Opposites Unite!

There is a part of Saint Xavier University that most students don’t even know exists. Or if they do know where it is, might not ever go see it. Nestled in a quiet tree-lined street with the sounds of children coming home from school and a lawnmower is the Visual Arts Center. A former church turned school building, it is one of the most unique locations here at Saint Xavier. As an art major, the Visual Arts Center, or VAC, is much more than just the building for the Art Department. On the SXU website, it is called a “sanctuary” of studios with a computer lab and student art gallery. It is a place in which art majors can get away from the hustle and bustle of the main campus and focus on their craft with their fellow artists and friends. With the smell of oil paints and the cheery whistle of a certain professor, it has a special charm that draws students on the weekends. And it is this place that allows myself and others to showcase our talents.

Every year, there are a number of art shows taking place at the Visual Arts Center. There is the Scholarship Recipient Art Show and at least one themed art show to accompany it. The most recent art show took place for the past four weeks. This week, we had the closing reception to the Opposites Unite! Art Show where six pairs of art students collaborated and created six unique, binary works of art. Over the last four weeks, the students who received the opportunity to be part of the art show took time out of their days to work tirelessly to create these enormous works of art. For myself and my partner, the theme we chose was dreams and nightmares. It was a thrill to work together to create something as expansive and ambitious as our artwork. Dozens of people showed up to take a look at the show, and we even got to give a little speech on our work. This being the first art show I had participated at Saint Xavier proved to be both a rewarding and exciting experience.

Now that the show is over, there is a certain emptiness about the VAC’s gallery. The walls are now bare again as the artworks are rolled up and stored away for safe keeping. The sound tape being pulled and paper being rolled up just has a certain sadness in my thoughts that made it almost feel like a goodbye or packing up to move away. The last month of work was now in a few minutes being put away only for the cycle to return again. But perhaps like spring, there always has to be winter. Without one part dying off, how will another grow in its place? And so the walls stand empty, and I’m forced to clean the mess we left behind only for it all to begin again with a brand new flyer on the door.

A Letter to My Future Self

Dear Me in 10 years,

I write this letter to you from age 18, so by the time you open this, you should be about 28. I’m writing this to give you a little trip down memory lane and to show you how far you have come in life!

As for your current interests, you watch wrestling, enjoy old school video games and are currently in the midst of collecting every Major League Baseball jersey. As for your academic life, you are a freshman at Saint Xavier University. You managed to get that blogging job for the school, math is STILL your hardest subject, and your favorite place to be on campus is the small courtyard near the main entrance. You are aiming for your bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and after college, you are determined to become a police officer (hopefully, you are already in uniform). I hope everything is going great for you in 2026!

For you, life is good right now. You are just a little over your first full month of college. It is going great and you are having a fun time. You are keeping your grades up and meeting some really interesting people that you, hopefully, still talk to. As for the family at home, everyone is starting a new chapter in their lives. Alex just started high school at St. Rita, Michael is starting second grade and mom just became an office manager. We had a couple new people move into our neighborhood as well. For the most part, life is going really well and I hope you are doing great.

As for the status of the United States, the country is currently going through some rough times. The shootings in the city surpassed that of last year (we are only in September), tensions are at an all-time high between a number of Americans and the police, and our two presidential candidates are stirring the pot so much that even the rest of the world is focused on American politics. I hope our country has healed a little bit in the future. Though I’ve only been on earth for 18 years, it doesn’t take a genius to see that our country is sadly divided in many ways. Things like race, color, gender and political parties are just some of the factors dividing the American people. Of course everyone has always had a difference of opinion, I’ve never seen tensions get so high before. Riots and protests are breaking out all across the country for a lot of these things, and it hurts me to see us put each other down. Hopefully, we are all a little bit closer as a nation in the future and are working out our problems together.

As for the world, the U.S and other allies are currently fighting ISIS, the U.K. isn’t part of the European Nations anymore, and the world is still “mourning” the death of an American gorilla named Harambe (Never Forget).

