Author: Catherine O'Brien

Hi! I’m Cat O’Brien, and I’m a sophomore here at Loyola. Originally from Richland, Michigan, I’m thrilled to be living in the exciting city of Chicago. I’m majoring in English/secondary education with a minor in ESL studies. In my spare time I nanny for an awesome family in Rogers Park and I am involved with UNICEF, Loyola 4 Chicago, and Christmas on Campus. Welcome to my blog!
Moms Weekend

Moms Weekend

As a senior in college you begin to cherish the time that you still have as an undergrad. My roommates and I realize that we may be living in completely separate parts of the country at this time next year. This has helped us to use our time wisely and do really fun things. One of the fun things that we decided to do this fall was have a “Moms Weekend”. So we all invited our moms out to Chicago to spend the weekend together playing games, shopping, and eating.

For most of the weekend we kept our schedules open and played everything by ear. However the one thing that we did plan was a Paint Nite. This is a two hour long event during which we arrived at a local bar (the event travels to a different bar each night), and were provided with a blank canvas, paint, brushes, and an instructor. The painting for the night was of big flower and essentially we were all expected to paint the same flower. As you can see from the picture below, we had some rebels in our group and our flowers turned out to be pretty different from each others.

It was such a fun event and the rest of the weekend followed suit. We went out to dinner, went shopping, and played a lot of games in our apartment. Sadly the weekend had to come to an end and it is once again Sunday. Surprisingly there is only two and a half weeks until Thanksgiving break, and then only once week until finals week! Time flies when you’re having fun!

Our paintings!


Fall Break

Fall Break

It’s already October! Which means that it’s time for fall break! We are lucky at Loyola because not all schools have a fall break. Fall break is essentially a four-day weekend because we get Monday and Tuesday off. A lot of students will take this time to go back home or visit friends else ware.

I am going back home to Michigan tomorrow (Friday) afternoon, after classes. I get home around 4:30 and then I am heading over to Ann Arbor Michigan with a couple friends from home for the University of Michigan’s football game on Saturday. Thanks to our Indian summer the weather is supposed to be mid to high 70’s and partly sunny. Pretty ideal conditions right?

After the football game I will return home and spend some quality time with my family and, unfortunately, with my schoolbooks. I have four midterms next week so even though it will be a short week, it will be a very busy one!

In the spirit of fall break, and of fall in general, I carved a mini pumpkin tonight! Well, to be honest it was more in the spirit of procrastinating homework and pulling a prank on my roommate who bought the mini pumpkin for a table decoration, but it celebrated fall just as well!

My mini jack-o-lantern 🙂
Fostering A Dog In College

Fostering A Dog In College

I am an avid dog-lover. I grew up with a family dog my entire life and sorely miss my dog while I am at school. So you can imagine how often I find myself wishing that I had my dog, or any dog for that matter, with me at school to cuddle and play with. Unfortunately I am not ready to take on the full responsibility of adopting a dog, nor could I manage it financially.

However, last night I discovered that you can foster a dog for a short time from a local shelter! The goal of this fostering process is to help the dogs who live at the shelter adjust to living with people and socializing with other animals. Some of the animals at the shelter have some issues from past abuse or mistreatment and need help readjusting before they can be fully adopted into a loving family. This is the part where I come in 🙂

My roommates and I are looking into fostering a dog together. Most of the dogs are already fixed and have their shots which takes care of a lot of the financial burden. The dog would come live with us and we would take care of it for a short time while it adjusts to life outside of the shelter or until a family contacts the shelter wanting to fully adopt the dog.

While this whole process is somewhat ideal for a college student there are a few hurdles to consider. My roommates and I would need to combine our schedules and make sure that between the four of us we would not be away from the apartment for long spans of time. We would also need to consider the size of the dog in relation to the size of our apartment and make sure that the dog wouldn’t feel too cooped up in our smaller apartment. We are also concerned about the dog’s mental health and what moving around from the shelter, to our home, back to the shelter, and then hopefully to a permeant home would do to the dog. And finally we would need to be mentally prepared to give up the dog when our period of fostering is over. This last one might be the hardest.

The more I talk about the possibility of fostering a dog from the shelter, the higher my hopes get. My roommates and I definitely have a process ahead of us to get through before we actually have a dog in our home. But it sure would be worth it.


Callie, the dog that I grew up with.
The Third Week Of Classes

The Third Week Of Classes

Somehow time has once again fooled me into believing that I had more time than I thought. I can not believe that it is already the third week of classes!

If you ask me, it still feels like the first week, or the infamous “syllabus week”.

