Author Archives: Holly Brenza

Perks of Being a UIC Student

Every time I hear a person complain about some aspect of UIC, I laugh to myself (or oftentimes outloud…) There is no reason for someone not to enjoy their time at UIC; college is what you make it. I think it’s safe to say we are far more fortunate than almost all other college students. Not only do we have a great university, but we get a chance to go to school in the city, giving us direct access to millions of events, stores/restaurants, internship/job opportunities, history, etc. Because of all of this, we are not just having a college experience, but a UIC experience.

This weekend gave me two more reasons why it’s great to be a UIC student. Thanks to UIC and Campus Housing, I spent my Saturday night on the 99th floor of the Sears (“Willis”) Tower as the Residence Hall Association hosted their annual Fall Ball.

Looking down at our campus from the skydeck, I couldn’t help but think about the massive, ever-growing list of things UIC has helped me to experience. For example, I most likely never would have been up to the skydeck, but this weekend was my third time, (all thanks to UIC!) As I looked at the rest of the city, I thought about how fortunate I am to have Chicago at my fingertips while I am here, providing me with thousands of places to apply for internships and places to go during my “free” time.

As if Fall Ball wasn’t enough, I got to see my favorite band since 2005 perform at the UIC Pavilion Sunday night. The Paramore concert was incredible! Their set list was an absolute dream-with just the right combination of their old songs and new ones from the self-titled album, every fan there had to be pleased. My boyfriend gave me tickets for my birthday back in October. It was a challenge to wait patiently for the concert, but I feel like it came at just the right time. These two nights of fun were the ideal break during the most stressful time of the semester.

I’ve been to the Pavilion for countless UIC events, but never for anything else. It was so funny to see it transformed into a concert venue. The stage was the most mind-boggling thing- it looked great…as if it was always a stage for concerts. It felt strange not sitting in section 110/the student section (during basketball games). It was so great to just walk a couple of short blocks back to my room after the concert as I watched a few thousand people crawl out of the pavilion and cross the street to the parking lot. All the while, we couldn’t stop marveling at the fact that our favorite band came to OUR school as their Chicago leg of the tour.

After such an incredible weekend, it’s time to get down to business (and enjoy Thanksgiving!) Good luck studying for finals and finishing/starting those projects!

I can’t wait!

Break is just a few weeks away, but it’s terrifying to think about how much I need to accomplish before it’s here. The only way I can get through these insane weeks is by looking forward to everything that is coming up:

1.  RHA Ball at the Sears Tower

2. Sunday’s Paramore Concert

3. Spending time with my family over break

4. Closing the residence halls for break

5. Deciding on a spring internship

6. Seeing my final grades

7. Cooking

8. Baking lots of holiday desserts

9. Following tradition and setting up the Christmas tree with my boyfriend & his brother

10. SNOW

11. Warm coffee & hot chocolate

12. Ice skating

13. Red nail polish

14. Inducting new chapter members to NRHH

15. Reapplying for my resident assistant position

16. Finding out my final grades

17. Winter programs with my residents

18. Christmas shopping

19. Seeing the Zoolights & Magnificent Mile Lights

20. Catching up on TV shows over break

21. Reading books

22. Making a snowman

23. Being around extended family

24. Sledding

25. Blogging about the upcoming weeks

26. A brand new semester at UIC <3

What are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!



A balancing act

It has become beyond evident to me that I am drowning in to-do lists. Between assignments and responsibilities, I have been struggling to find the time to sleep or do any other vital functions of life, for that matter. Thankfully, days off school are rapidly approaching. I don’t think I have ever been more excited for a little break from the insanity.

Last year, I found myself credit hours away from completing my English major but with about a million and a half elective hours left to take. My advisor suggested picking up a minor or a double major, ideas my parents had been bringing up since I started school (needless to say, I didn’t listen to them). I looked through the list of majors and minors offered and decided on a double minor — Communication & Managerial Skills. The required classes looked manageable (no pun intended), and I felt like the minors were very much in line with my career goal of becoming a public relations professional. And just like that, I signed up for both Communication & Management courses for the fall 2013 semester.

I knew these classes would be a lot different from English courses, which are nearly all I’ve pretty much managed to take the entirety of my college career (English gen eds, English major classes, etc.) With these new classes came entirely new coursework taught by drastically different professors and lecturers. Perhaps one of the biggest things I have had to adjust to is the professors’ teaching styles, which are all incredibly different from those of the English department. Instead of writing papers, something that I feel comes naturally, I have found myself answering questions posed by professors or written at the end of a chapter. Fiction novels have been replaced by textbooks with glossaries and indexes. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy every minute of it, but this semester has been a challenge that has taken me some time to rise up to.

