify you of something that may potentially interest you. Get into and stay in the habit of looking at these things and knowing what is going on.

6. Join an executive board. There is a lot going on in housing, and thanks to hall councils (sort of like student councils for college and specifically pertaining to the residence halls), you are able to apply to be on an executive board almost immediately after you move in. This causes instant-friendships, a strong knowledge of how things work in housing, and experience for any other positions you may care to take on in the future.

7. Ask your RA/PM for other ideas on how to get involved. Beyond everything I’ve mentioned, there are even more ways to get involved and feel at home. Your RA/PM have a wealth of knowledge of things you can do and ways in which you can do it. Go ahead and ask them-they would love to have that conversation and get you linked up to the right people/place/etc. It’s one of the things they are here for!

Don’t waste this precious time you have in college-try to fill it with as much as possible that would still keep you sane. Find what you enjoy and run with it. There’s at least one thing here for everyone…it’s just a matter of figuring out what that thing or those things are for you on an individual level. Good luck!

Favorite parts of summer

My summer is officially over, which is really upsetting. But I am happy to get my final year started and get on the road toward graduating. I’ve made a lot of awesome memories these past three months…

Even though I was originally reluctant about the idea of going, traveling to St. Louis for a few days was my favorite memory of the summer. Kevin and I had such a great time on our first vacation together, and I’ll never forget the trip. I’m ready for another vacation already!

I’ve had so much fun with Bear all summer; between walks and playing, I don’t know what I’m going to do without him every day at school. My favorite thing we’ve done this summer is swim. I don’t have a picture of him doing it, but he’s such a great swimmer, and he loves it! Who would’ve thought that a little sheltie would be so into swimming? It’s so cute to see how excited he gets when we open the gate by the pool. He knows it’s time for him to get in, and he freaks out.

I know I talk about my internship all the time…I do realize it. But I had such a great experience and already miss going in to the office and finding out what the day holds. I really enjoyed going in to work in the morning…don’t think many people say that…

I also got to spend two nights in the emergency room for my internship. We had different reporters and videographers from the media come out to witness our level I trauma center. Staying overnight and seeing the doctors and nurses work under such pressure was incredible. The teamwork there is unlike anything I have ever seen. I’m so glad I got to witness this.

A final thing about my internship-getting to see stories I wrote on Advocate’s health enews website and seeing my stories picked up by the media. This made me feel really successful and like I did something that transcends my time at my internship. It’s like I really made a mark. Very gratifying.

Ice cream! Need I say more? I made sure to eat as much ice cream as possible this summer. I’m pretty sure that was a great choice.

I spent a lot of time trying out new recipes on my family this summer. I’d say I’ll miss it, but I plan on taking advantage of Kevin’s kitchen in his room this school year. Don’t ask why I never took a real picture (snapchat only) of anything I cooked…I swear it happened!

Although it wasn’t hot very often this summer, I managed to get a fair amount of time in the sun. Laying out and enjoying the rays made this summer great. In my case, the darkness of my tan directly correlates to the level of satisfaction I have with my summer.

I had a great time riding my new bike through the woods on an almost nonexistent trail. It was a great workout and a little bit too outdoorsy for me, but I really did enjoy it. My bike rides through the city won’t be anything like that.

Back in June, we went to Arlington Race Track for what was my first time. It was so much fun experiencing the horse races and betting on them. I didn’t win very often, but I’m still very proud about my $8 win!

I had a really fun and short summer. I hope this last year at UIC is just as great!

The best thing in life

I wanted to read 20 books before it was time to go back to school. I didn’t think that was a particularly ridiculous or unattainable goal, but I definitely didn’t make it. Including the current book I am reading, I’ve (nearly) finished 10 books since I came home from school.

That’s still a lot of reading, but I really wanted to read more. It gets hard to keep with a book during the school year since I feel like I’m constantly on the move. It’s senior year, though-my final year to get things right, and I am insistent on making time to read. I don’t want to lose my favorite hobby to being busy.

If you’re looking for a book (or 10!) to read, I actually recommend all of the books I’ve read this summer; it just depends what genre you are interested in. Here’s the list…I hope you take the time to read something off of it- or, I hope this inspires you to read more.