So I’m hoping at age 28 that you’ve accomplished some goals that I’ve set for you. For example, I hope you’ve settled down and started a family by now. I hope that you have that Dodge Hellcat you’ve always wanted or at least are close to getting one. I’m expecting you to be a police officer already, so don’t let me down. However, beyond these small goals and changes in your life, I hope you haven’t changed your personality. Never forget who you are and where you came from and never change for anybody. Don’t forget your life values and definitely never abandon your faith. It was always a strong part of your life, so whatever you do, always make time for it. In addition, you better be the police officer you’ve always wanted to be. Be patient, understanding and keep calm when you need to. Always treat everyone with respect but never back down when danger arises. You were always an easy and approachable person and very fun to be around, so carry those personality traits with you always. Protect your family and friends and ALWAYS keep God in your heart — no excuses! You are a good young man here at age 18. You should be an even better man at 28. Take care and always be safe.

Yours truly,
Nick Vazquez

P.S. The Cubs are currently the best team in baseball. I hope you were able to witness a World Series win by now.

One Thing to the Next

Greetings, all! This past week has been busy — not only with work but with so many great events taking place at school!

Hispanic Heritage Month is a tradition at SXU, and it has been a blast! One of my favorite events is having a bilingual mass. Growing up, my father, who is a native Spanish speaker, and mom always tried to find a church community that offered both languages. So when our chapel offered a bilingual mass, it was a little piece of home to me! 34FA7D91-2D91-49A7-ACF8-2CD353A71ABD

On Wednesday, noon classes were cancelled so students could take part in Mercy Day and attend mass. Mercy Day focuses on Saint Xavier’s history and its founding by the Sisters of Mercy and what they went through to provide an education for children and women as well as their move to the States from Dublin, Ireland.

This week, Mercy Students for Peace and Justice (MSPJ) held our first meeting. I love how MSPJ works to involve not only our school but also our surrounding community. We focus on answering the call of our fundamental human concern for others by following the example of our Mercy tradition. At its most basic level, MSPJ draws inspiration from our collective human desire to alleviate the suffering of our fellow human beings. They 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.

On Friday morning, I woke up early at 4:15 a.m. because I led the Broadview trips. We make the trip to stand in solidarity with the families who are being broken apart because of the immigration system. To me, being in Broadview and leading it is a huge honor because my father is a immigrant and anyone in my family could easily be those who are being deported. The trip itself is about 45 minutes, once we are there, we pray for the families in both Spanish and English. Seeing all the small children who had to say goodbye to their parents was heart breaking.

For those of you who don’t know, here’s some facts about immigration:

  • It costs $40,000 of taxpayer money to deport just one person.
  • The government deports people every Friday and Saturday morning at Broadview Detention Center. Those who are held in Broadview wear chains on their feet, hands and neck linking them to each other, and are treated like murderers when most of them have come here for a new beginning.
  • One-thousand one-hundred people in America are deported every day; while 100,000 children have lost at least one parent to deportation in the last 10 years.
  • Four-hundred thousand undocumented immigrants were detained and deported from the U.S. in 2011 alone.
  • There are more than 400,000 undocumented immigrants in the detention centers in the U.S. at all times. This is a broken system. The buses that take people away have someone’s father and mother on board. They are people who belong to our family.

If you are looking for more information, check out these websites:

I really could not be more proud to attend a school with so much focus on helping all humans, including immigrants. FullSizeRender (32)Being able to learn from the Sisters of Mercy and see how they serve so many is inspiring. And I truly feel so honored to be a part of the trips, especially when this trip had so many new people who were attending for the first time — even more so that every seat was full!

Later that Friday, I was able to make my first visit for PALS for change. This was something that was completely new to me, but that I wanted to try it, and it amazed me how great it was! I never had the opportunity to work with those who have physical disabilities. I made a great connection with one of the women, and we just had a great time talking and doing different activities, and we just hit it off. I look forward to going again next month!

D7A26BF9-244B-4675-B570-EF23E9EDC7D7This past Friday was also my sister Maya’s birthday. She is studying music education in New York and she is having a fabulous time! I am so proud of her! She made a huge jump going to school across the country, but it sounds as if it is the perfect fit for her, so I could not be any happier! She is truly becoming a lovely young woman!

This week’s post is dedicated to a quote by Yousuf Karsh: “Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness.” Have a great week everyone! Thanks for reading!

