Reevaluating my schedule and enjoying life

Throughout my blogs this semester, I’ve mentioned that my schedule is very tight. With a part-time job, internship, USG, the UIC Communication Honor Society, and school, things have been hectic. I’ve worked with a full load throughout my college career, and it really hasn’t been a problem until now. With upper-level classes and working on my senior paper, I just needed more time. Not only more time to read, but also more time to live life.
In order to lighten up my schedule, I decided to quit my part-time job. It wasn’t an easy decision – I LOVED working with the children I worked at the school I worked at. And, I appreciated the extra bucks in my pocket. However, what’s the point in making extra money when I don’t have time to enjoy using it? So now that I have a good 12 hours off of my weekly schedule, I will have more time to focus more on my studies and relax a bit.
It also wasn’t an easy decision because I have a high work ethic. In fact, I think that a lot of American society has a strong emphasis on “working hard.” Naturally, I have carried the same work ethic throughout my college career. I felt a bit guilty quitting my job because I didn’t want to be a “quitter.” I didn’t want to feel like one of those people who just give up something because they couldn’t handle the pressure. However, after much thought, I realized – I only have one life to live — I might as well live it happily and healthy. So what if I gave up on my job? If it means more time to do things that I love or if it means putting more effort into my studies, I think quitting my job is worth it. I never want to be one of those people who work so hard and so much that they forget to enjoy life.
Although I am going to be a bit sad going into my last week of work, I am happy that I will be able to have more time to myself. Because in the end, that’s all you really have. Yourself. So you might as well enjoy your time :)
Until next time…

My classroom

I have the privilege to spend my clinical hours in the library of Mary Lyon.  The library resembles any other classroom, except that there are more shelves of books than an ordinary classroom would have.  The room is spacious and feels very open.  As you walk in, there are five large wooden rectangle tables with sturdy wooden chairs. To the right of the tables and chairs are the bookshelves, computers and the library tadpole/ frog tank.  Located in the back of the room are a teacher desk, washroom, “Create” center and carpeted story area.

The children sit at the large wooden rectangle tables.  The tables and chairs are nice but are far too large for the kindergarten, and even some first graders.  Unfortunately, this is out of the teacher’s control.  However, having the students sitting in groups does promote opportunities for children to work together.  When the teacher has the students on the carpet to read, it very much supports a feeling of togetherness. 

There are many things displayed around the room, like posters, student work, and goals and objectives.  Since the library is larger than a normal classroom, there is plenty of space forthings to be organized and in its place.

 Every week, the teacher reads a different book to the students. This week, she is reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  Before she reads the story, she goes over information like author, illustrator, and basics of treating books with respect, to make sure the students know what to do when searching for their own books.  

The teacher and I set up 4 centers that will be changed every 4 weeks.  The 4 centers consist of Explore, Investigate, Buddy Reading and Create.  This month’s theme is ABCs, so we based each center off a different activity involving ABCs.  The Explore center allowed the students to have magnetic letters and a board to create different words.  The Investigate center allowed the students to work on the computers.  The teacher sets up a specific game in which they have to investigate their ABCs.  Buddy Reading allows the students to sit in “Leo’s Library” and read with a partner or buddy.  The teacher also has big stuffed animals they can lay on.  Lastly, the Create center — which the teacher allowed yours truly to set up!  I decided for the first graders, based upon the teacher reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, to focus center around creating a coconut tree.  I had all the materials ready for them and they were able to spell their name up the coconut tree.

They really enjoyed it and couldn’t wait to take them home to show their parents.  Go me!

The brand new blogger

It’s 3 a.m. I’m sprawled out on the floor of my room, surrounded by my work, pretzels and Nutella. I can’t remember the last time I’ve slept for more than a three-hour interval and I’m seriously considering buying toothpicks to prop my eyelids up. Despite the insanity, this is my college life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


My name is Holly. I am a junior majoring in English and minoring in communications and management.  I am also a resident assistant and the Assistant Director for Recognition for the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH), an organization that takes pride in being the top 1% of leaders in campus housing (you’ll hear plenty more about that later.) It has been amazing to be able to call UIC my home away from home for the past two years, and I continue to take advantage of all of the opportunities this school gives me.

I absolutely love sports, reading, chocolate and all things girly. One of my absolute favorite things to do is exploring this incredible city we are lucky enough to go to school in. When I’m not busy with homework or my leadership positions, I enjoy heading out and sightseeing.

I love campus housing and UIC as a whole and am thrilled to have the opportunity to share my UIC experience with you!



