Sara Scheler

July 18, 2014

Just two weeks ago, I was herding cows and weeding endless rows of potatoes on an organic farm in Austria.  

I spent 10 days on a little slice of heaven 50 miles northeast of Salzburg, surrounded by rolling green hills and fields of wheat and rye, forests, wildflowers and breathtaking alpine mountains that loomed in the distance. 

Last summer, I heard about World Wide Organic Farming Opportunities (WWOOF) through a friend. Here’s how it works: you receive free room and board on an organic farm of your choice in exchange for 5-8 hours per day of work. Almost every country in the world has a WWOOF program. Some people travel from farm to farm, others stay at one farm for an entire summer or even a year. The thought of traveling to a foreign country, meeting new people and learning how to farm was both exciting and terrifying, so I signed up right away.

The list of Austrian farms was quite lengthy, and it took me months to settle on a farm. My friend and I showed up in mid-May, after spending 2 weeks traveling and visiting friends in Germany. We had absolutely no idea what to expect—the only contact we had with the family prior to arriving was 5 or 6 emails back and forth discussing the logistics of our visit and how they would meet up with us when we arrived. 

We spoke a little German, but it was obvious upon our arrival that communication would be interesting. The family spoke Austrian dialect, which was nothing like the high German we learned in school. Most of them knew high German and some English, so we were able to make it work.

Within minutes of arriving, we were herding cows from the barn into the pasture. 40 beautiful brown dairy cows were moved every day from barn to pasture and back again to be milked in the evening. The milk, which is packed with vitamins, minerals and healthy fat due to the cows' diet of wild grasses, is sold to a local dairy. Our host family served raw, warm milk every morning for breakfast, often mixing in cocoa powder and black coffee to make steaming mugs of "cacao." 

We fell quickly into the routine of the family: breakfast at 9 a.m., several hours' of morning work, a big lunch prepared by the two eldest daughters, then more work until dinner. We did a little bit of everything: weeding, planting, potato sorting, egg collecting. On Thursday we baled hay at the field down the street (which, incidentally, was also the day I discovered I am allergic to hay). Tuesday morning we got up early and went to the farmers’ market to buy plants, then spent the rest of the afternoon planting garlic, onions, kohlrabi, cabbage and flower bulbs. 

One day we were handed buckets and shown the way to the forest, where we set to work picking Hollander (elderberry) flowers. Every spring, the family makes a few dozen jars of Hollander syrup, which they use to make Hollar Saft, a sweet, floral beverage that is continually available in a giant jug on the table. The process is rather simple: the flowers were soaked in water overnight, then the water was drained and combined with an equal amount of sugar and funneled into giant jars. It took us all afternoon to clean the bottles, measure out the ingredients and fill all the containers but several hours and countless sticky hands later, we put a years’ worth of syrup in the cellar. 

It would take far too much space to chronicle all of our amazing adventures or explain the details of our host family’s generosity and kindness, and it would never do them justice. Suffice it to say it was a life-changing experience. We left with tears in our eyes and memories to last a lifetime; they told us next time we come to Europe we must return to the farm. I’m already making plans for next summer. 

My time at Dominican has taught me that there is so much more to life than what goes on in my little corner of the world. Many of my friends have spent time abroad through the various study abroad programs offered. They always return with amazing stories to share and it is clear that spending time in another country is a vital part of becoming a well-rounded student. 

Dominican’s spirit and culture have given me the desire to explore the world, meet new people and immerse myself in difference and change. It is humbling to suddenly become an outsider in a country you have never visited, with a language you barely know. Experiences like these can be difficult and scary at times but they are also powerfully transformative. 

One of my favorite quotes is from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and make a trail." Never be afraid to take a blind leap of faith and try something completely out of your comfort zone. You never know what adventures await. 

April 30, 2014

CarouselLast week I was invited to attend the annual Student Organization dinner, where Dominican’s student leaders are recognized for their achievements in the past school year. 

