The Cougar Commission: Week 1

For 16 years, me and my family had driven past Saint Xavier University countless times. Whether it was on my way to grammar school at St. Germane, to Portillo’s, or to church, I was always looking in awe at this university. It wasn’t until Monday, August 22, that I myself turned onto 103rd and Hamlin, not just looking at the university but as part of the university. It was about 7:05 a.m. and The Eagles’ “Hotel California” softly played through the concert surround system of my 2000 Buick LeSabre. I picked a parking spot in Lot 12 and stepped out of the car, taking a deep breath. After grabbing my backpack and locking my doors, my mind raced with questions as I made my way to the main entrance. Will I fit in? Will I find my classes in time? Will I even make any friends? After what seemed to be the longest walk of my life, I finally reached the doors. This is it, I thought to myself. However, this wasn’t just college. It was my college. Blessing myself, I opened the big glass doors and stepped into what will be the center of my life for the next four years to come.

My name is Nicholas Vazquez, I am 18 years old and a freshman here at Saint Xavier University. I live with my mom, dad and two younger brothers on the Southside of Chicago in Merrionette Park. I went to grammar school at St. Germaine, and I am a proud graduate of Saint Rita of Cascia High School in Chicago. I love to read, write, watch sci-fi movies and sports and spend time with my family and friends. However, entering college, I was very skeptical of how things would go for me. I was nervous about how the college atmosphere would treat me. Would it feel good? Will I feel welcomed? Will I succeed? Those were just some of the many questions I would ask myself over the summer. I am only a week into my college experience at Saint Xavier and I can, without a doubt, answer “yes” to all three of those questions.

My first week of classes went much better than anticipated. For one, I feel very comfortable at this university. There is an unexplainable and positive aura here on campus. It feels as if this place is telling me not to worry. It feels as if I am at home. In addition to the calming environment, the professors I’ve met have been very reassuring that they are here for me and the rest of my fellow freshmen. With their doors always open to us and only an email away, they definitely have given me a more positive outlook on being successful inside and outside the classroom. Interestingly enough, my classmates themselves have also made my first week exciting. I have reconnected with familiar faces and made friends with new ones. Everyone I have met so far have been very unique and different in their own ways. I am definitely excited to be with my fellow peers for the next four years. Not only have I met some interesting freshmen but I have also met some very welcoming upperclassmen. From directing me to my correct classes or showing me the places to relax and hangout, it is a very reassuring feeling knowing that the upperclassmen are watching over me and my peers.

Though I am putting all my focus and energy in all of my current classes, I also have not lost sight of my goals and expectations while at Saint Xavier University. Not only do I expect to do well in the classroom, I plan on taking all of the university’s opportunities to become more involved on and off the campus. These opportunities include things such as theatre, various campus ministry roles, and Lord willing, becoming a future FOCUS leader. When it comes to my education, I plan to graduate Saint Xavier University with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. Shortly after that, I plan on training to become a police officer and work in Oak Lawn or the city of Chicago. However, those are only my short-term goals. I aspire to one day join the FBI and take a position in their National Security branch. If there is one thing I’ve taken away from my first week here at Saint Xavier, it is that this school has all the right tools to help me put my best foot forward, and I am very confident that the university will do nothing but give me the best opportunities to succeed in my future.

I am not only drawn to the university from the outside but the inside as well. Saint Xavier has mentioned many times about their dedication and pride in their Core Values. These Core Values are what sit at the heart of the school and are the center of how it operates each and every day. The Core Values of Respect, Excellence, Compassion, Service, Hospitality, Integrity, Diversity, and Learning for Life are what hold the leaders and the student body together. I may have only been here a full week, but I already see these Core Values being expressed by everyone. I have a personal connection with one of these values — Respect. Not only was Respect the name of my freshman orientation group, but I feel that it is a vital Core Value to be practiced on and off the campus. I am a firm believer in respect and everywhere I go, I make it my duty to make sure people of all genders, backgrounds and heritages get the respect they deserve, as I am always ready to stand in the way of those who think otherwise. I look forward to sharing my views of Respect to everyone I encounter at Saint Xavier and am undoubtedly thrilled to witness and express these values not only through the rest of the year, but my whole college career and beyond.