Oh, and I really wasn’t kidding about the pretzels, Nutella and homework.

What’s the test on? Everything.

You should never ask a professor what’s on the test (or other students either). More likely than not, you’ll get the answer of “everything” or “this this this this and this…and this too…and just in case you should study that too…” (essentially everything). It seems silly to be tested on “everything” but hey, if they mentioned it in class and it’s in the lecture notes, then it has to be important, right? YOU BETCHA!

Because I need some motivation for my own studying, here are a ton of tips I have for doing your best (and if it doesn’t work for your upcoming exam, I sure hope you’ll give it a try for the next exam!).

It’s hard to memorize, but if that is really the key to your success in a class that requires it (like anatomy and physiology), then you better download that flashcard app on your phone and every single resource you have at your disposal to get it in your brain! When it comes to understanding concepts, just think of yourself like one giant uni-cellular organism and then work from there (and yes this applies to anything). Repetition is the only way to drill it in your brain, but if you don’t like doing it alone just ask a friend or family member to quiz you.

Midterm week is exciting and annoying. Excitement comes from attaining all of the knowledge possible in your brain in the smallest amount of time possible and somehow doing well on the test (and when that attempt fails, you know you better start studying earlier). The annoying part is just getting through all of the material by yourself. I highly recommend if you have a friend in your class that you study with them the week before your test. Quiz each other, make up test questions and go through slides together and talk about the content/share notes that were taken while in class (or online).

If you aren’t a fan of reading, then I hope you’re the person who attends lecture every single day and asks a million questions. If you aren’t a fan of attending lecture, then I hope you’re the person who takes aggressive notes and outlines everything in the book until you know it from cover to cover! There are a ton of ways for us to learn material, but you have to use trial and error and get a feel for what suits you the most. Every professor has their own style with creating exams so if you can get past exams from upperclassmen who took the same professor, you’ll be super happy!

As always, put a good faith effort and do the most humanly best you can. If you can’t give 100%, then that means you’re not pushing yourself hard enough (or you have some serious issues that affect you doing well in school that is not learning related, in which case please visit the Counseling Center!). No one wants to learn when they have problems with other things! You know yourself the best and you also know how to take care of yourself (I hope).

Eat well and relax. Breathe in and out. You will do great this semester.

How to get an internship

So this week, while sitting in my monthly internship seminar, it dawned on me: I talk a lot about my internship experiences on my blog, but shouldn’t I offer some of my tips to my readers? Well, today I will be doing exactly that!

I’ve been fortunate enough to have held three internships. The truth is, finding an internship can be a long and arduous process. It takes tons of research and follow-ups to get an internship. However, if you follow my tips below, I sincerely believe you should have no trouble landing an internship for next semester!

  • First internship? Search local.

My first internship was actually here at the UIC Office of Sustainability. Previous to holding this internship, I had no other work experience related to my major. I figured an internship on campus would actually be ideal for my first internship, because it is a) on campus and b) a great way to begin my career training doing something for my school. This is why I highly recommend you apply for something more in-reach when looking for your first internship. Not only is it convenient, but it also provides you a great connection to UIC.

  • Research online

When looking for an internship, I always spend a lot of time using Google or other internship websites sifting through the various opportunities out there. There are a TON of internship opportunities out there. Some of my favorite websites are,, and UIC’s Career Services website. Also, your college should have an internship advisor, so it would be wise to go in and talk to them about opportunities. 

  • Can’t find one? Make a call!

If you can’t find an internship, try calling a company or business of your interest and ask their manager if they are hiring any interns. Although I have never done this personally, I have heard plenty of students who have had luck obtaining an internship simply because they made an effort by calling the business. Sometimes business aren’t hiring interns but are willing to bring one on if you make a good case of why they should!

  • Apply promptly

Once you come across an interesting internship, apply right away! Chances are other people are applying for the internship at the same time you are. If you delay in sending your application and resume, these people will have a better chance of getting the internship, simply because they applied first.

  • Revise your cover letter and resume

This should be pretty known already, but make sure you have your cover letter and resume revised before submitting them. It is imperative. No employer wants to see tons of misspellings and grammar mistakes.

  • The importance of the follow-up

So you can apply for as many internship as you want, but the hardest part is getting a response from the company. This is why it is EXTREMELY important to follow up a week or two after you submit your application. How? Just send a nice email to the hiring manager asking about the status of your application. If they do not reply to your follow up within a week, send one again! Every internship I have received is because I followed up on my application. Take a gulp of courage and follow up on your application!