The event was held at the Brookfield Zoo, so a few of my friends and I went early to explore the zoo before dinner. We ran around from exhibit to exhibit, taking pictures with giraffes and making silly faces at the monkeys. Of course, we had to ride the carousel too. 

We all bought tickets, hopped on our favorite animals, and got some pretty funny looks from bystanders: a group of student leaders, dressed in business casual attire, riding giant ladybugs and emus. Frankly, I don’t care how silly we looked. We had a great time and we all needed to relax after a long and busy semester. 

Riding a zebra around in circles and laughing with my friends made me realize that there is so much more to college than attending class and writing papers. College is the time when you form relationships with wonderful people, you go on crazy adventures and you experience new things every single day. Sometimes we have to dress up and be mature and professional and give presentations and speeches and sometimes we can be silly with our friends and feel like kids again. 

There are many things that happen in these four years that are difficult, stressful and sometimes even painful, but there are so many other things that are exciting, eye-opening and nothing short of amazing. College is one of the best times of your life, so enjoy the ride. 

April 16, 2014
Sara Steak
A recipe Sara made up: potato gnocchi with morel cream sauce and grilled flank steak 

Have you ever found something that you love to do and can’t imagine your life without it? Cooking is that thing for me. I watched a lot of Food Network in high school and, through lots of trial and error, I taught myself to cook. 

Cooking is my form of therapy and the way I express myself. Most of the time, I cook without recipes, experimenting with new techniques and making a lot of it up on the fly. 

I wanted to go to culinary school for a while, but I knew I was not cut out to be a chef. When I toured Dominican, I fell in love with their Nutrition Science Department because they offer three intensive food classes in their state-of-the-art quantity kitchen. 

The first class is a basic foods class, where students learn sensory techniques and practice making breads, muffins, cakes, steaks, vegetables, beverages, and much more. The second class is a quantity foods class where students plan, prepare and serve a meal for 100 people every week. The third class is a food science class in which students design a product and spend a semester creating the perfect formulation that meets their nutrient goals. 

Dominican’s nutrition program allows me to pursue a practical, marketable major and allows me plenty of time to experiment in the kitchen and do what I love. 

March 18, 2014
Scheler Books
Just some of Sara's textbooks this semester.

Call me crazy but I really like taking tests.

I love learning new things and putting my knowledge down on paper. Today, I had tests in my human development class and in my microeconomics class, during which I burned through two pencil erasers because I couldn’t settle on an answer for anything. The economics test was nerve-wracking, but I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when you lay the test down on your professor’s desk with a flourish and walk out of the classroom. Sometimes I Google the answers I wasn’t sure about just to see how I did. 

Learning stimulates my curiosity and I come back from class every day with something new and interesting floating around in my head. I like to see the progress I make in my classes and sometimes I feel like I could be a perpetual student. 

Life-long learning is a concept that was instilled in me at a very early age. It is the idea that we should never stop learning and if we foster curiosity at a young age it will continue throughout our years, encouraging us to learn and grow in every aspect of our lives. 

This concept has been a part of my education since the very beginning. My parents fostered it when they read me chapter books when I was just two years old. I was homeschooled, so most of my learning was done independently or one-on-one with my mom. We went on field trips and made posters and did projects that reinforced the concepts we were learning. 

I always enjoyed school (except math) and when I got to college, I quickly found ways to increase my learning outside of the classroom. From magazine and newspaper articles that I read to scholarly articles I look up to answer questions I don’t know the answer to or a simple conversation with a friend who tells me about a new theory or concept, I never stop learning at Dominican. There are always lectures and seminars to attend on a variety of topics, speakers to listen to, publications to read from students and faculty, and discussions to be had with other students. In the past 3 years I have spent at Dominican, I have never been at a loss for information or opportunities for academic advancement. 

College is busy and can be quite exhausting but I am so fortunate to be pursing higher education at Dominican and developing the skills I need to reach my career goals and continue in a life of learning. 