I have nothing but high regards for this school. Saint Xavier honestly could not have done a better job making me feel more positive this first week during my freshman year, and I am eager to see what is in store for the future. They have also made me feel more confident in my abilities as a student and as a young man overall. From my teachers to my peers to me, I can wholeheartedly say that I definitely made the right decision to attend Saint Xavier and have no regrets about my choice. I look forward to studying, working, and enjoying myself here in these next four years. After one full week, I can easily say that my future is bright at this university. After all, this isn’t just college, this is my college.

Returning to my home away from home

My name is Amber Burke. My entire life I grew up on the Northside of Chicago being educated by Catholic institutions. Now, here I am on the Southside of Chicago attending SXU. I have always been the type of person to look around and take in my surroundings. When I had stepped back onto campus this year, I had thought of just how happy I was to finally be here. Saint Xavier to me personally is my home away from home.

The first week of classes here at SXU had given me so much promise of not only a fulfilling academic year but an eventful one as well. In every class I attended, each professor had excitedly greeted me with such warmth. Cracking open my new textbooks and beginning a new chapter gave me the sense that this is my year. Seeing and embracing my friends in the hallways after not seeing them over summer break, makes it that much more exciting when we tell each other our class schedules with the hope of us being in our next class together.

My expectations for this semester is to not only be able to do well academically but personally as well. I want to be able to take the knowledge that my professors are teaching me and find a way to apply it to my life. I hope to be able to enrich my inner self with the new information from classes and events that I will encounter this semester. Saint Xavier University is the place where I know I can be able to do this. This is the institution that will give me many opportunities to become lifelong lessons as well as memories.

Greetings to Another Year of School!

5D1FC65F-9994-4AA1-BCD7-BB01CEC842F2Hello all and welcome back to another year of my blog!

For those you who have been constant readers for the past two, going on three years now, thank you. It’s always amazing to know you are reading these posts. For those of you who are new to Cougar Diaries, welcome! Cougar Diaries is an up-close and personal view of SXU students during their time at SXU. I love getting to share my own experience at SXU with others because I love SXU!

Here’s a little introduction about me: I am a Junior with a Middle School Education Major, and endorsements in Language Arts, Reading, Social Science, and ESL Studies. I hail from the shivering cold Minneapolis, Minnesota, where winters are long and summers are under construction. I am the eldest of four siblings. IMG_1334My sister Maya, 18 years old, starts her first day of college tomorrow in New York, our birth place. I’m extremely proud of her for making this huge step into adulthood but know I will miss her. My brother, Emiliano, is 13 years old and although he is my only brother, he is my favorite brother! He has great taste in music, movies, and we can talk about Pokemon GO. And the baby of our family is Luna, 7 years old, and she is one of my favorite human beings in this world. She is the sweetest, most passionate, Snow White princess I know.

This is my third year living in Regina Hall, the first-year resident hall, and I could not be more excited about it. Like last year, I am living on the third floor but this time as a resident assistant. So far, the third floor ladies have been nothing but outstanding, and I am so excited to be serving them this year!

A8A8A554-9917-4691-8185-E0BCBAC56A0FOne thing that stood out to me when I first visited SXU was the community that made the campus home. This year I will be a student ambassador, going on my third year in the program. I have loved getting to work with prospective students and their families as a tour guide. One of the things I love most about this job is getting to meet the students who I gave a tour to. On those days when I’m crazy busy with work and classes, knowing that the conversations I had with touring students made a difference makes me feel great.