  • Interview, Interview, Interview

This should be straight forward as well, but make sure you prepare for any interviews you get. UIC’s Office of Career Services provides great mock interviews, so if you aren’t comfortable with your interviewing skills, this is a great way to get practice. Also, make sure you dress nice — dress to impress!
With these simple tips, I think you have a good chance of landing an internship. Internships are  good opportunities to apply everything you’re learning in the classroom into a real-life setting. With an internship, your odds of getting a job after graduation are much more likely!
So what are you waiting for? Get on it!
Until next time…
Mike : )

Philosophy of teaching

I was thinking the other day about HOW I feel about everything that is happening, or not happening, in our school systems.  There is far too much to talk about it all.  It is suggested that children can start falling behind in school in early grades, even as early as kindergarten. Spending more time in the classroom than I ever have before, I am starting to develop my own teaching philosophy.

In between all the assignments to do and practicum hours to complete and assessments to give, you start to build opinions.  Opinions on things you see, hear or read about.  Last semester, I was actually able to help a child.  I observed his behavior, with no known diagnosis, and came up with my own ideas and ways to help the child.  I saw a behavior, created an intervention to “fix” the behavior and implemented the intervention.  It worked and it was the first time I felt like “I can do this!”  This was the intervention chart.  His behaviors decreased immensely and I was so proud of myself…and him, of course.After that experience, I truly started to believe in certain philosophies and I started to create my own. However, now I am in a whole other ballgame.  Our school system recently adopted a new curriculum for our children.  There are some things I believe in but there are some things I don’t.  And now, I am starting to wonder how I can create harmony between my beliefs and strict standards.

When I think about my experience in elementary school, it wasn’t all that great.  My parents were trying to do the best for me and to give me a good education.  Who knew that Catholic schools weren’t always the “best” schools.  But I don’t regret any memory I have.  I embrace it because it made me who I am and I truly believe it has helped define my teaching philosophy.

Why are students treated like little soldiers? Being quiet in the halls, hands behind their back, using a level 1 or 0 voice, making sure they ask before getting a tissue or a drink of water, and beating math facts into their heads.  Are these appropriate expectations? Are we taking away from their childhood by not allowing them to act like children when they’re in school? Or is this necessary to have a productive class?  How could we handle this in a different manner? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers to these questions.  Sometimes the answer cannot come from a single person.

The debate about the new curriculum that we have adopted is very controversial.  One side says that the standards are not developmentally appropriate and we are dooming our kids to fail.  And the other side says standards are necessary, we need to close the achievement gaps and if we don’t close these achievement gaps…we are dooming our kids to fail.  Wait…what?  Yes.  Even I am confused on where I stand there.  All I want is the best for my future students. Isn’t that what everyone wants?  Is there an option for that?  I’m sometimes afraid that money and politics take too much part in our education system.  Do these new standards not support what we already know of how children learn?

Are we doomed to fail our children if they are pushed to a level they aren’t ready for? OR will that encourage them to persevere.  What about children with learning disabilities? IEPs? Special education services? What does it mean for them?

I will soon find out.  Or maybe I wont.  Maybe this will be an ongoing quest for me.  Maybe this heated debate will continue throughout my career.  If it isn’t this debate, there surely will be a different one.

What we can agree on is that we want our children to succeed.  And I am going to try my very VERY best to make that happen.

Stress eating

Hello UIC!

As most of you are probably approaching midterms week, I’m sure many of you can identify with stress eating. I have been thoroughly preparing for 5 exams next week and I’m really not sure how I am going to score well on all 5. Additionally, I have pulled an all-nighter a few of the days this week and it has actually impaired my decision making. A few days ago, I spent about $50 on Italian food and got it delivered to my apartment. I ordered from Leona’s, an Italian restaurant in Little Italy on Taylor Street. The place is small, but it sure has probably the most delicious Italian food I have ever tasted! I’m not sure what made me make such an irrational decision about spending so much money, but the food lasted about 3 days. I shared some with my roommates as well.

On my study breaks, I also have been eating a lot. I think if I packed healthier snacks, I wouldn’t have a problem with this stress eating business. I actually ran out of food in my fridge and haven’t had time to go out and actually buy anything. It’s nice and convenient having Target and Dominick’s nearby, though!

Did you guys know Transformers 4 was shooting scenes at the Roosevelt Collection last weekend? I actually stumbled in a scene by mistake and was an “extra!” I am going to definitely see that movie and see if they got me in the scene. I think that would be so cool! I didn’t really like any of the Transformers movies past the first one, but now this will give me a good excuse to go see it!