February 25, 2014
Sara in Rothenburg, Germany

October, 2009 - Sara on a street corner in Rothenburg, Germany, a place she hopes to return to this summer.

I have the travel bug. I know I am not alone—many students my age feel the same way. I dream of picking up and moving to another country to experience the culture, see the sights and taste the food.

I made the difficult decision last year not to study abroad in Austria so I could keep my on-campus job and graduate in four years. I struggled with this decision for a while, wishing I had just gone, thinking I had lost an opportunity and knowing I would regret it. However, I do not regret it because if I was abroad, I would have missed a lot of wonderful opportunities here. I found other ways to satisfy my urge to travel and I know that I will make it to Salzburg at some point, and hopefully many other places on the way.

Every year, Dominican offers numerous opportunities for students to travel, learn and grow. Whether this is a long weekend on a farm in Iowa or a 10-day trip to Ghana, there are plenty of chances for us to experience cultures, traditions and places we would otherwise never see.

Several of my friends have studied abroad—some to Salzburg, some to London, some to South Africa. Others have attended short-term trips to Ghana, China and Haiti. The best part about these trips is that they offer opportunities for every kind of student.

Whether you desire to take a class in another language, study at a foreign university, stay with a host family, build houses or feed the hungry, there is bound to be a trip for you. Every time students come back from these trips, they rave about how much fun it was, how many friends they made and how the trip changed their perspectives on the world.

Dominican aims to foster “global citizenship,” and these trips are a vital part of that mission. They open students’ eyes to social, economic, political and environmental issues around the world and allow students to experience other cultures and ways of life first-hand. These experiences turn college students into good citizens, mature and compassionate leaders and advocates for national and global change.

Whether you want to get your feet wet with a trip to Iowa or you want to dive right in and live abroad for a year, you can find these life-changing experiences and all the excitement, wonder and growth that come with them, at Dominican.

Even though I could not commit to a study abroad program, I’m piecing together my own adventure this summer. I plan to visit England, Austria and Germany, work on an organic farm in Salzburg for a few weeks, visit friends and family and eventually come back here to finish out my senior year. I am so excited to satisfy my travel bug (for a while, at least). I know the experience will help me learn and grow and help me become a better leader and a global citizen.

January 23, 2014

Looking Ahead

It’s here—post-Christmas, pre-spring break, back-to-school, reality-check time. I will be the first to admit that I have to figure out school all over again. It’s the second week and my handwriting is terrible, I keep getting lost and I can’t seem to sit still for more than 30 minutes.

I was completely unprepared for this when I began the semester. It will probably take me a few weeks to get accustomed to my new schedule and, to be honest, I’m a bit frustrated that I managed to forget so much in just three weeks of winter break, but I am trying to think about this new beginning in a new, more positive light.

After five semesters in college, my life has become routine and normal and even bordered on boring for a while. During these times, I would look back and envy the freshman version of me—thrilled to start each new semester and meet new friends, excited to go to class, making a big deal out of each small accomplishment.

My problem is that I have been focusing too much on the past and not enough on the future. Ultimately, I realized that I am content where I am, in the middle of the toughest semester of my life, surrounded by some of the most wonderful people I have ever met, in a small, gothic-style building nestled comfortably among the trees that separate suburban Illinois from the great city of Chicago.

When I think about life after college, I begin to feel that overwhelming excitement I felt so frequently my freshman year. I have taken enough higher-level nutrition classes that I can now picture myself counseling patients, teaching school children, and using my passions to help and heal others.

I am comfortable and secure where I am now. I know exactly what I’m going to do tomorrow and the day after and the day after that. It is reassuring to know that my life is constant and predictable, but what excites me now are the possibilities that exist for my life a year or two from now.

As a freshman, I never could have imagined the experiences I would have at Dominican. I had no idea how many wonderful people I would meet, how happy I would be, or how many opportunities I would have to touch the lives of others.

I helped prepare Thanksgiving dinner for hungry people in Chicago. I led a team of students on an unforgettable trip to a little farm in Iowa. I designed, prepared and served a meal for 60 people. I developed a food product that I can now copyright and bring to market.