1. The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger

I’ve started and stopped reading this book in the past because of not having the time to finish, so this was first on my list to tackle. It was published over 10 years ago, and you’d have no idea, minus the slightly dated pop culture references. Otherwise, the story still holds its own in 2014. Most likely considered to be in the genre of ‘chick lit’ (among some of my other reads this summer), this story pulls out all the stops. You will definitely laugh out loud, potentially cry, and feel a lot of hatred for a boss you don’t even know (but feel like you do). No matter who you are, you can probably relate to the main character, Andrea; she is just starting out as a recent college graduate trying to get a job and establish herself (she was also an English major!) and is going through some hard times balancing the demands of an entry-level job and friends/family/etc. The movie-with Anne Hathaway as the main character-leaves out a lot of really good parts of the book, so don’t think you know the whole story if you watch it.

2. Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, Lauren Weisberger

I have a really hard time reading a book and not checking out its sequel if there is one. I have to know if there’s more, whether or not it’s worth knowing. When this book started out, I wasn’t thrilled, but once I got deeper into it, I was really happy I followed up with it. This book just came out in 2013, and the main character has done a lot of growing up in the time between novels. I know that both of these books received mixed reviews, but I do think they are enjoyable; however, I don’t recommend reading them if you’re in the mood for a really fast-paced thriller. These are not going to satisfy that need. But otherwise, if you’d like a nice book to get into, check these two out.

3. The Intern’s Handbook, Shane Kuhn

After coming off of my previous two books, this book was fantastic. I found it in two-week rental section of my library-generally where brand new books are. I didn’t even need two weeks; this book was so good that I couldn’t put it down and was done in just a few days. Published in April, this thriller is all about an “intern” on his final assignment. These interns are really assassins and spend their days taking down corrupt executives. This book combined my love of internships with my love for a good thriller and really strung me along the entire journey. It’s one of those with a fantastic ending and surprises throughout. If you’ve ever been an intern, or if you haven’t and would like a look into the complete opposite world of an intern, this book is for you. This was easily one of my favorite reads this summer.

4. Love Story, Erich Segal

My mom recommended this book to me one day at the library. Since I read ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ last year, she picked this book up and handed it to me, saying it was her generation’s version of John Green’s storyline. Of course, I was immediately interested, checking it out and finishing it within the same day. Just recently, the book showed up on a list of the top summer reads of the last however many decades, so it was really popular in its prime. It might make you cry, it and it could certainly be categorized as chick lit, but it was good, simplistic, and old. (Apparently made into a movie…no word on its quality)

5. Oliver’s Story, Erich Segal

Once again, I saw the sequel to a book on the shelf right next to it, so I had to grab it. This one wasn’t as easy to get into as ‘Love Story’, and when I told my mom that, she reminded me that she only recommended the first book to me. Eventually, the story engrossed me, but I was still sad from the first book and it was affecting my enjoyment of this book. I don’t think that would happen to everyone, though. I do recommend the first book more, especially (obviously) if you’re only going to read one of these two. But, if you want the story to continue after you’ve finished ‘Love Story’, definitely pick this up. (Also apparently made into a movie?)

6. Devil in the White City, Erik Larson

I feel like there is a lot of hype around this book, which was a big part of the reason I had to read it for myself. I’m really into historical fiction (this book is not) and thriller/stories about murderer (sick of me, I know, but this book is about that). At any rate, a true story about the World’s Fair and a murderer preying off Chicago tourists was really interesting to me, and I think this story would captivate anyone. I first learned about H.H. Holmes on the Ghost Tour back in October, so reading this book really brought me full circle. A long read, but worth it. I recommend this if you like learning about Chicago, too.

7. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

This book is and has been pretty popular right now. I even noticed my library was having repeated book discussions about the book…yet I had to use the interlibrary loan system to check out the book (from another library…) Anyways, this book was phenomenal. I was constantly wondering what would happen next, and at one point, everything I thought I knew about the book and its characters was thrown out the window. I love that. It might even be safe to say this is one of my new favorite books. This book is for anyone-absolutely anyone. There’s no way you couldn’t like it or be caught up in it. Guess I could inform you a little bit-on the day of a couple’s 5 year wedding anniversary, the wife goes missing and everyone is looking at the husband as the culprit. He, too, is in search of her while trying to keep his name clear. I’m so excited for the movie! A statement you’ll almost NEVER hear from an English major………………………….