Hope you all are managing your time wisely and best of luck on your midterms! Prepare well!

What keeps me sane

If I can sum up the things that keep me sane in three words/phrases, they would be:

  1. Chris Brown
  2. Drake
  3. Me

There’s probably more to it than that but that’s all I can think of right now. Also, I do not know either Chris or Drake personally so they don’t physically keep me sane, but their music sure does! And finally, there’s me keeping “me” sane. If you ever see someone talking to themselves, they’re either 1) crazy, 2) actually talking to someone with a Bluetooth device hiding in their ear, or 3) trying to figure themselves out (or so I interpret it as).

Tapas at La Taberna

I had a get together with a cousin who goes to school with me (we're in the same anatomy and physiology class!) and one who is currently in OT school at Rush University Medical Center. My brother was there too! This was my first time having tapas at La Taberna (and having tapas in general). It was really good! They had a lot of seafood dishes that my cousin at Rush couldn't eat and a few that I couldn't eat either, but I'm glad there was still variety to pick from. I am definitely coming back again!

I tend to find myself responding to common “How are you?’s” with “I’m alive!” There’s usually more thought into it, but that’s basically it. I tell you that I’m alive and thus I am good (because if I wasn’t alive, well that wouldn’t be very good for me, right?). It is almost a morbid response if you think about it, but to me it’s very positive!

Waiting for the 7 Bus

I wait for the 7 bus half an hour before my class on west side, but the bus seems to never come until 10 minutes before my class then I end up a few minutes late to class! Luckily the instructor never starts exactly on time (and half the class isn't there either), but I still feel bad not being on time. I am contemplating whether or not I should get an annual membership for those Divvy bikes! It's only $75 and a one-time 24-hour usage is just $ you get your money's worth with 10 rides! The only problem is that on rainy days (such as the one here), I'd get soaked on the bike!

I’d like to talk about using the word “sucks” in regards to school and work and whatever else students have on their plates. I ran into a friend from my pre-medical club and she kept telling me how much everything sucks and upon asking me she was thinking I would say the same thing…but to my surprise (and hers), I just said “I guess…it’s more like because there’s so much to do it’s hard which makes it suck but not really…” Haha…I don’t get it either.

In retrospect, I think all of the activities and classes I take on are ways for me to know myself better. Even if I write a million essays and personal statements, it’s going to be hard to articulate who I am unless I keep challenging myself into ridiculous situations that I put myself through. I feel this way about others or “knowing” others. Until you have seen someone in every single situation possible, you don’t really “know” them (and heck they don’t even know those parts of them because they haven’t been confronted yet or never thought about it).

Okay, I don’t want to get all philosophical because that’s where I was thinking about going, but what I understand from myself is that when we put ourselves in academia like this, we’ll never stop searching for answers and never stop learning more about ourselves. Knowing all that, I feel confident in my ability to face every situation head on, and I hope you will too!

Best of luck to everyone who is taking the first anatomy and physiology exam this Friday! I know there’s about 800 of us, haha. WE CAN DO IT!

Joining USG and getting involved

For the past three years, I have been heavily involved in the UIC Undergraduate Student Government (USG). I usually mention USG in my blogs, but I’ve never truly explained the connection I have with the organization.
In high school, I was the secretary for my class’s student board. When I came to UIC freshman year, I knew that I wanted to get involved and active in class government. During the Fun Fair (now known as the Involvement Fair) I went on a hunt for the student government booth. After swimming through the sea of organizations, I finally came across the USG booth. After getting information, I decided to visit the organization’s first meeting the following day.
During the first meeting, I was SUPER lost. If you’ve ever had an encounter with Robert’s Rules, then you know what I mean. Nevertheless, as time went on I finally got the hold of how USG runs and flows. In fact, the month after I became a member, I went to Washington D.C. with the members to attend the American Student Government Association conference. After the conference, I was SO inspired to become an effective student leader at UIC.
Following the conference, I began to step up more. Soon, I became a committee chair in USG. As a chair, I organized a little charity event called “The Undie Run.” The event had students run in their underwear across campus, donating the clothing they wore to charity, in addition to their other clothing donations. It was a successful event that was covered in UIC News and more. Organizing the event truly made me feel a sense of importance.
I ran for vice president for USG my freshman year. Due to lack of competition, I won the race. After a successful year as vice president, I decided to run for reelection my sophomore year. Again, due to lack of competition, I won the race. During my junior year, I was truly able to improve on my role as vice president. And I even was able to revisit D.C. to attend former President Bill Clinton’s “Clinton Global Initiative University” conference.