I know these activities will come to an end when I graduate, but the memories and experiences will continue to influence me and allow me to have an even greater impact on the world in the future.

When I arrived here three years ago, I was determined to make the best of my time at Dominican. The people here have helped me see myself in many different ways, not just as a student but as a friend, a leader, a helper.

Every day I see a new opportunity I have to make a difference. And, even when life begins to become routine and predicable, there are still so many ways I can live out my passions.

Some people might say I’m suffering from premature senioritis. I think of it as looking ahead, turning the next page of the book of my life to peek at what’s coming my way. And I like what I see.

October 31, 2013
When I am working in the nutrition lab, my professor tells the class to leave the space in better condition than we found it. 

This rule ensures that the kitchens stay clean and presentable all year long, even when things explode in the microwave, burn in the oven and boil over on the stove. 

The phrase can be applied to more than just the etiquette of shared spaces, however. I think it applies pretty well to life at Dominican.

Sara Scheler in the Nutrition Lab

The other day, my friend and I were discussing life after graduation. We look up to the students who have graduated and left their mark on this community and we want to make an impact that will affect others even after we leave. Our motivation for this is not popularity or fame—we simply want to improve the place we have invested years of our lives into and encourage others to do the same.   

At a school of Dominican's size, there are plenty of opportunities to be a leader. If you want to start a new sport, create a club, write for the newspaper, give campus tours, participate in student government or be a peer advisor, there are people who are willing to help you get there.

Being a leader can be exhausting, disappointing and frustrating. Participation can be poor, attendance may dwindle and coordinating college students’ schedules is nothing short of a nightmare, but leadership is also incredibly rewarding, inspiring and beneficial to yourself and others. It gives you something to work toward and something to leave behind after you graduate. 

have learned many things as a leader on campus. I have learned that people will look up to you, which makes your job both easier and much harder. I have learned that no matter how carefully you plan and how many notes you write to yourself, you will forget and you will mess up. But I also learned that at a place like this, where a good portion of the students are involved in some capacity of leadership, there is a great support system when things go awry. 

One of the best lessons I learned during my time here is that life is much more rewarding, interesting and satisfying when you go outside of your comfort zone. Standing up in front of a group of people who are all expecting you to say something intensely profound and you are so nervous that you forget to tell them your name is embarrassing, to be sure, but we never know what we are capable of until we try and fail and try again.

So, I challenge you to find something that excites you a lot and scares you a little bit. Find that something, then figure out a way to lead others toward a common goal and leave a small part of this world better than it was when you found it. 

Caption: One of the many opportunities to make a difference on campus: Sara and fellow nutrition students catered a healthy breakfast for the Business School last weekend.

September 23, 2013

Bagel DayWe are halfway through September already! The weather is starting to turn, leaves are falling and the Caritas Veritas Symposium is tomorrow. It’s official: summer is over.

I came back to campus a few weeks ago after a long, relaxing weekend back home in Wisconsin. I am an out-of-stater, so I don’t get to go home very often. It was the first time I had seen my family in three weeks, and I probably won’t be home for another five or six.

I always love time spent at home eating my favorite foods, laughing with my family and doing things I never have time to do at school like watching movies and playing Mario Kart with my brother. But, even though home is such a wonderful place, I always enjoy coming back to Dominican.

On my drive back, after almost two hours battling traffic between Milwaukee and Chicago, I exited the interstate and within minutes I was surrounded by lush, green trees and quiet paradise. The little journey on Thatcher Avenue always makes my heart melt and I think about how blessed I am to call this place my home.  

Just a few weeks ago, 200 freshmen residents moved into the dorms. I always love this time of year, not only because I am excited about school starting up again but also because I get to see the excitement of hundreds of other students embarking on college journeys of their very own.