This is a wonderful week during which professors spend class time going over the class rules and expectations and there is little to no work involved. So you can imagine the bitter surprise when I looked in my to-do notebook and realized that yes, in fact this is the third week and things are really starting to pick up!

The first items on my agenda that I noticed were my extracurricular activities that begin this week. I’ve been enjoying my semester with classes that get done between 12:00 and 2:00, which means that I have the rest of the day for myself. But this time of extra sleep, extra workouts, extra reading is slowly coming to an end. I will now babysit until 6:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a family of three children, the same family that I babysat for last year. Loyola’s chapter of UNICEF is starting up its weekly meetings from 7:00-8:00 on Tuesdays. And finally my Wednesdays are taken up by tutoring at Jordan Elementary through L4C for a couple hours right after class.

While all of these commitments may mean that I will get less sleep and feel a little more stressed, I enjoy doing them and always manage to adjust to the busy schedule so that i survive. Plus, being involved in campus organizations is usually really fun and a great way to constantly meet new people.


Coming Home From A Summer Abroad

Coming Home From A Summer Abroad

I’m home! I’m back to my home at Loyola as well as my home in America. I spent the summer abroad in Ghana, Africa. I was in Ghana for two and a half months, both volunteering and studying abroad. I studied through a program called USAC that Loyola partners with to help students go global.

I spent the first month of my time in Ghana volunteering at an orphanage that also functions as a primary school during the day. I helped take care of the children there in the mornings/evenings and during the day I had the opportunity to help teach. It was definitely one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life. I volunteered through a program called IVHQ. They are a relatively cheap organization that has program sites all over the world.

After my time at the orphanage I moved to the capital city of Ghana which is Accra. I lived in a student hostel on the campus of the University of Ghana. I took 6 summer credits while there: African Literature, African Music and Dance, and a Service Learning. For my service learning I worked with a local NGO called S.I.S.S. or Self-help Initiative Support Services. S.I.S.S. works with people who live in the slums in Accra. It puts them through a program that not only teaches them about vital things such as work ethic and motivation but each participant learns a trade that they are able to make money off of after they graduate from the program. Some of these trades include things such as bead making, batik fabric making, and catering.

I also had the opportunity to travel almost every weekend. I spent some weekends on Ghana’s beautiful beaches, visited the Cape Coast Castle where slaves were held before being shipped to the Americas, saw elephants in the northern regions and monkeys in the eastern regions. I also was able to take a weekend off of traveling toward the end of my trip and make it back to the orphanage to visit the children that I had grown so close with.

I did so many amazing things in Ghana and had so many experiences that I could not go into detail about in this post. But don’t worry! I will definitely write another blog or two describing some of my experiences in more detail in the near future. In the meantime, welcome back to school and I hope you are adjusting better than I am! I still need to get my notebooks!

Children playing at the orphanage.

Elephants in Ghana!

Damen Ball

Damen Ball

On Friday, Loyola concluded its Weekend of Excellence with the annual Damen Ball, a dinner and dance that celebrates the accomplishments of students and faculty over the year.  This year, the event was held downtown at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium.

The excitement for this year’s Damen Ball seemed to be at an all time high.  Tickets went on sale, first to seniors, at the opening of the new Damen Student Center, and sold out in just a few hours.  Tickets sold for $10.00, but the event turned out to be well worth the money.

From 9:00 to midnight, the Alder Planetarium was open exclusively to Loyola students.  The planetarium showed space presentations in their IMAX theater and allowed students to walk through the exhibits.  And after we all educated ourselves on the many facets of our solar system, we enjoyed ourselves on the dance floor!

All in all, it seemed everyone had a blast!  The Damen Ball was a great way to celebrate another completed semester at Loyola.

My friend Flannery Bohne and I outside Adler Planetarium
Political Science Lecture Series

Political Science Lecture Series

Dr. Bethany Barratt, McCormick Lounge Lecture, 4/26/13

One of the greatest parts of attending a university like Loyola is the many academic opportunities offered to students.  Over the past weeks, the Political Science Department has been hosting a series of lectures on various international issues.  On Friday afternoon, I attended one of the lectures.  Bethany Barratt, a research scholar and professor from Roosevelt University, presented on 9/11 and human rights.

Dr. Barratt has been working with a group of researchers on a new book scheduled for publication next year.  In it, they discuss the impact of 9/11 on American standards on human rights.  A majority of her lecture was critical of the Bush Administration’s actions following the terrorist attack on the United States.