Studying was a fairly new concept to me (at least in my college career). I’ve had to find time to fit this in to my daily routine, or at least weekly…

I’ve felt so out of touch with the literary world, and I’m dying to sit for hours and read books. Not the kind with definitions and exercises on the sides of the page. But I find myself saying that things like this have to be put on hold.

It seems like we are always trying to look ahead to the next time we will have free time, the week we don’t have any exams, or, just like I mentioned earlier, an upcoming break. But I don’t think it’s ever really going to get any easier. There will always be something that needs to be done. There will always be the tinge of guilt when I want to lay down and watch a movie instead of getting started on a project or doing my laundry. I think we just need to learn to live with this stress instead of always trying to diminish it. This crazy, incredible, exhausting first semester of junior year has taught me just that. That isn’t to say that important tasks should be ignored or put off-simply prioritized. As a wise old Dove chocolate wrapper once told me, “Take a moment for yourself today.”

I can either always try to get everything done and never have time for myself, or I can pick and choose my battles and enjoy my dwindling time here. I think it’s safe to say we both know my choice.

“I Have Been Changed for Good”

After an incredibly stressful weekend followed by a busy school week, it was so nice to have Wicked to look forward to. Campus Housing’s Residence Hall Association (RHA) took us to see the play on the 7th. Besides having the obvious excitement of going to see this play, I was thrilled for my boyfriend to finally see the musical since it was something he had never experienced, despite my obsession. This was my third time seeing it, and I can’t imagine not having ever seen the play at some point. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to see the musical as many times as I have, and every time see it, I find myself repeatedly getting the chills.

My boyfriend and me before the play started.

This time around was my first time seeing the musical as an adult. The two other times I saw Wicked, I was in elementary/middle school. I used to understand the entire play, but it wasn’t until the third time around that I truly understood one of its main messages.

At one point, the two main characters sing a song, “For Good,” where they say that they’ve come into one another’s lives for a reason and that they have been changed because they know each other. The two girls met at their “boarding school,” which more or less resembles that of a college residence hall. This idea of being changed for good resonated with me for quite some time. In the instance of the play, the two are singing the song to one another, but I feel as though the many people I’ve met at UIC and in Campus Housing have changed me for the better. The past 2-1/2 years have been a great maturing experience for me as both as student at UIC and a student leader in Campus Housing. When I thought about the song after the play, I was so surprised to think about all of the people who I have communicated with or worked with in one way or another. Somehow, because I knew each and every one of those people, I, too, have been changed. I have become a better person and a much more mature one thanks to these interactions with other students and faculty at UIC.

I also connected this back to myself as an RA. My hope is that every day, I am helping my residents in one way or another and and am hopefully changing them for the better as well. A big part of college is the connections you make and the friendships that grow out of little interactions. The play exemplifies just that — the way that these mundane interactions can grow into serious friendships that last beyond school. I can only hope that you find yourself making these similar connections in your day-to-day UIC lives as well.

The Playbill from the show!

After this great night of enjoyment, it’s back to schoolwork and RA duties for the weekend. Have a good week — talk to you soon! Go see Wicked if you have a chance — it’ll change your life!

Are you registration ready?

It’s time again to pick our classes for the upcoming semester!

I’m having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that yet another semester is passing us by; it’s already November! Where has this school year gone? All shock aside, the time to decide what classes are in our future has arrived, whether or not we’re all ready for it. I know some people have their entire college careers planned out the moment they step foot on campus and others are “winging it” as each new semester arrives. Regardless of your technique, there are some things you should take into consideration before planning out your Spring 2014.

1. Check your requirements. No matter what your class track is, there will be some courses that you simply have to take, whether or not you feel they are relevant to your ultimate career goal. Be aware of these classes and the number you have left to take.

2. How much is too much? Know your limits. Is an 18 credit-hour schedule plus an executive board position and a job really manageable? Will you still have time to sleep and for a social life? Ask yourself these questions when deciding how many classes you should take.

3. Be in the know. Make sure you understand how to work the registration website before your time ticket is up. Choosing the right classes for you only does so much if you can’t actually sign up for them.

4. Do what you like. College classes are designed very differently from high school; amid the required, tough classes lays many interesting classes. That is not to say that required classes aren’t fun. Make sure you are signing up for courses that both interest you and give you credit.

5. DARS is your new best friend. UIC’s Degree Audit Reporting System is a great way to stay in the know about what is going on with your classes. The system shows you how much you have progressed toward graduation. This is accessed through your account.