As with every university, there will always be a handful of students who transfer out after a few months, but I hope that the rest learn to love this place as much as I do. I hope they are determined to make the best out of their four years here. It's not hard to do. There are countless clubs and organizations to get involved in, tons of great on-campus job opportunities and lots of fun events to attend, not to mention the amazing professors and staff members. Going to a school as small and close-knit as Dominican means people will know you personally and call you by name. The employees in the Cyber Café will remember you and ask how your day is going, your RA will catch up with you after your first week of class, and your English professor will strike up a conversation when you see him in the hallway (which may or may not be a good thing!)

If you take advantage of the opportunities on campus, get involved and meet new people, this place will start to feel like home. Before long, you will find yourself chatting with friends in the quad, crafting in the SIRC, studying in the Reading Room or stopping by the Ministry Center to say hi and grab a bagel.* You may find yourself missing home but, chances are, you will also miss school.

 “Make school as much a home as possible.” –Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli

*University Ministry hosts Bagel Day once a month. It is simply a room full of nice people, free bagels and an assortment of spreads, juices and fair trade coffee. What could be better?


April 8, 2013

I received a leadership scholarship this year that required me to plan and implement a project for the Dominican community. Naturally, my first reaction was to plan an event focused around food and nutrition.

I tried to think of an event that would draw a lot of participation and educate students about an important issue. Finally, I settled on a movie night. I organized two events and invited nutrition professors and students to be on a panel and answer questions from the audience.

The first event went well. We watched the movie Food, Inc. which exposes our country’s food system for what it is—a failing, unsustainable system that provides cheap, unhealthy and even harmful food to our population at a growing cost. If you have not seen the movie, I encourage you to watch it. It is very eye-opening and somewhat disturbing but it covers a wide range of issues and it is important for us as consumers to know where our food comes from.

I think my audience was a little shocked by the movie because the panel discussion was short and only a few people raised questions but overall the event was a success.

My second event went even better. I had almost 60 attendees and we had a lively discussion after the movie Fresh. We discussed the food here and brainstormed ways to encourage our foodservice company to improve the quality of the food they offer. It was wonderful to see so many students who were passionate about making changes and willing to put in the effort to get there. We discussed having an open forum with our foodservice manager and, as students, demand to be offered healthy, local food.

For years, Dining Services told us that they would make changes to the food offered but the students here simply don’t care. This event proved them wrong.

I am optimistic about the changes that can take place in the next few years. My dream is that the dining hall will start to offer local and organic options, more vegetables and higher quality food. If the students here prove that they care, I believe these changes can happen.

February 22, 2013

1)    The people here are amazing. They are extremely friendly and always try to include others. They are some of the kindest, most talented and inspirational people that I know. I always said that the academics made me chose Dominican but the people made me stay.

2)    It looks like a castle. I am perpetually in awe of how beautiful it is here. In winter it looks like a white, sparkly paradise; in spring it looks like a medieval palace. There are so many wonderful parts of this school to explore (we even have a secret garden! More on that later…).

3)    The nutrition lab. If you are a nutrition, food science or Culinology major, you will have the pleasure of working in the new Parmer kitchen. It is beautiful and spacious and it makes you feel like you’re on Food Network.

4)    There is always something going on. I’m writing this as Student Involvement kicks off International Week. Middle Eastern music is drifting from the Social Hall and students are gathering to sample food and learn about other countries and cultures.

5)    The Ministry Center. Some of my favorite people on campus work in University Ministry. The four staff members are wonderful, kind people. They oversee the group of students on the university’s ministry team. The students organize religious events, social gatherings, retreats and community service efforts. University Ministry also offers several retreats and trips, which are always a blast. The Ministry Center is like the university’s living room, where students can come to relax, study, or work. There are always smiling faces and delicious snacks to be had inside.

6)    The SIRC. This stands for Student Involvement Resource Center and it is one of my favorite places on campus. It is jam-packed with crafting supplies and students are in and out all day making posters, flyers, and working on various projects. It is a great place to de-stress, chat with friends and be creative.

