And the Snow Falls

Snowfall

Every beginning has its end. On February 25, I put up my first post. Now 10 months later, this is the last. This is my last post I will have this semester and most likely the last post of mine here on WordPress. We, as in Cougar Diaries, are moving on to a new platform, Facebook. There, we hope to connect to even more people and share the small moments of life here at Saint Xavier. It was fun doing this blog. It has given me time to think with workloads that sometimes prevent me from thinking of myself and of what is the world around me beyond the classroom. But as an end to this blog, as it may be, it is also a beginning.

 

It is the first snow, a fitting beginning for an end. The snow is white, fluffy and has a gentle coldness to it. There is no dirty or uncomfortable slurry of freezing rain. There is just a silent falling that sounds in the air. No cars are out heading to 103rd Street. No people are out to disturb the blanket of white snow. Only the hum of exhaust from steam above on the roofs of buildings and the ambient sound of the wind tells me I am not deaf. It is more than just frozen water constructed in beautiful and unique shapes, but the end of a time. The campus is empty, not a soul out as I walk slowly through the cascade of gentle powdered sugar. It is fitting that on this day that the first snow fall is the last day I am to be here on this site.

 

There is sadness and anxiousness within me. I am somber to the fact that I no longer will be on this site. And with the load of finals on my back, I find it hard to finish this. But I also find a comfort in the quiet snowfall. The end of the semester seems so far away yet in only a few days I will be leaving this school for home once more. It’s quiet as I sit by the window watching countless snowflakes fall to never be seen again. And in the haze of the snow, I smile, knowing only at this moment in time will it be so. The day is drawing to a close and I have much to do. But let me take one last look outside and remember the day I first wrote to you here. It’s not the end of Cougar Diaries. We will continue on here. It’s only another beginning for stories of this school and its people. The day draws to a close and the snow falls.

 

Events to Events

Hey everyone! Homecoming Week is around the corner, and I am so excited!

This week has been a busy one. For the Office of Admissions, I had multiple orientations for the First-Year Student Ambassadors. I will be supervising 40 first-year students, and I am truly excited because it’s a great group of ambassadors!

IMG_2094On Tuesday, I got to attend a workshop presented by Julie Veloz about her life and overcoming many obstacles to get to where she is today. I personally felt connected to her story for multiple reasons: being Latino, living in our society, being true to herself, and having curly hair (and accepting it!). This workshop became one of my favorite events that I have had the chance to attend, and it was a great reminder to myself about who I am and who I want to be.

Some of the female Regina Hall RAs and I had our first event on Thursday. IMG_2106It was called “Floor Code,” which had different bonding activities, including a spa night. The event was a success and a lot of fun to host! So many of the residents didn’t want to leave, but it was getting late.

This Friday, I had a sad flashback of what it is like to be part of a Minnesota sports team. About a month ago, I bought tickets to see the IMG_2120Sox versus Twins game, and they were really good tickets. The tickets were right next to home plate, so I was super excited! Just last week I found out that SXU Student Life had tickets available for students because that evening was Saint Xavier on the field! So it was a REALLY fun game because I got to see SXU students — except the Twins were completely crushed, and it made the Minnesota fans (my boyfriend and I) really sad.

I did some shopping for the Heritage Ball and also for an award I am receiving next week.(Will share pictures for next week’s post!) During that evening, there was a fun Super Saturday party connected to Hispanic Heritage Month that had great music and food. I wish I didn’t have to be on duty that evening, but for the short time I got to be there, it was great!

I hope everyone has a great Homecoming Week! Check out the list of events to happen this week below!

And I am ending this week’s post with a quote by Maya Angelou that reminds me of the workshop from this week: “My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who you are, to astonish a mean world with your ashes of kindness.”FullSizeRender (33)

 

SXU’s Beneficial Resources

Greetings readers! I hope you all had a great weekend and are feeling fantastic. It is honestly hard to believe it is already October. Freshman year is going by quicker than I expected, which definitely has me thinking of how I cannot slow down when it comes to my academics. In just a little over two months, the first half of my freshman year will be over. This thought fuels me to continue to grind inside the classroom and stay focused on what is important. Though the year is going by quick, last week felt like my longest one so far. However, despite the large workload, I was able to power through it successfully, and I even did it with some assistance.

Saint Xavier has shown me that faculty and staff are genuinely determined to make sure their students succeed in life, especially in the classroom. There are many resources available to students to help them in their studies. However, for many students, there will always be that one subject that is more difficult to them than the rest. For me, it has always been math. I have known many people over the years that are in the same boat as me when it comes to math. I can understand some of it, but when it comes to complex problems, such as word problems, I always have difficulty comprehending it. One of the reasons I chose to go to Saint Xavier was because I liked the idea of small class sizes. The small classes give me the opportunity to receive one-on-one help from my professor if I ever need assistance. And I definitely took advantage of that this week. I have been in contact with my professors for help, and they have helped me every single time, no questions asked. In addition, I have also gotten help from other students and even taken a trip to the Learning Center. With all these options available, I was able to power through the week and successfully complete a chapter in math. It is a great feeling to know that whenever I need help, the University and my professors are there for me. It is vital for students to know that there is no shame in asking for help.