6. Don’t take it for the “easy A.” All too often we hear students asking one another for advice on an “easy” class that will fulfill such and such credit. The reality is that one class that a student finds easy may not be as easy to another. The easiest grade you will ever get is one you earn in a class you enjoy.

8. Watchful waiting for the win. If you are unable to get into a class at the point of your registration, you can always “watch” the class numbers online to see if anyone removes the class from their schedule. The key to this is to be aware of the date when registering for classes is no longer allowed.

7. When in doubt, get help. It doesn’t matter if this is your second time registering for classes or your 22nd — sometimes we can all use some help. Don’t hesitate to contact your advisor, RA/PM, friends, etc. Remember, you are not alone in this process!

Catching the conference bug

I’ve been told by countless people in Campus Housing that I need to go to at least one leadership conference during my college years. For one reason or another, I found myself in my junior year, having held numerous leadership positions throughout my years here, yet never attending a leadership conference despite all of the encouragement I’d received. This time, I had absolutely no excuse to not be on the delegation; UIC hosted this fall’s CASCHA (Chicago Area Student and Campus Housing Association) conference. Our school hasn’t won a bid to host for a long time, so this is a really big deal! Schools from all over Chicagoland (some even as far as Valpo!) came out for the daylong conference to attend sessions put on by fellow leaders and professional housing staff as well as network/meet other Campus Housing leaders.

UIC's CASCHA 2013 delegation!

I was scheduled to present on leadership and social media from 3:30-4:15. I had no idea how I was going to talk for that long, but I had all day to think about that. The conference started bright and early. I groggily walked out of the residence halls into the Montgomery Ward Lounge and found myself facing a large, loud group of people, all from different Chicago area universities. It was really cool to see all of the different student leaders who, despite being from completely different schools, faced the same challenges and shared the same successes.
My presentation went well, and when it was over, I felt as if 1,000,000 pounds was lifted off of my shoulders (I worked really hard on the presentation and stressed out about it quite a bit.) I was sad to see all of the student leaders go, but it is really cool to know so many other student leaders at our neighboring schools. Our delegation had a great time and represented UIC perfectly.

The conference was such a great experience, and I am so glad that I can finally say I attended a leadership conference while living here in housing. It is incredible that Campus Housing offers us so many opportunities to get involved and become a leader in a way that best suits you.  I definitely plan to attend more in the very near future (hopefully the Illinois State Residence Assistant Association next semester!) Talk to you next week!

A ghostly good time

How often do you take going to school and/or living in this city for granted?

I don’t let a day go by without stopping to take in the views around campus or making plans to explore the city. It’s incredible how much beauty is all around us every minute here. The city and campus is ever-thriving; take advantage of everything they have to offer!

View from Commons North Residence Hall Tower Lounge

This week, I’ve been drowning in homework, tests, work and programming. But that didn’t keep me from having some fun.

One of the absolute highlights of this week was my residents’ program Wednesday. Two of them put on a talent show program in the lounge off the laundry room on our floor. There was a great turnout, with residents performing card tricks, self-defense moves, jokes and more.


On Thursday, I went with the Residence Hall Association (RHA) on the Chicago Hauntings Tour. It was easily one of the scariest nights of my life. I 100 percent believe in all things ghost-related, so the tour was pretty serious to me. We started out at UIC’s very own Hull House and traveled around the city with our tour guide explaining things the whole way. The minute we started the tour at the Hull House, we were given time to explore the property and takes pictures in hopes of catching some sort of paranormal activity. I walked through the infamous courtyard and immediately felt unsettled. The feeling didn’t leave through the entire tour and continues with me as I sit in my room. It’s moments like this when I am truly appreciative of everything this school offers to its students. I most likely never would have gone on the ghost tour had RHA not taken me and made it so convenient to go. It was crazy to learn so much history I had never heard before and to think that these haunted sites are just miles away from the comfort of campus.

One of the stops on the tour: Couch Mausoleum and the former Chicago City Cemetary

After such an exciting week, my work is not finished. On Saturday, I am participating and presenting in a conference UIC is hosting! The Chicago Area Student and Campus Housing Association (CASCHA) is for leaders in Campus Housing, and is a perfect networking and information-gathering site. I will be presenting on the linkage between social media and leadership.

Here’s to a successful conference. Make sure you take part in some city exploration!









Fall into internships

How do we ever truly know if we are choosing the career we belong in for the rest of our lives? I’ve always felt that this was such a huge decision for us to make at a fairly young age. If you asked me what I wanted my career to be at the end of high school, when I chose a major in college, or, quite honestly, this time last year,  I would’ve outright told you that I have no idea or made up some sort of answer that would correlate with an English degree in an attempt to avoid jokes and criticism. As of summer 2013, I can confidently say that I know what I want to do, all thanks to a life-changing internship.