7)    River Forest is a beautiful place and the area has a lot to offer. I enjoy running through the neighborhood in the warmer months and taking snowy walks during the winter. Oak Park is within walking distance and has almost every restaurant imaginable, in addition to a bunch of cute shops and a movie theater.

8)    The library. It has a giant spiral staircase and four levels of books and study space. There are a bunch of quiet little corners to sit and study or meet with a group. My favorite is the 4th floor—it has giant windows that let in the sun and lots of comfortable couches. It is a great place to camp out on a quiet winter afternoon.

9)    Free food. There is always free food! Last week, Student Involvement gave out free Crush sodas for Valentine’s day, there was cookie decorating in the dining hall, free pizza in the Career Development office, free pie in the Ministry Center, and now there is free ethnic food for International Week!

10) Dominican has a wonderful motto: Caritas et Veritas (Love and Truth). The faculty, staff and students put this motto into action in many ways. There are many service opportunities to participate in, from feeding the homeless in downtown Chicago to building houses in Georgia to mentoring grade school students. The people here care deeply about others and they make it known in everything they do.

January 30, 2013

Picture III am an incredibly organized person who writes checklists and to-do lists and uses entirely too many Post-It notes, checks her email every ten minutes and can’t go anywhere without her planner. Nothing against organization, but it gets old after a while. I have a hard time breaking away from my routine and doing last-minute, random or spontaneous things. However, I know they are good for me and they certainly are enjoyable. I made a New Year’s resolution to be more spontaneous and so far it has been working nicely.

Last weekend, I was talking to some friends about how awesome my home state of Wisconsin is. While bragging about the cows and the cheese and the amazing frozen custard, I decided that a visit to Dairy Land was in order.

We hopped in the car and drove due north, stopping at the infamous Mars Cheese Castle to pick up some fresh cheese curds (delicious). Then we went to Oscar’s for some frozen custard (mint chocolate chip). On our way back, we stopped at Pick ‘n Save to pick up some kringle (a Danish pastry—think thin, fruit-filled croissant). A great night was had by all and I enjoyed a refreshing break from my routine.  Give spontaneity a try. You won’t be disappointed.

January 14, 2013

Sometimes I get tired of being an adult. With all the internal and external pressure to be mature and responsible, sometimes the simplest things are the most relaxing. The other day I made myself a good old peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch and munched on Goldfish crackers and baby carrots. It made me feel like a little kid again, if only for a moment. I still enjoy coloring with crayons and playing with playdough and sometimes all I want to do is put on my pajamas and watch Disney movies.

As the semester begins, I miss the simplicity of winter break—goofing off with my family, visiting friends and watching entirely too much TV. Now the real work is about to start and I am excited and a little scared.

I attended a leadership conference at Dominican today and it really helped motivate and energize me for the semester ahead. One of the sessions was about balancing obligations, schoolwork, sleep, work and all the other things college students cram into their busy schedules. We concluded that there is enough time in a week to get everything done; it just depends on how we prioritize our tasks.

Academics are at the top of my priority list, followed by work and meetings. For me, sleep is a big priority because I get cranky if I don’t get enough. Exercising and eating well are also very important because they help me stay healthy and energized for the long days of working and studying. Family time, social events and alone time usually fall to the bottom of the list but they are also very important. We all need time to relax and de-stress and simple things like dinner with a friend or watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother are a welcome break from a hectic schedule. It is important to take time away from obligations and spend time doing something we want to do amidst all the things we have to do.

College is a wonderful time of exploring and discovering academic things and also personal things. I learn something new about myself every day. Something I learned recently is that simple things make me happy. Whether that means talking with a friend or taking “me time” to read a book, it is important to spend time apart from my routine and re-energize myself for the day ahead. Whether or not this involves pre-school level craft projects is entirely up to me.

December 17, 2012

When I toured Dominican, I immediately fell in love with the people, the architecture, the location and everything else there is to love about this place. But what really sold me were the kitchens.