Common Mistakes A Freshman Can Avoid

Freshman year of college is most likely the most exciting thing to happen. You are finally away from home and you get to meet new people and find a newfound freedom. With all those things, you tend to make a few mistakes along the road every now and then that you learn from. As a freshman resident last year, I noticed that there are three things that my fellow peers in my class and I had made the mistake of doing. These could have been completely avoided if taken noticed of.

1. The first most common mistake a freshman at SXU could make as a resident is not budgeting their meal plan money. I used to budget myself to spending no more than $25-30 a day. This had worked perfectly because I had a surplus of meal plan money. I remember there were a few of my peers who depleted their meal plan to $0.01 with a month left in the semester and they would get embarrassed to constantly ask people to buy their meals. Since, I had a surplus of money, I felt it was only polite to help those who didn’t budget correctly. Although, with every meal you buy someone else whose surplus quickly diminished, the more likely you are to find yourself without the funds you need. The school meal plan is designed to be used for one person; thus, the lesson of this first common mistake is to budget your meal plan correctly as well as avoid buying other people food on your meal plan.

2. Another common mistake made as a freshman is missing class. I personally as a freshman last year had gotten sick and had to miss a whole week of classes. Granted I had talked to my professors and given doctor’s notes to them, but I had missed so much class it was difficult to catch up. Now that was just my scenario of missing class. The biggest mistake you could make is missing class to sleep in. There are ways to avoid being so groggy in the morning: Have a set schedule for sleeping, avoid all-nighters and eat breakfast. The way I get myself to class is by giving myself an incentive. Usually, I reward myself for going to all my classes for the week by allowing myself to eat my favorite snack or binge watch a show on Netflix. The reason I stress going to class so much is because you are basically cheating yourself out of money every time you ditch. You already paid for school, so by not going, you are wasting not only your money but the opportunity to pursue an education as well.

I hope you avoid these mistakes not only as just a freshman but in general for your time at school. I know this seems like logical advice to follow because we, as students, have been told this since we could comprehend the meaning of responsibility, but once you start developing these simple habits you will see how much less hectic and how much more organized your life will be.

How to Eliminate Your Procrastination Habits

Welcome back, readers! Another week, another blog and I feel that this is a very important piece, especially for my fellow students worldwide. Today, we talk about a student’s true kryptonite – procrastination. One of the biggest illnesses to ever consume mankind, procrastination is alive and well in everybody, especially students. We are constantly putting things off until the last possible minute. We do not seem to enjoy the idea of working ahead so we, as humans, put it off until we absolutely need to do it. However, procrastination comes in different forms. Not only do we put off work, but we get distracted from our work as well. Social media, food and even friends can all be factors contributing to our procrastination. However, never fear! I will be your guiding light and save you from your filthy procrastination habits. There are a couple easy ways to do so but we first need to work on your mindset.

I, myself, have also been guilty of procrastinating. Early in high school, I thought I was blessed with all the time in the world. I would focus more on my social life, rather than “the paper” that was due next week. That proved costly, as I just put myself in situations where work was due the next day, and I had not even started the assignment. I would often blame the teachers for giving me lengthy assignments, but this was just an excuse for me doing it last minute. Mentally, I began to challenge myself. I told myself that if I had ever got an early assignment, I would take the time to get it done right. For example, if a teacher gave me an assignment on Monday, due Friday, I would not wait until Thursday night to complete it. Instead, I would do it the day it was assigned, or even break the assignment up throughout the four days. This method proved successful and it even made me feel better mentally. Instead of staying up late the night before and putting more stress and strain on my brain, I was able to work more effectively, while staying stress free. Because of this mindset, I am more relaxed when it comes to homework and assignments, especially the larger ones.