In addition to utilizing the resources to improve my academics, I have also used the resources to improve my health. Saint Xavier not only stresses the importance of doing well inside the classroom, but also preach about living a healthy lifestyle. I enjoy utilizing the University’s gym, as it gives me an opportunity to stay in shape. In addition to the gym, the University also has a variety of healthy foods to choose from on campus, especially at Cougar Fuel. Cougar Fuel in the Shannon Center is a great place for me to get a healthy meal or drink for a fair price. Wraps, smoothies and salads are just a few of the healthy choices to pick from on the menus. It is great to see the University push for a healthy lifestyle, as a healthy body creates a healthy mind. It is something I will continue to enjoy as my college career continues.

It is crazy to see that I am already in the month of October in my freshman year and I am enjoying every second of it. I did not think college would be going as well as it is, and I am definitely not letting up. It is inevitable that the school year will continue to get harder, but it is within those hard times that my work ethic will illustrate the determined student that I really am. With all the resources available to me to improve myself physically, mentally and spiritually, the sky’s the limit for me. I am eager to see what else the University has to offer and will continue to explore the ways to become better every week.

Beverly Art Walk

Gray dusty-looking clouds, an unpleasant dampness in the air, there’s a cold chill in the wind that never gives a reprieve for those outside. That’s what it should have felt like. But the sounds of rain pattering on the sidewalk and the skidding of tires on wet asphalt was drowned out. I heeded no sounds of sirens or of disconcerting chatter and fits of cigarette-induced coughing. I saw no stoic men in blue or sad dirty faces or the frail forms of old women outside hurrying to wherever they were going. There were all inside, away from the cold chatting and laughing at a common thing to behold. All I heard and saw was the common love for art. This weekend was the annual Beverly Art Walk, a one-day event that brings together the local artists of the Beverly area and the greater community of Chicago.

Here in Chicago, the arts scene is very much alive, and Beverly is no exception. Artists working in oils, others in ceramics and others working with what they’ve found lying on the sidewalk all coming together for a whole day showing their practice in a massive open reception for all to see. A stone’s throw away from Saint Xavier University, the Beverly Art Walk was a sight to behold. Packs of people hopping onto the trolly on a scenic route through the major parts of the Beverly area with stops at the studios and homes of many prominent local artists.

Portrait in Broken glass by Dalton Brown

Portrait in broken glass by Dalton Brown

One such artist I met was Dalton Brown, a prolific black artist whose primary theme in his works is “seeing and feeling.” Working in oil paints, he began dabbling with broken glass due to his background. The picture above is of one of his portraits. What first caught my eye was that it was done in broken glass he collects. The glass is from alcohol bottles which are a meaningful part of the piece since he said the portraits were of members of his family who were or have dealt with alcoholism. He had a lot of good advice for fellow artists: He said it’s not enough that an artist paints or does their craft; they also have to be able to “see and feel” what it is they’re doing. Without that passion for art, it will show in the quality and the heart of the heart.

Wall dedicated to prospective Saint Xavier Students from neighboring high schools.

Wall dedicated to prospective Saint Xavier students from neighboring high schools.

 

Wall dedicated to Saint Xavier

Wall dedicated to  Saint Xavier students.

SXU Beverly Art Walk Mural Wall

SXU Beverly Art Walk Mural Wall

One of two pieces of mine showcased at the SXU Beverly Art Walk Gallery.

One of two pieces of my work showcased at the SXU Beverly Art Walk.

Here at Saint Xavier, we didn’t have that problem. While renowned for our education and nursing programs, SXU has a thriving and well-respected artistic community of which I am part of. For the past three years, SXU has had its own gallery location to showcase the art of current students, alumni and of prospective high schoolers. It was a wonderful thing to see professors from the University and members of the community come and support us and the school and those hopefully soon on their way to join the SXU community. We probably had a good 300 people come through over the course of the day. We had a huge wall, which we left blank for anyone and everyone to come and leave their mark. Children barely able to walk and elderly folks in walkers and canes all came together to create art filled with more than skill but heart. The most meaningful part of the whole event for the SXU Gallery, in my opinion, was being able to talk to the high schoolers, the fresh faces on the block, and learn about their art endeavors, see where they were coming from in their mindsets and give them tips. For now, it is done. But the future is unknowable and uncertain. I just hope to see those fresh faces on campus here at Saint Xavier.

Defeat Boredom

Every now and then, there comes a time when boredom creeps up. The good thing about this though is that there are ways to get rid of this feeling. I’ve created a list of activities you can do, which includes future Saint Xavier University events to attend.

1. Watch a movie with friends
2. Organize your closet
3. Paint/draw
4. Write a poem
5. Work out at the gym (The Shannon Center is free for SXU students!)
6. Learn a new dance
7. Grab a cup of coffee and catch up with friends at Starbucks
8. Go to a baseball game (On September 30, a bunch of SXU students went to the White Sox game over at Cellular Field.)
9. Join an intramural sport, such as volleyball, powderpuff football, soccer and many more
10. Meditate
11. Study at the library
12. Throw around a football in the quad
13. Play a computer game
14. Take a Zumba class
15. Go to a pumpkin patch
16. Go to Six Flags Fright Fest
17. Have your pet blessed at 5 p.m. October 4 at McDonough Chapel
18. Relieve some stress by petting the therapy dogs in the student lounge on October 6 in the afternoon
19. Participate in the Cougar 5K Run/Walk at 9 a.m. October 8
20. Practice yoga
21. Rollerblade around campus or even in the city
22. Attend a sporting event (October 8 is the big SXU Homecoming football game!)
23. Have a photo shoot

Try doing something new like Rollerblading with friends, whenever you feel that you are bored with your same old routine

Rollerblading with friends: Try doing something new whenever you feel that you are bored with your same old routine!

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.

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