A letter to a Huskie

Dear first-year Huskie,

I know you are probably really busy meeting tons of people, going out with your friends on the weekend, and planning who to live with next year. As a third-year student, I would like to tell you that there are way, way, way many more things that you should think about as well. Two years ago, I was in your shoes, and I too, worried about what I was going to do over the weekend, and trying to figure out what . With the help of multiple mentors and positive role models, I was able to realize that there are many things that came included with my college education. Today, I would like to tell you about those things that you might or might not know about, and hopefully, I can get you to realize why they are important.

Getting involved:

By now, you are probably sick and tired of people telling you to get involved, but if so many people are telling you to do something, you might want to look into it. If you haven’t already, you should go to the Student Involvement & Leadership Development (SILD) Home Page and navigate their website for opportunities you might be interested in such as student clubs, student government, Greek life, etc. Getting involved taught me a great deal about the University, my peers, and myself. I also learned about my leadership style and what kind of leader I wanted to be. Getting involved is extremely important because not only will you grow as a leader, you will also learn many valuable skills that employers and graduate schools are looking for. Trust me, the real world is super competitive, whatever it is that you want to do, you will have competition, and by being involved, you will make yourself a much more competitive candidate.

Getting out of your comfort zone:

You’re probably thinking, “I’ve been doing that since I got here, so I’m good” please allow me to disagree with you. Getting out of your comfort zone does not simply mean meeting new people and/or trying something new. Getting out of your comfort zone also means learning and experiencing other cultures, religions, and students groups. Have you ever seen those flyers on campus for cultural events? What about those addressing political issues from a group that you do not identify with? What about those about a fraternity/sorority you are not familiar with? Don’t ignore those flyers and consider attending some of these events. Not only will you learn about other groups of people, you will also learn about the REAL WORLD, and how diverse it really is. You might even find a group of people that you might have never thought you would be part of.

Doing Research:

NIU is a research institution, take full advantage of that. I personally regret not doing research during my first two years of college, but fortunately, I will be doing research this semester and that is very exciting. No matter where you go, having research experience will be a major plus as it proves that you can be a contributing member of our society.

Using your resource centers:

They are all over campus for one reason: to help YOU be successful. Whether it is the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning or the Women’s Resource Center, there are tons of places on campus that you can get help from. You will not only save yourself tons of time by visiting these centers, you will create great relationships that will make your college experience an extremely rewarding one.

In conclusion, there are many other things I would like to suggest, but I think these three are great ways to get your college career started. Don’t forget what you came to school for. Don’t forget your dreams. Don’t forget to work towards achieving those dreams. You have the power to shape your future, take control of it.

Sincerely,

A fellow Huskie

How am I a Junior already?

My first week of my junior year has proved the be the most exciting so far. Coming back to NIU is always an exciting experience, but coming back as an upperclassmen is REALLY exciting. It is a great time in NIU’s history and it is an honor to be an NLA and represent NIU and the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.

This year, just like the previous two, will be really busy for me. As I have grown and become a leader on campus, I have become more engaged in the organizations I am part of and it is now my turn to step up and be the best leader I can be.

This year I am president of the Honors Student Association, and through this position, I hope to help create a tighter community in the University Honors Program. I am beyond excited to work with the rest of the executive board, as well as our members to achieve this goal.

This year, I am also the vice-president of my fraternity, Lambda Upsilon Lambda, at NIU. I am definitely excited to work with my brothers, as well as all the people we collaborate with, to give back to the community and make a difference.

In addition to being an NLA, I am also a University Honors Fellow, a position that I believe is similar to being an NLA. I love the University Honors staff as my fellow fellows, so I am really excited to work with them and spend the rest of the year helping this program continue to grow and improve.

But perhaps the one thing I am the most excited about, is being able to hang out with all my friends again and enjoy everything that’s great about NIU. The Football, the events, the food, the free stuff, the music, and most importantly, the people.

My First Two Years At NIU: Commuting vs Living on Campus

My freshman year of college I made the decision to commute due to financial reasons. It was a very tough time for my family and I, so paying to live in the Residence Halls was not an option for me. At first, I was very disappointed to not be able to have a “normal college experience” as I felt that I was going to miss out on many things by not living on campus. I also hated the idea of having to drive 3 hours everyday, specially during storms and other severe weather conditions. I was also scared that I would not make any friends in school, as I would not have the chance to hang out with anyone outside of class.

My opinion on commuting, however, changed quickly, starting a couple of days before classes began during the University Honors Laredo Taft Retreat

I was walking from an off-campus parking lot (as I did not have a parking permit yet) to the convocation center. I remember taking the longest possible route as my phone was not working and I had no idea where I was going. It was a very hot summer day, and I was carrying a backpack, a sleeping bag, and a pillow across campus. When I finally arrived to the Convocation Center, I was covered in sweat and decided to stand under the shade of a small tree to cool down. It was under this tree that I made my first friend at NIU, and that is a memory I will never forget. I was standing in the shade when this person came up to me and began talking to me. We talked for a while and then rode the bus together, spending most of the retreat together. It was then that I realized that I was going to have a great time in college, regardless of where I was living.