The second factor to help your procrastination habits is the environment you work in. If you want to work consistently and effectively, I have learned that trying to work on homework at my kitchen table just isn’t possible. The human brain works in mysterious ways. It adapts to a specific environment, thus adapting the way you think and act in that certain environment. If I had a dime for every time I ate something while working on homework in the kitchen, I would be living in Cabo. My brain associates the kitchen with food, which explains why I was always up every ten minutes fishing for a snack. If I tried to do homework in my room, I would see my bed, which means sleep, which leads to no work being done for a few hours. I found out that working in an academic environment such as a library or classroom helped me maintain my focus on my work. Even listening to music helped me focus a little better. We all want to go home after our classes end, but it does not hurt to stay on campus to finish work first. Even as my college career continues to roll on, I am always going to the library after classes to finish my homework and even study for a couple of hours. That way, when I get home, I can enjoy all of my “distractions” without having to worry about any assignments.

Of course, it is inevitable that you will have to do some work at home. However, it is up to YOU whether or not you will push yourself to stay focused. With the distractions we have nowadays, it is quite understandable to get sidetracked from your work. I was in the same boat until I made these changes to my academic life. Now, it is a habit! Yes, staying at school later than you would like may not be how you want to spend your week but it definitely allows you to have more free time at home. With less homework, you can have more opportunities to enjoy the little things, such as social media, friends, and even sleep. Making these changes mentally and physically can be a challenge at first but if you stay consistent, you will, without a doubt, feel the difference, and there is no better feeling than a worry-free mind.

A Busy Dreamer

Welcome all to another week of the Cougar Diaries!

IMG_1972On Monday, I got to attend Pilates with Amanda in Pacelli Hall, and it was great! Pop Pilates is something that I started last year and haven’t stopped since. Ask my family: I did it almost every day back home and they all thought I was crazy. But it’s such a good workout to do in a short amount of time. And what I love about it is that you don’t need weights or machines; you use your own body and work for a stronger self.

This past week was a sucky one because one of the worst things that can happen to a student occurred. I got sick. Now I know that sounds dramatic and all, but as a college student and a busy person, getting sick means not only a stuffy nose but a stuffy head. And to me, that’s my least favorite part. Especially this past week, I felt as though every instant was slow and painful, but Liz and I did get our first board completed. IMG_1980

The Mark Sterner presentation occurred last week. Every first year student is required to attend the event. I have attached a short video of the Sterner presentation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5M78HnKVnWUIt’s a great presentation to show our students how to drink responsibly, especially when it comes to driving. This past week for class, I had the opportunity of leading my Transition Class over the discussion of the presentation while our instructor was out of town. I love being a Transition Peer Mentor for our first-year students; it’s a great opportunity for me because it gives me classroom experience. We had one of our best discussions, so I am looking forward to the rest of the semester with them – even though I was sick.

This week, I also got a surprise visit from my boyfriend who surprised me with lovely flowers. And not only that, but I got a package from my mom and also my little sister Luna from back home. I love packages – especially when they come at a time when I have a cold! And for some reason when I get sick, it makes me miss home a little bit more than usual.

On Friday, I also found out about the job that I had interviewed for last week: I got it! I am now going to be the First-Year Coordinator for the Office of Admissions! That means I will be taking my job as a student ambassador tour guide a step further by supervising the first-year student ambassadors on special visits. So thank you to all who had me in their thoughts and prayers, and I am really excited to see what this position will hold for me!

On Saturday, I woke up feeling healthy and well again! So I was able to enjoy my weekend by getting my work done and getting up to speed on the sleep I have allowed myself to lose (which probably resulted of me getting sick), and it was great!

This week, I am going to end my post with one of my favorite quotes, even though I am by no means a morning person.

“Yes, I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is the one who can find his way by moonlight, and see the dawn before the rest of the world.” - Oscar Wilde

Those Silent Stones

This Saturday, I accompanied a dear friend of mine to visit his grandparents’ graves on his mother’s side. This was not the first time I had accompanied him to visit the graves of his family. A few weeks prior, I had joined him along with a mutual friend to lay flowers upon his great-grandparents’ graves. The worn stone jutted out of the ground as if it was a person sitting tranquilly on the well-kept grass. The cemetery was enormous; in fact, it was so vast that we found ourselves lost in the forest of still stones. I had meant to write about this the week it had occurred but only now have the words come to me to make it worthy for this reflection…

Every culture, no matter where or when, has had some form of veneration of those that had come before us. And it is often stated that the day man buried their dead was the day man became human. I truly believe that. You do not have to be religious to have that innate respect for the dead. And while no words can elucidate or substantiate the loss of a beloved, what could not be said is written in the drips that fall when that coffin is lowered or the roar of the pyre sound. The sting of death can be numbed when surrounded by those dear and those of which the haunting vestige of an empty seat can mask. But there is a sadness beyond the obvious in a cemetery. There is a taciturnity, a solemn vigil that if one were to stroll the paths invoke in the heart.