8. All We Know of Heaven, Jacquelyn Mitchard

Ok, this book was downright sad. If you need to cry, which I guess I must’ve felt the need to do when I was picking out this book, then you, too, should grab a copy. When two best friends are in a horrible car accident, the family and friends of the small town are left to mourn the death of one girl and pray for the brutally injured other girl. Only, it turns out to be a case of mistaken identity……… This is a really great book and isn’t too long, either. Don’t read it if sad stories aren’t for you, though! You’ve been warned.

9. One Day, David Nicholls

Apparently this became a movie, too? Why don’t I know these things? Anyway, this book (as the cover states) is about 20 years, 2 people, and 1 day. Basically, two people met one day just before college graduation and only become slightly romantically involved. They meet again year after year, but their lives are changing and they seldom keep in touch. The end of the book will completely shock you, and the duration of the story will make you question the main characters again and again. This is probably considered a romantic novel.

10. My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult

I realize I’m about 500 years late to this game. I realize this one is a movie-I’m not entirely clueless, and I’m not finished with the book, either…don’t tell me the ending! I always thought the storyline of this book was sick, but something made me want to finally read it. I am actually very interested in it and am truly enjoying it. A great thing about this book is each chapter is coming from the point of view of a different character; this is a great way to get to know everyone in the text, and you can decide to like a character all on your own. So far, I really recommend this, but like I said, I’m not done, so my opinions on this one could really change depending on what Picoult does to me in the next 100 pages. We’ll see…I’m a little nervous.

So there you have it. There’s the 10 books that got me back into the swing of things these past few months. I really hope you find the time to put down your electronic device and open a real, paper book and enjoy yourself. Now that’s living.

Residence hall requirements

In just over a week, I’ll be moving back into the residence halls for my final year. For most people living on campus, move-in isn’t until much later on in August, but I’m headed back for one last round of resident assistant training.

After living at school for 3 years, I’d like to think I have a pretty good grasp on what I need to bring, what I can survive without while I’m away at school, and what I absolutely can’t do without. Here’s my list of essentials that I recommend everyone bring when living on campus. Don’t go without them-trust me.

(In no particular order):

Fridge: I can’t imagine ever not having a fridge while away at school. You’ve got to have somewhere to put leftovers from one of the many awesome restaurants downtown! Even if I was just keeping water bottles cold, my fridge has always been pretty much vital to my survival at school.

Bandaids/first aid supplies: I’m not joking about this. At least having bandaids and Neosporin on hand is really important, because you’ll always find a way to get hurt at school. Plus, around here, there isn’t a nurse or parent to go to for immediate help. Step 1 in becoming a grown-up.

Outfit for job or internship interviews: Some people back a small amount of clothes for school. Others haul nearly their entire wardrobe (guilty as charged.) Either way, don’t forget to bring some type of professional outfit for potential jobs or interviews. Don’t miss out on an opportunity because you didn’t have anything to wear; always be prepared for these types of things. Since you’ll be at school, not to mention in the middle of a huge city, there will be a lot of opportunities waiting for you to take advantage of. Don’t let your wardrobe be your boss.

Movies: Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of whatever you can find on t.v.-especially if you don’t have Netflix like me. Bring along some movies that you can watch in case you feel like laying around one night and relaxing or if you’d like to watch with some friends.

Shower shoes: I don’t care who you are, where you live, whatever the case-bring shower shoes. You don’t want to contract anything from other people’s feet germs and you’ll actually feel clean if you come out of the shower in your shoes. Just do it…there are plenty of inexpensive flip flops out there.

A book to read: Textbooks are always really dense and it can be hard to find a way to relax or feel a bit of home. For me, reading a book for leisure while at school makes me feel like I’m at home, since that’s something I’ve always done. It’s great to have something take your mind off of schoolwork and stress.

Chocolate/candy: Not too much, and not to the point that you are getting cavities or giving them to your floormates. It’s nice to have a little stash or backup for those times where you’ve had a rough day or just need a pick me up. It’s also a great thing to share with other people on your floor-instant friends!