Once classes started, I had already made a few friends and I felt very confident I would make more. I turned out to be right and I made a lot more friends that first week of school. I was very lucky to have signed up for the Calculus and Physics Themed Learning Community (TLC), which meant that I would take physics and calculus with the same group of students. This allowed me to get to know the people in my TLC very well and I feel very lucky to have done so.

I definitely recommend any first-year student to sign up for a TLC, specially if this student is commuting. Not only did I have the chance to make very good friends, I also had the advantage to work together with others and getting to know my professors.

For my second year at NIU, I decided I wanted to live in the Residence Halls, Grant D to be specific. One of my buddies from my TLC had asked me to be his roommate and as we got along really well, I thought it would be a good idea. Living at the Res. Halls is really convenient. Having my classes so close to me is a huge benefit and it helps me get a little more sleep each night. I am also able to be more involved and get to know even more people on campus. Not having to worry about food, dishes, and cleaning is also very convenient as it gives me more time to focus on other things.

I personally enjoy living on campus, and would recommend this to any student regardless of age, grade, or major. Grant D proved to be the perfect fit for me and I am very glad I decided to live here.

To summarize, I had a somewhat “nontraditional” first year at NIU, but I still made the best out of it. I would recommend any student who is not living on campus to get involved with a TLC and with other program on campus. This will help you make connections and meet new people. I would probably have hated my Freshman year if I had just being going to class and right back home. Staying after class for meetings, events, and even homework really made a difference for me and it opened the door for me to make lots of friends. I also encourage EVERYONE to live on campus at least one year and take advantage of all the benefits and perks that come with living in the Residence Halls. One way or another, you should try to make the most out of your college experience and take advantage of all the resources NIU has to offer. You are coming to a great institution that offers Undergraduate Research, an honors program, diversity centers, student organizations, and many more programs you can get involved with. Don’t waste your first two years and get out there and grab these opportunities! You only have four (maybe five, or six, or more) years at NIU, make the best of them!

Top 5 Reasons Why I <3 NIU

5. Academics

Nothing feels better than getting the grades you want in your classes. NIU makes it very feasible for students to get a 4.0 GPA, or at least very close to it. Although classes are very challenging at NIU, there are many resources that NIU provides for us to make sure we have all the tools to be successful in our courses. From tutoring centers to themed learning communities and mentoring programs, NIU gives us more than enough resources for us to excel in our academics.

4. Diversity

As a Latino student, diversity was one of the things I was looking for when deciding where to go to school.  I was very pleasantly surprised to see that NIU has a very diverse student population and that is something I really like about NIU. Besides having a diverse student body, NIU also has different diversity centers on campus. The different NIU diversity centers, such as the Latino Resource Center and the Center for Black Studies, are dedicated to making NIU a very diverse campus and helping minority students have a successful and enjoyable journey through college.

3. Engaged learning

Research, student organizations, internships, study abroad programs, leadership opportunities, mentoring programs, service opportunities, networking. Do I need to keep going?

2. Student career success

NIU’s commitment to student career success has helped me and many other students prepare for the real world. NIU’s Career Services is an office on campus dedicated to helping students build their resume, polishing their interviewing skills, and ultimately getting jobs and internships. This office has helped me a lot to prepare for career fairs, interviews, and networking events. I am truly grateful to have this resource available to us. Thanks to the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology and their huge network of alumni, donors, and corporate partners, I was able to secure an internship and scholarship with Navistar International Corporation. On top of that, the University Honors Program and the NIU Alumni Association gave me the opportunity to engage in the Bold Futures Externship Program this past winter break. Through this program, I was able to learn about business, information technology, and law by shadowing multiple successful individuals and getting the chance to see, and experience, what these professions are about. Thanks to these and other opportunities, I have a resume I am proud of and that I know will help me get even more awesome opportunities in the future.

1. The community

My favorite aspect of NIU is hands down our community. My experience at NIU has been amazing and that is mostly thanks to all the amazing people I have met here. At NIU, I truly feel like I fit in wherever I go and that is something I have not experienced anywhere else. The relationships that I have forged at NIU have given me the college experience I always dreamed of and that I will remember forever.

 

Other reasons why I love NIU:

The faculty and staff, Pres. Baker, our campus architecture and scenery, the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, scholarships, campus-wide events, networking, FOOTBALL, etc.

NIU: My New Home

Weekends at NIU are something else. What I like most about spending the weekend on campus is that every weekend is different. NIU, the City of DeKalb, and it’s surroundings, are very good at hosting events or activities for the students who stay in DeKalb. Some of my favorite events this semester have been: Corn Fest, Rake Across DeKalb, Kite Fest, and my all-time favorite, STEMfest. All these events have been major highlights of my semester as I have made some of the best memories of my college experience at these events.