There is nothing more gut-wrenching in my heart than an old grave. I do not mean a grave of a person from 100 years ago, I mean one that which nature has reclaimed. When the leaves and grime collect and the grass grows thick, the lasting memory of those that which should be venerated is lost. When our mutual friend laid an incense stick for my friend’s grandparent’s graves, I was struck by an old grave. The grass was thick and wild and had all but buried the flat stone. Digging in the dirt and tearing the grass and loam like a cheap carpet, I was struck by what I saw, the grave of a veteran of the First World War. It should be without question that there should be reverence or at least a genuine respect for those that shed their blood for their homeland. For me, to see the derelict corpse of stone of this man’s grave was something of a realization. Those silent stones of which one passes by on the freeway paying no heed are those people. Of course not literally but in the heart those worn and barely visible etchings of a person’s identity pay testimony to what we value as a people. When does someone stop becoming worthy of remembrance? When the grave a soldier that fought the Nazis in the Second World War is left to decay and be buried by the earth to be forgotten with only a cheap department store flag next to it, is that how far we have become detached from our history. Those stones are our history and we are the grave keepers until it is our turn to be those still stones.

My Favorite Places (On Campus)

Saint Xavier University may indeed be a small campus; although, what it lacks in size it makes up for with quality. Before I had made my decision to come to this school a few years back I took a campus tour and immediately fell in love with it. SXU has not only historical pieces from the first campus, such as the arch, but also, it has newer places to relax, such as the small pond next to Mercy Circle. I will be discussing in this post my three favorite outdoor spots on campus that I go to relax, study, snack or even to just admire the view.

1. The first favorite place on campus to go to is hands down Lake Marion. This lake catches my eye every time I make my way from my dorm to either my classes or the gym and vice versa. There are benches along the edge of the lake that allow my friends and I to just sit and gaze from sunset to sunrise. You could also take a walk on the path along the lake.

Lake Marion : the go to spot

Lake Marion is the No. 1 go-to spot!

2. My second favorite place to go on campus is the center of the quad. The school’s crest is engraved in the pavement. There are trees all around the crest along with benches to sit on. This is the place I go to whenever I want to meet up with my friends who live in different dorms and just goof around. This is also a great place to sit and read a book before class with a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks. On my way back from class, I prefer to walk through this area because of not only its beauty but for seeing the friendly faces on campus.

Center of Quad : the hangout

The center of quad is another great hangout place.

3. My third personal favorite place to be on campus is Mercy Circle. It is an area that is similar to the above stated places, but it is a lot more quiet and closed off. It is a place I go to just study and relax. The pine trees encase the area so it is private. There is a statue of the Virgin Mary, and I’m normally on the ledge of the area by the statue. This is a perfect space if it is a gorgeous day outside and you need a minute to yourself after class.

Mercy Circle: the spot to go to for peace and serenity

The Mercy Circle is the perfect spot to go to for peace and serenity.

I hope you check out these places for yourself and feel free to comment below what your favorite outdoor spot on campus is.

My Education Motivation

Entering college is an important step in the life of a student. It is the last stepping stone before the adult world and the rest of your life. For me, college is where I make my mark. Not only on and off campus but in my family. There are numerous things that motivate me to continue my education. However, the most important factor pushing me to do so is the fact that I will be the first person in my family to graduate from college.

Being the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college would be a milestone, not only for me but for my family. It has been said by some that the ones who do not go to college or do not finish were never smart enough to do so. This is the biggest misconception about these men and women. For one, college is not for everybody. Others are called to do other things or follow their dreams in a different direction. For my parents, it was all about their families. Both of my parents had huge family obligations during their time in college which, unfortunately, did not allow them to finish college. However, that never stopped them from becoming very successful in their lives. Due to their hard work in their jobs and with my family, they have been able to put my two younger brothers and I through private education, not to mention a roof over our heads and food on the table. It is my destiny to graduate from college and make them proud.