Our country has often been criticized for its growing sense of American exceptionalism.  That is, we seem to believe that we are qualitatively better than other countries of the world.  This is often viewed as a superiority complex, where our mission to spread liberty and democracy becomes a mission to force our ideals on other nations.

The Bush regime (as Dr. Barratt refers to it) viewed the attacks on the Twin Towers as a unique event.  Ignoring the many instances of terrorism in other countries across the globe, the United States was quick in retaliation.  Human rights laws set forth in the Geneva Convention seemed no longer relevant as torture became a common practice of interrogation, as well as the suspension of rights to habeas corpus, privacy, and bodily integrity.

Research has shown that the rest of the world was shocked by our country’s response to terrorism.  Human rights as a guiding principle of our foreign policy seemed to lose much of its moral weight.  Unfortunately, there have not been many policy changes to solve this issue.  Even as the United States pulls its forces from the Middle East and elects a new president to office, these horrific practices are still implemented.  The real question is, however, what is the United States’ incentive to stop?  While popular opinion in the United States seems to be against torture, there has been little change in American foreign policy.

This lecture was one of many offered at Loyola over the semester.  They often bring to light issues that people have long forgotten about.  In light of recent events in Boston and elsewhere in the world, I believe that terrorism is a topic that should be discussed and understood.  It is equally important to be aware of the unethical practices that are often responses to terrorist attacks.  Bethany Barratt was an excellent lecturer in this regard.

Preparing For Finals

Preparing For Finals

This week is the last week of classes before finals.  For many students, this week is just as difficult, if not more difficult, than finals themselves.  As the semester comes to a close, the last couple of weeks are almost always packed with lengthy term papers and final projects.

One of the most daunting assignments on my pre-finals to do list is a research paper for my class, Studies in the Renaissance.  I am researching John Donne and George Herbert, and examining how their poetry was influenced by the religious and historical events of seventeenth century England.  The paper is not due until Friday afternoon, but with all the other things I have to do I figured I would get a head start.

Unfortunately, I have had a hard time concentrating.  With hints of approaching warm weather and plans for Ghana, it has become increasingly difficult to rid myself of distractions long enough to write.  Thankfully, I am able to go to Loyola’s Information Commons (IC) to get some work done.  Though it gets pretty crowded around finals week, it is still much easier to concentrate in a library setting.

My favorite place to study in the IC is the silent room, which many people call the “Harry Potter room” due to its Hogwarts-esque quality.  The room is silent, which is perfect for students such as myself that work best without noise.  Loyola also allows students to reserve private study rooms, which can also be prime studying locations during finals.  The IC is a great place to focus on school work, and does a great job of catering to many different study styles.

So as finals week quickly approaches, I will surely be spending a lot of time in the library.  My only comfort is that in less than two weeks, I will be done for the summer!

The Megabus

The Megabus

When you are a student from out of state, it can be expensive to go home for school breaks or weekend visits.  Plane tickets can cost hundreds of dollars, and it is not always easy having a car in the big city.  Thankfully, there are other, less expensive options for those students needing a trip back home.

The Megabus is one such option, and offers cheap tickets to over one hundred cities across the country.  While they advertise tickets for as low as $1.00, it has been my experience that round trip tickets usually average between $30-$60 depending on your destination.

Last weekend, I took a trip to Cleveland, Ohio with a friend to visit her family.  The entire trip only cost me $35.  The trick is to book your tickets early enough to get a good price, which is easy enough to do online.  For that price, it is hard to complain.

Yet the Megabus does have its drawbacks.  Though Megabus uses fairly spacious coach buses, it can still be uncomfortable to sit in their seats for six hours.  Not to mention that the bus often times has a hard time keeping on schedule.

All in all, however, the Megabus is a great option for college students.  After taking a few trips, you begin to recognize familiar faces.  Students from Loyola, DePaul, University of Chicago, and many others frequent the Megabus.  And for only $35, it is a great way to save some money on travel!

Spring Has (Almost) Sprung

Spring Has (Almost) Sprung

It is hard to believe that we have entered the spring season when temperatures remain below forty degrees in Chicago.  As less windy cities experience sunny days and warm weather, Chicago seems to be trapped in one of its notorious six month winters.

Thankfully, there is hope!  Over the past couple of weeks, there have been subtle hints to changing weather.  The sun has made appearances, the temperature has hit sixty, and flowers are beginning to bloom.  At long last, it is really beginning to look like April.

So say goodbye to Jack Frost, I think we Chicagoans are well on our way to spring!

Flowers beginning to bloom on Chicago street gardens