I always thought that applying for internships was one of the most difficult and exhausting things to do; obviously, I was mistaken. Looking for and applying for internships involves thinking clearly about where you would like to be and finding out whether or not there is a program available. Prior to this past summer, I had spent my last two breaks helping in any way possible in a surgeon’s office in my local hospital. I loved the job and planned to return last summer. However, the job wasn’t aligned with where I was headed in my degree. I took English 202 (Media and Professional Writing) fall 2012, and it gave me the push I needed to start applying for internships that matched my goals. I didn’t feel like I had a concrete career goal until I finished English 202. It was then that I realized I love the public relations field and wanted to explore it more deeply.

I thought about what I liked at my summer job. A big part of that is the location; I enjoyed working at the hospital. My older sister works at the hospital as well and informed me of their Public Affairs & Marketing (PAM) team. This is where my second tip comes in — network, network, network! Yes, my sister is a part of my family, but her networking on the job was what provided me with contact information of the PAM team managers.

It was time to take matters into my own hands (3rd tip: take the initiative- don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!) I contacted the manager and provided her with writing samples and a resume generated in English 202 (#4: start building your professional portfolio now! Always keep your resume up to date.) From there, I landed a phone interview with one of the managers and finally, I headed into the office to meet the team and be interviewed a little more. I feel like I discuss that part so nonchalantly…I was terrified, as expected! That’s where tip 5 comes in — be confident! You have every right to be nervous, but don’t let that keep you from showcasing your skills!

I knew this internship was going to be incredible when one of the managers sat me down in his office and said, “This isn’t going to be one of those internships where you run and get me coffee. We want you to learn as much as you can here.” (#6: absorb any and all information you can!) From that moment on, I knew this was the place for me.

Besides completing the necessary paperwork and medical testing in order to work in a hospital, I was cleared to start my internship after that day. I spent the rest of the summer working hands-on with the team, writing press releases, working with the media, and sitting in on important conference calls and meetings. I really felt like a part of the team and that I was making something out of my summer.

Leaving my internship in August was heartbreaking. I adored everyone in the office. I loved that they treated me like an important part of their dynamic team. I thrived on the incredible work that was going on every day, and I was especially thrilled that every day was different from the next.

To this day, I am still in touch with the team. I love getting a phone call to simply catch up from my boss. I can’t imagine where I would be had this internship never occurred. That’s why I urge you to get an internship! Check online, talk with your advisor, attend the fairs UIC puts on, utilize your professional network, and check the massmails! There is something out there for everyone. Don’t discredit something just because you aren’t looking for an internship. If I had continued to keep my eyes shut about the idea, I would still have no direction. Look for an internship today!


Happy haunting!

Halloween is rapidly approaching — are you ready? I know my floor has been getting ready to celebrate the holiday! I am a Resident Assistant in Courtyard, one of campus housing’s awesome residence halls. This past Wednesday, I put on a floor decorating program in hopes that my residents would be willing to take time out of their night to beautify our public space. At 9 p.m. sharp, I nervously grabbed all of the supplies from my room and headed out to the hallway. Slowly but surely, my residents started coming into the hallway and asking how they could help decorate. I was thrilled to see so many of them meeting each other and coming up with really unique ways to decorate.

I can honestly say that Wednesday night was the happiest I’ve ever felt in my two years as an RA. I felt like what I was doing mattered, and I am confident my residents are building meaningful relationships through the activities we’ve done. It’s crazy to see how so many different people from all over the midwest (and sometimes even the country) can come together within the residence halls and become a makeshift family. These interactions are so much more important in the long run than they seem in the immediate moment. Sure, they may be stringing streamers across the floor together one night, but years down the line, they may be the best man at one another’s weddings. I’m confident in things like that.



Through all of the cheesiness, what I am trying to say is that your time here at UIC is not to be wasted; get involved in one way or another, whether it’s helping your floormates bring Halloween cheer to your floor or joining a student organization on campus. There are too many opportunities at your fingertips to simply go to class and go back to your room and hop on the train and head home. If Halloween brings you together with other students, so be it. If something else does, run with that. It’s your UIC experience, and it’s all about how you make it.

When it was all said and done, our floor was looking incredibly festive. I was so happy to see the dedication my residents showed to better our floor.

Peer Mentor Chuck & Resident Tom posing in front of their hard work.

If you’re struggling with finding ways to get involved, visit the Campus Programs website. If you live on campus, talk to your RA about getting involved.



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.

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