Although the semester is somehow wrapping up already. There are still a lot of events I am really looking forward to. What I am the most excited about are the football games coming up! It is super awesome to have a RANKED UNDEFEATED football team play here on campus! I cannot express how excited I am for the rest of the football season as I am hoping that the Huskies will get a bid to the Fiesta bowl. That is something I would not miss!

The City of DeKalb and NIU take the safety of the students really serious, but at the end of the day, it is up to us to take care of ourselves. Although I feel very safe on campus, I still take many safety precautions while on campus and off-campus. For example, I never walk late at night unless I am with a fairly big group of people. I usually take advantage of the Late Night Ride service so that I am not walking alone at late hours of the night. Another precaution that I take, is that I always make sure my phone is fully charged, and in an accessible but secure spot. I do this so that should an emergency come up, I can have access to my phone to make a phone call.

During our last Northern Lights Ambassadors Meeting, NIU’s Chief of Police, Tom Phillips, gave us many tips to ensure our safety on campus. I would like to share these with my fellow students:

  1. Do not walk parading your expensive phone around!
  2. Do not walk alone at night (call Late Night Ride: 815-753-2222)
  3. Avoid poorly lit area (specially off-campus)
  4. Do not ignore official NIU Safety alerts, they are serious!
  5. Do not panic when rumors are spread on campus, if there is a safety concern, the Police department will send out an alert to inform students.

Following these tips would help students ensure a safe and enjoyable stay on campus!

To end this post I would like for students to also realize that it is our responsibility to KEEP our campus safe. NIU is our home and we should protect it as such. If any suspicious activities are seen, make sure to report them by calling 911, calling the NIU Police Department: (815) 753-1212, calling the DeKalb Police Department: 678-937-2852, or filing a report using the iWatch application.

Let’s do our part and keep our campus the safe place that is!

Go Huskies! 

-Luis

Engaged Learning

This past summer, I had the wonderful opportunity of working for Navistar International Corporation as an Integrated Product Development Intern in the Noise, Vibrations, and Harshness (NVH) department. Working for such a big global company provided me with professional skills that I know will help me in the future. During the course of this internship, I was required to communicate with many people from different places. In order for my projects to be successful, I had to ask many questions and do much research. At the end, I was able to present some of the projects that I worked on while at Navistar. Just like most classroom presentations, this presentation was nerve wrecking. But unlike most classroom presentations, the people in front of me were potential employers and that put even more pressure on me.

After this experience, I really saw the value of engaged learning. I learned a lot more from actually being at the workplace than being at school, and that is because I learned how to apply everything I’ve learned in the classroom to the real world and make good use of my knowledge. I believe that internships, or any other real-world experience, are critical in order to obtain career success.

Internships help students learn how the corporate world operates and how to behave in such settings. I also believe that by interning, a student can start to network with professionals who might later help them in their career. I really liked the fact that as interns, we are able to not only network with professionals, but with each other as well. Getting to know people from other parts of the country through an internship allows us to expand our network. I am looking forward to see what this upcoming summer has in store for me, as I plan to make it even more productive than my last one.

So It Begins… Again

My sophomore year at NIU just started and with it, all the work, pressure, and expectations from all my classes, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities. Getting involved in campus my first year really paid off, as I now possess leadership roles in some of the organizations I am part of. I have also other responsibilities, such as being an NLA and Honors Fellow, which have given me many opportunities to meet key people at NIU and have given me a loud voice on campus. I truly feel like my presence here at campus really matters and I feel very lucky and grateful for all the opportunities NIU has offered to me.

This year, I have finally started taking classes in the Electrical Engineering Department and I could not be any more excited. I am now taking, ELE 210, which is a Circuit Analysis course taught by Suma Rajashankar from the Electrical Engineering Department. She is a great professor and I find her class to be both really interesting and challenging. Besides, ELE 210, I am also taking CSCI 241, which I really, really like; EPFE 201, which is really interesting and Dr. Jes Cisneros does an amazing job at teaching it; and MATH 336, which I’m freaking out about. Balancing this course load with everything else going on is not easy, but it is doable. So far, I feel like I’ve been responsible with my work and have stayed on top of things. When I look back to the first couple weeks of my freshman year, I remember how shy and unsecure I was, and I cannot believe I have become the person I am today. Thankfully, this year I am much more confident and I know, more or less, how to work this whole college thing .

In general, the beginning of the school year is a very exciting time of the year and I have enjoyed every second of it. I definitely took advantage of all the events that promised FREE FOOD and/or FREE STUFF and I have now an entire new Fall/Winter 2013 NIU Collection in my closet. I’m glad to be back at NIU, this time determined to make NIU an even better place for all of its students, faculty, and staff. With the help of the OSEEL office, the University Honors Program, the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, the Latino Resource Center, and all the other awesome departments on campus, I know I will have a very successful semester.