Ear plugs: If you don’t have these, you can pick up a pair from the Wellness Center. Living with other young people is unpredictable and can become very lousy. Make sure you have a pair of earplugs on hand so that you are able to get your sleep when you need it.

Brita: It isn’t good for you (or the environment) to only drink water bottles all the time. It also isn’t good to only drink when you’re down at the cafeteria. This is why I think Britas or other water filters that can be kept in a fridge are your best bet. This will help you make sure you’ve getting enough water and have it available at all times.

Travel mug and water bottle: Whether it’s with this water you’re drinking or a cup of coffee, make sure you are staying hydrated all day. Bring some type of travel cup/mug so that you can bring a drink wherever you go, whenever you need to.

Cold medicine: Just like papercuts or scrapes, colds happen. And trust me- it can be really hard to be away from your family and feeling helpless. Bringing whatever cold medicine you are comfortable with is a good idea to stave off some of those awful cold symptoms. You’ll be feeling back to 100% in no time.

Lap desk: I know there are a lot of people who prefer to study or do homework outside of their room, but for those who aren’t bothered, I recommend purchasing a lap desk that can sit on a person’s lap and allow them to do whatever they’d like while sitting wherever they like. I’ve used my lap desk for homework, for eating a meal, and for RA door decorations before, and each time I use it, it proves even more invaluable.

Command strips: Can’t be punching holes in the residence hall rooms. Make sure you have brought many different forms of the command strip so that you can hang anything or fix anything that has fallen. They won’t damage the wall when you take them down, either.

Bathrobe: I think robes are the best thing ever. For me, getting out of the shower and into my robe is a great way to relax. Plus, in terms of living on campus housing, a robe is an extra privacy step around others. These are also perfect for when you’re sick, tired, etc.

Isopropyl alcohol: This goes hand in hand with the command strips, because the directions call for you to wipe down the wall or surface before applying the command hook. This also doubles as part of a first aid “kit” to prevent infections and stop bleeding.

Cleaning supplies: It isn’t always going to look clean in your room or bathroom, especially once it was lived in. Make sure to clean up fairly frequently to prevent germs and infections spreading. This just prepares you for the real world in which you have to clean whatever space you’re living in.

 Extension cords: Although there are a lot of outlets around the rooms, I strongly urge bringing a cord or two. This way, you can plug in anything you want around a location in the map. Don’t go without at least one.

Good luck packing up with the end of summer almost here. I hope you remember to bring some of these essentials, because I can guarantee that you will be needing them at some point. Good luck!

Being Happy

I haven’t always been one of those kids who always knew what they wanted to do when they “grew up.” At least, I have changed my mind a handful (or two) of times. There is now a month before my senior year starts, and I’m wondering if I’ve done enough.

It perplexes me that we are supposed to know what we want to do for the rest of our lives at such a young age. There’s totally a stigma about changing majors or career paths, but I wish there wasn’t. It’s so bad sometimes that it keeps people from switching. Even the slightest change in the plan can set someone into a panic.

I remember early on in life (and for a pretty long time throughout) wanting to be a teacher. Then, at some point along the way, I decided I wanted to be a college professor and not teach anyone younger. Despite the fact that I had never witnessed a professor in action, I was nearly positive this was what I wanted.

Sitting at the now-gone family desktop computer, I filled out the UIC application. That was one thing I was sure about-I only wanted to go to UIC and was absolutely dead set on it. So much so that it took me months after filling out the application to begin freaking out and wondering what would happen if I wasn’t accepted. Eventually, I filled out a second college application, this one to Bradley…after I had a moment of panic in the high school counselor’s office asking whether or not they thought I would get in to UIC.

At any rate, on the application, I looked through the majors and colleges that were available. I distinctly remember calling my mom and sister in and talking about what I would study. It’s crazy to think that that moment defined so much in my life. We talked about it all, and the next thing I knew, I was applying for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as an English major.

Freshman year, I analyzed my teachers’ every moves, considering their teaching style and telling myself whether or not they enjoyed their jobs. I considered classes an opportunity to witness firsthand what it truly means to be a college professor. Some days I wondered what else was out there for me. It took me until sophomore year to decide that being a professor wasn’t my ultimate goal.