USG members and me at CGIU

Back in January, I decided to not run for vice president again, due to wanting more free time my senior year. Also, because I wanted to make sure the organization would transition well after I left. This past month, I instead ran for a committee chair position and received it! I know am continuing to work with USG to improve student life and promotional efforts. It’s a position I truly enjoy.
The reason why I explained my story is because I wanted to let you all know about the importance of getting involved on campus. My experience in USG truly shaped me as an individual and a leader. It has taught me so many life and career lessons that I will carry on for the rest of my life.
If you’re not involved on campus,

I highly recommend you do so! Join any club or organization that you find interest in. Whether it be a cultural organization, a fraternity/sorority, or even USG (we are accepting applications now ;) ) get involved. Student leaders truly are able to help shape UIC. Do your part by stepping up : )

USG assembly from last year

Until next time…

Miss Lauren

Last week was my first week of practicum.  I was excited, nervous and anxious to get started.  I had only met my co-teacher the week before.  However, she was great.  I was so very lucky to get placed with her in the school library.

My first day, I definitely had a panic attack or two before I left my house. My hair wasn’t working, I was exhausted, wrinkles in my dress and apparently I had JUST realized I didn’t have a nice, business-casual jacket to wear.  And it was pretty chilly that morning.  I rushed out of the house, hair finally working, and drove to the school I would be spending my next few months.

I got there 10 minutes before the time I was supposed to.  “Great!” I thought.  What I didn’t know was that was the EXACT same time hundreds and hundreds of children were being dropped off by their parents.  Parking was NOT fun and added a bit more anxiety because the clock was ticking.  I FINALLY found a parking spot two blocks away and walked as fast as I could, but so that no one would know I was freaking out inside.  If there is one thing to know about me that not many people know, is that I constantly have an inner monologue.  I liked that Anastasia Steele from Fifty Shades of Grey calls hers her “goddess.”  I would totally steal that, except my inner monologue is anything but “godlike.”  More like…crazy.  Anyway, I’m power walking to the school with arms flailing in the air and perfect curls bouncing around my head and it is 5 minutes past the time I was supposed to be there. EEK! A lady passed by me and says, “Buenos Dias.”  Well, my first reaction was to say it back.  “Buenas…um…Buenos Diaz…Dias.”  Did I mention I don’t speak Spanish? And did I mention it is a primarily Hispanic school?  Most of the children are bilingual, but there are a few exceptions.  Anyways, I felt so stupid.  My inner crazy was thinking, “Oh god! I don’t know if I said that right. What if she wasn’t even talking to me?  What if she was talking to the person behind me?  Maybe she thought I spoke Spanish.  I said one thing.  Who is she to know I didn’t speak Spanish?  Ugh! I’m such a moron.”  So, I just kept on trucking down the street and got there 5 minutes late.  Thankfully my co-teacher is amazing and didn’t care.

My day consists of one hour of Kindergarten and one hour of first grade.  Every day, I have a different class.  Talk about overcrowding.  There are SIX….I repeat…SIX classes of each grade.  I only see 4 of each of them since I am only there Monday through Thursday. Four classes of Kindergarten and first grade, with 30+ children in each.  I easily see about 250 children a week.  I have a feeling I may not be able to remember some of their names.  The good thing is, the majority of them are good classes.  Tuesdays classes…not so much.  But THAT is a whole other blog.

The rest of the week went really well and I was starting to get a hang of it, except on Thursday.  I had the first class that was 98% Spanish speaking. Again, I felt so inadequate.  I pretty much had the other teacher handle everything.  At the end of class as I was collecting everyone’s papers, I said “Gracias.”  At least THAT I could say, and I said it with complete confidence.  That probably confused the kids a little bit because every time they asked me a question, I had to say, “Um, no speak Spanish.” Then I come out wailing a big “GRACIAS MUCHACHOS! ADIOS! ” as every one is leaving.  They’re in Kindergarten and probably won’t remember the weird new teacher all of a sudden could say SOMETHING in Spanish.

Anyways, I tried to help the teacher whenever I could.  She called me her “New favorite person.”  It’s nice to feel appreciated even though she is the one doing me a huge favor and allowing me to do my practicum in her classroom/ library.

This is where I will be spending my mornings.  This is my classroom.

Stay tuned for next week…

Oh and…GO BLACKHAWKS! Hockey is back!!