I will also continue my involvement with campus ministry by being the Justice Peer Minister, a completely new position this year! My role will involve me working with campus ministry and the SXU community on social justice issues. This will work with my positions for Mercy Students for Peace and Justice (MSPJ). My board positions for MSPJ are the vice president and the immigration head committee. At its most basic level, MSPJ draws inspiration from our collective human desire to alleviate the suffering of our fellow human beings. We empathize with other people and long to relieve their suffering. MSPJ strives to encourage and nurture that concern for others and channel it into contemplation and action so that we may better ourselves, our families, our community, and our world. We draw inspiration from the Sisters of Mercy, the religious order that founded Saint Xavier University. The special characteristic of the Mercy mission includes a consideration for, and service to, the poor and marginalized of society. The Mercy tradition emphasizes compassion, concern and action. We invite students, faculty, and friends to embrace this tradition and draw upon it in their lives.

This year I will be doing my second year as a Transition Peer Mentor (TPM) where I will be working with an instructor on a one-credit course on how first-year students transition into college. Last year I had a great class, and after one meeting this past week, I am looking forward to working with these first-year students on making the most of their college experience.

Something new that I will be a part of this year is Schmitt Scholars!A0435816-45F9-4114-AF87-97946EC9E26D The Schmitt Scholars Program promotes the development of promising Saint Xavier University student leaders, helping participants advance their leadership efforts at SXU and preparing them to make a broader impact on the world after graduation. Schmitt Scholars receive a merit-based scholarship and participate in a program of activities that provide them with opportunities to reflect on and develop their leadership potential. I am looking forward to the growth and development that will occur throughout this program.

This year I do have a lot going on, but I look forward to sharing my involvement and activities with you as a reader! Posts about cute siblings, puppies, and exploring Chicago are guaranteed! Please continue reading throughout the year and let me know if you have suggestions for what I should include in my posts.

And So It Begins Again

And so it begins again. After a summer of listlessness and procrastination, the school year has now begun once again here at Saint Xavier. The sea of emerald and forest green has been cut low to gently bristle the toes. The looming trees that line the road remain standing tall to shade the palaces of which one reads on a summer day. Cicadas sing their nostalgic song of childhood days gone by remaining from high up in the trees, the steamy air of summer still gushes to tell us ‘not yet.’ And as that first day began, the sight of lost doe-eyed freshmen brings back a sense of amusing youth and nostalgic naivety to the school grounds.

It’s a marvel to be had seeing the faces of those first years and remembering that once we were so. With their nice collared shirts and prim and proper summer dresses, their almost foreign appearance becomes apparent in the sea of dull-eyed upperclassmen. It is so out of place seeing these magazine catalogue-looking kids walking down the hall with almost a swagger about them. And despite the small gap in our ages and my own youthful age, I feel old, old in heart and temperament. While they walk aimlessly playing the latest mobile game, I yearn for the free days that I may remember such a time that I was able to wander into the park district and fish for snails along the rocky shores or weaving words into a story of people and places and places with people and people from places. Like an old man watching rambunctious children walk off to school while he remains glued to his stoop, I find myself content in my amusement of the strangeness of youth as if I am somehow separate from it as if I were somehow detached.

Perhaps it is I that is out of place as I sit lazily in the diner with worn sandals and dirt-covered sweats and Tee. Is it really the excitement and nervous fright of the first years that should be alien to this school as so many others? Does feeling a sense of adventure in the sea of the mundanity of those of us accustomed to life here so wrong? I wonder if such a feeling as that is such a bad thing in this place that sings a song of flight. We all want to get out and get into the real world but when we’re there we want to go back to these carefree days when being a kid was something we took for granted. And here, I feel myself at a crossroads. The nervous fright of nearing the end of my time here begins to loom over me now. The eventual bidding of farewell to friends only a year older draws near every day. Here I am hapless as I inch towards the inevitable day when I will be left only to remember those days when nothing but what I’d do tomorrow mattered. It is these things that bring up this bitter and yet so sickly sweet nostalgia for those endless summer days that have me stepping back to that warm feeling of independence from home but still knowing I had a place to go back to. But perhaps the misguided ventures of the first years are just the end of that same accustom they had the year before as their days as high school students went by. And perhaps it is that same feeling of adventure and nervous excitement that will come when I am handed that diploma and take my first step out the door on my way to work. And so it begins again and the days count on as they had done before.