Honestly, I have no idea where the concept of getting into public relations came from (especially since UIC doesn’t have a specific PR track or major), but suddenly I was diving into this area head first. From this point on, I hardly considered becoming a teacher. I was also really set on avoiding any additional educational requirements outside of the many needed for a bachelor’s degree.

I can’t believe how things have changed. Never in a million years would I have thought that my horizons would be expanding so much. Others may not see it this way….that is truly the plight of the English major. People still constantly ask my major and then proceed to ask what I want to teach. The degree certainly doesn’t limit one to teaching. In fact, my time in public relations has helped me realize that is exactly what I want to do, and I become more interested in the business side of it all each and every day.

I have picked up two minors since starting college-Managerial Studies & Communication. I hope the three specialties (and my experience!) help me secure an entry-level position while I (can’t believe it…) get things sorted out for graduate school. I now 100% realize that I need to go to school and constantly improve myself. I never would have imagined myself ready to enter my senior year of college with two minors nearly completed, multiple internships under my belt, graduate schools in mind, and a clear concept of what I want to do come May 2015 (well, actually now, but that isn’t allowed).

If you know what you want to do the moment you apply for college and always have, that’s great. If you’re 60 years old and still saying that you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up (my mom’s frequent statement), that’s fine, too. To some people, a career and getting the perfect job is everything. To others, like me, it isn’t nearly everything.

Ask me what I want to be when I’m older, and I’ll most likely give the cheesy answer of “happy.” Yes, I am very determined to make the right career choices and have the right amount of schooling to have a great job that I’ll enjoy, but that’s just a part of it. I want to be happy with the rest of my life as well, and that can be so much more important sometimes.

I never threw the thought of becoming a professor away, by the way. I’m not discrediting anyone’s majors or career goals or anything for that matter. In fact, if I could just do every job ever for a week or so at a time, I’d be great. But since that isn’t exactly an option, I’d like to get a job, potentially be a professor at the same time, oh, and not to mention, write books or something interesting.

So there it is. Who cares if you want to change majors or colleges or career paths? As long as you’re making your choice for the right reasons, it doesn’t matter what you do. Make choices that will make you happy both now and in the long run. Because that’s what I’d assume we all want to be.

A Waiting Game

Everything I learned about patience, I learned from waiting for my hair to grow.

It’s pretty obvious that patience is one of the most important things to have, and without it, life can certainly be difficult. At first, I’d say I’ve learned to be patient because in life, there is a lot of waiting, but I don’t think that’s true. That’s probably helped me out, but only to an extent.

But my hair grows so slowly…so incredibly slowly. Slower than anything has ever grown in the history of ever. Once, the person cutting my hair told me that hair grows about a half inch a month. I wish that were the case for me. But it definitely isn’t.

In December, I decided to cut my hair. So I did. But I didn’t just cut it – I cut it all off. I got my hair cut so short that I couldn’t put it up in any type of pony tail or bun. I had to leave it down. Which meant I had to “do” my hair every day until it grew out. I really liked my haircut for a while, but eventually, the fact that I had no way of getting it out of my face (ever) started to drive me insane.

I had to get up much earlier than I ever had to before just to make sure my hair wasn’t absolutely crazy or frizzy or offensive. If, on the slight off chance I exercised, I had no way of tying my hair back from my face and neck. Yes, I’ve heard of bobby pins and hair clips, but believe you me, with hair as large and in charge as mine, you’re really limited on your options; it can be so hard to say whose the boss of whom.

It’s July. Seven months since I cut my hair. In the past month, my hair has finally gotten to a length where I am able to sort of pull it back into a pony tail or bun, but pieces still fall out and make my hair look crazy. I have no idea how it’s taken this long for any type of change to happen. But the progress is there. When I can pull my hair out of my face, I see just how real the progress is, even if it has taken 7 months to notice any chance whatsoever.