Another part of that motivation to complete my college education is my two youngest brothers. The middle child, Alex, is currently a freshman in high school; while my youngest brother, Michael, is in second grade. It is very important to me, as the oldest brother, to pave the road and set the example for my younger brothers. I want them to witness what success is so that they themselves will settle for no less. For Alex, his high school journey is just beginning. As our college and high school careers grow, there will be a time where we will both be graduating at the same time. I need him to see his older brother graduate from college so that he may have the confidence in himself to do the same. As for Michael, college is a long time away for him. However, when he sees his two older brothers graduate from high school and college, he will be more motivated to do exactly the same and grow up to be just like us.

My motivation is a chain reaction; I want to make everybody proud and impact their lives in one way or the other. I am the oldest sibling in my family, and I am moving toward being the first person in my family to hit this milestone. It would mean the world to not only my family but to myself, knowing that I had finally succeeded in something so vital in life. I will continue to grind and work hard and will not stop until I get that diploma. This is my motivation! It will help make my destiny a reality.

Living with Roommates

Residence life is a great way to not only get involved with the school but make friends on campus. While living on campus, I have made so many friends. Since attending Saint Xavier University, I’ve dealt with almost every scenario with a roommate. Each thing that had occurred though had made me learn a valuable life lesson on handling situations. I’ve made lifelong friends as well as grown distant with some friends, none of which I would take back since it has made me grow as a person.

Regina Hall (Freshman Year)
My first experience with a roommate was my freshman year, and she was LITERALLY non-existent because my roommate never showed up. I had a room all to myself, and believe me, it was great! I had been given the chance to decorate my room however I wanted. I had a spare bed for my friends when they came to visit. I combined both desks to form a “super desk.” I even used the extra dresser as a pantry to store all my snacks. The only problem was that sometimes it would get really lonely. Even though I had so much space, there were times I wish I had a roommate to share experiences with as well.

For four weeks, I had a room to myself until I met a girl who was on the cheerleading team with me. We instantly became friends, and when she told me she was having issues with her roommate, I offered for her to come live with me. That week she moved in, and I no longer had that feeling of being alone. Not to mention when she moved in, the room looked much livelier, since there was more stuff to fill the room. We would have late night conversations, snack, do each other’s hair and makeup, go to practice together and rescue each other.

There were two girls who lived directly across the hall from us whom we both became close friends with. We instantly knew we were destined to be future roommates, including our close friend who lived six doors down the hall. It came to the point that we would just leave our doors open so we could easily come in and out of our rooms to hang out. Our little group would eat, sleep, study, motivate, sing, dance, play games, and even play pranks on one another. We would even have conversations from our separate rooms because the dorms were that close to each other. We had formed such a strong bond that we couldn’t imagine living with anyone else.

O’Brien Hall (Sophomore Year)
The four of us girls from that second floor of Regina Hall couldn’t wait to move into our new building we currently live in. We finally had our own microwave, toaster oven, and bathroom. (If you’ve lived in Regina Hall, you’d understand the struggle.) Having these girls as my roommates is a dream come true. I mean who wouldn’t want to live with their best friends. We do all the stuff we did before and more. The first week back we had all binged watched in our living room the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” One of my roommates and I designated a napping schedule. Our sleep schedules have become so in sync that we wake up in the middle of the night around the same time.

Studying has become not only easier but a lot more fun. We do our studies in our living room and when someone is stressing out over something, we tell a joke or share a funny story to lighten the mood. My roommates and I even motivate each other to do better in everything that we do. Our support system is strong and gets stronger with every day that passes. I can’t thank Saint Xavier University enough for not only giving me a place to call home but for giving me my best friends. There’s no better feeling than coming back to my dorm at the end of the day and seeing three girls smiling and yelling with excitement “Amber’s back!” It’s honestly the best thing ever having roommates — especially mine!

My roommates and I wearing matching SXU rain jackets

My roommates and I wearing matching SXU rain jackets.