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.

About the Blogger

My name is Luis Lopez and I am a Sophomore Electrical and Computer Engineering student at Northern Illinois University. I was born in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico, grew up in Cuparataro, Michoacan and have lived in Cary, Illinois for the past 4 years. I am very excited to be spending my second year here at NIU as an Northern Lights Ambassador and as a University Honors Fellow. I am very involved on campus and I enjoy being part of the NIU community. Besides being an NLA and an Honors Fellow, I am also the Social Chair of Honor Student Association, the Events Coordinator for Adela de la Torre Honor Society, and an active member and advocate of DREAM Action NIU. My goal as an NLA is to represent and promote NIU and my college and show everyone how awesome we are! I love NIU and I hope to be able to show others how great this institution really is. I hope to also become a resource for current and future students so that all the information I have learned so far can be shared and other students can benefit from it. I would love to help new and current students get involved and by doing so, I know I will be helping them have a much better college experience.