I didn’t come here to tell you about my hair and my stupid or maybe not stupid hair cut (it depends on the day and how I feel about what I did.) My point is, if you want to learn true patience, chop your hair off.  Because a big part of the choice is the fact that eventually it will come back, but for the time being, it is gone. And the only way to get it back is to wait. And eventually, you’ll be faced with the decision once again of whether or not you should cut your hair and to what length and what style and whatever else you wonder about. That’s why I don’t usually have any qualms about cutting my hair a certain way. If I just wait, things will be right back to where I started. And after the hair cut, it’s fun to try something new and different for a while.

And as my hair grows, I wait. I wait for the three books I requested from the library to come in through the inter-library loan system. I wait to see if I will be able to find a job immediately after college. And I wait to see if it will rain or be sunny tomorrow because I no longer trust the forecast. I’m ok with that. I’m ok with all of those things, because eventually, I will find things out. And soon enough, my hair will grow, and it’ll be at such a length that I’ll probably want to chop it all off again. And that just might be my personal circle of life.

Stay tuned for insight into what I’ve learned from the crazy cowlicks all over my head (totally kidding…)

What am I doing?

I haven’t updated you on anything that I’ve been doing for some time. Since it’s summer, things are at a much slower pace for me, or at least, I’m doing completely different things than I am when I’m at school. Either way, summer is still managing to fly by, and in just about a month, I’ll be loading up the car to head back to school (for the final time!)

Even though I normally spend around 3 days a week at work/my internship, that’s where the bulk of my summer seems to be spent. I’m not complaining at all, though — I love every minute of it. This is my second summer interning at the nearby hospital in the Public Affairs & Marketing Office, and it’s safe to say I’m hooked. While there, I’ve been helping generate media coverage for various topics/patient stories, writing press releases and coming up with my own ideas for them, assisting in any way possible, and, probably my favorite part-writing articles for the online news article website for Advocate. It’s such a great feeling to see my name on articles I’ve written and knowing that people are reading them. If you’re interested, you can check out the two articles I’ve written so far here. I’m hoping to write many more within this next month.

Another exciting part of my internship was the night spent in the emergency department. The media was interested in doing a feature on the trauma team at the hospital, so a couple of weeks ago, we stayed overnight in the ER to let them get some footage and interviews. This was never something I expected to do, but it was really cool. I’ll be back in another weekend for a different television channel to stay overnight. Pretty crazy!

When I’m not at work, I have pretty much been reading whatever current book I am on. So far I have read about 7 books, which is pretty good for me since I sometimes have a hard time making time to read. On work nights, I fall right asleep before reading more than a page or two, so everything has to happen on the weekend. I want to read a lot more books before it’s time to head back to school, because that’s when I really can’t find the time to read. Nothing’s really on the reading list at the moment, and that’s kind of nice because I can read anything that way. I’m currently reading “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn…not far enough in the book to have any sort of opinion; we’ll see what happens.

I’ve been brainstorming some ideas for the upcoming school year. I want to be the best Senior Resident Assistant I can possibly be, and I know that means coming in with a plan or some concrete things. I haven’t formalized anything because that would mean summer is almost over, and I don’t want that to be the case. So, I am compiling a list and shelving those ideas for a few weeks down the line.

I have also taken a fair amount of time to search for future internships for the next two semesters. I can’t tell if I should complete two more internships or not; it’s really hard to say. I have been checking my options out and starting the application process for a few. I know I need to have an internship Spring 2015 because I plan on taking a for-credit internship class, but as far as landing an internship for fall, nothing is planned just yet. We’ll see what happens after interviews and applications. Starting to think I’m internship obsessed.

There are still some things I need to take care of before school starts. I need to complete the mandatory RA/PM online homework that every student staff member must complete over the summer. Every time I go to start it, I decide that it isn’t the best time, even though no time will be better than any other…need to get on that. I also need to (for once) look at and possibly order my textbooks ahead of time so that there is less stress when I am assigned homework during syllabus week and have yet to pick up the book for the class. I also really need to do more summer activities because I feel like I haven’t gotten much done. Definitely need to get a beach trip and a game of golf and/or mini-golf in before its too late…ahhhhhhhhhh!

I know everything sounds much less busy and chaotic than the school year, but I still feel pretty tired and sometimes even stressed. I’m trying to really enjoy this since it’s my last summer before being a true adult-graduated and ready to join the working world. Let’s enjoy what remains of summer…

Page 1 of 512345