I love cooking and hope to make a career out of it someday. When Judy Beto, then head of the nutrition department, gave us a tour of the beautiful Parmer kitchens, I imagined myself creating beautiful works of culinary art to impress my friends and family. I was thrilled that the nutrition program involves hands-on kitchen experience and, as a budding chef, I knew I would feel right at home. fish

I am now half way through my second year in the nutrition program and I love it. Nutrition students take three “kitchen” classes—Fundamentals of Foods, Quantity Foods and Experimental Foods. I took Fundamentals of Foods last year and we did a lot of sensory work, food tasting and basic food preparation. We made and sampled everything from lamb chops to peach fritters. At the end of the semester we took a field trip to the Institute of Food Technologists convention in Rosemont, where we sampled the newest and craziest food products on the market like pear and sea salt caramels and spearmint flavored potato chips. dessert

Experimental Foods involves designing and creating a food product with a specific health emphasis, such as a high-fiber granola bar. Students work throughout the semester to fine-tune their product and then create a packaging and present it at the end-of-semester showcase. I am very excited to take this class next semester and develop a product of my own.

I am in Quantity Foods this semester, which continues the 50 year tradition of Dominican’s Recipe Box Café . Every week, the class prepares a gourmet, three course meal with a specific health emphasis. The meal is open to students, faculty, staff, friends, family and the local community. Usually between 40 and 60 patrons attend these delicious meals, many of them returning week after week. salad

Every week there are one or two managers who design, plan and oversee the meal. Last week my classmate Gabby and I managed the meal. We wanted to include a variety of fruits and vegetables and explained to the patrons how it important to “eat a rainbow”.

Our menu consisted of a beet and orange salad, baked fish on top of risotto with red pepper sauce, and berry panna cotta for dessert.

Serving 62 people three courses of food is not an easy feat but, with the help of our wonderful classmates, everything went very smoothly. It was a dream come true for me, who felt like a real chef for the night. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

oma and opaSara with her grandparents



November 30, 2012

I was looking forward to Thanksgiving break with eager anticipation, counting the days until I could go home and see my family. After weeks of tiresome patience, the day finally arrived. I packed my bags and drove north to the tiny, rural Wisconsin town I call home.

I have lived in Wisconsin my entire life and feel deeply connected to the cheese-loving, Green Bay Packer-fanatic, ice-fishing and deer-hunting state. If you’ve never tried real, fresh cheese curds, you seriously should. They are marvelous and really do squeak! My hometown is so small they don’t bother counting its inhabitants. The cornfield-turned-subdivision is sandwiched between farms and cow pastures, surrounded by lush forests and rolling hills. The closest big-name store is a 20 minute drive. The closest large city is an hour in either direction.

Needless to say, big cities overwhelm me. Before coming to Dominican, I had never used public transportation and rarely been in a city larger than Milwaukee. I was not used to navigating large crowds and lacked any semblance of map-reading skills. However, I had no idea how much I would love living so close to Chicago. Dominican is in a great location, nestled in a charming neighborhood just blocks from the fairly substantial village of Oak Park and a short Green Line ride from the city.

Although I have inserted my CTA transit card backwards more times than I care to admit and I can’t seem to maintain my balance on the ‘L’, I am getting better. I go downtown whenever I get the chance and enjoy exploring new parts of the city. I have seen Broadway plays, walked the lakefront, visited Navy Pier several times and eaten dim sum in Chinatown just to name a few. On my bucket list for the winter: the Willis Tower Skydeck, Christkindlmarket and ice skating in Millennium Park.

Sara at the Buckingham FountainSara at the Buckingham Fountain


As I schlepped my stuff back to school after a wonderful week at home, I was sad to say goodbye to my home and family. At the same time, I was happy to return to my second home—an exciting place full of wonderful opportunities, great friends and good times.

November 2, 2012

It’s hard to find a word suitable to describe this day. Nice…beautiful…lovely…none of these really do the day justice. Today deserves a special word. Glorious.

I have to admit, I was more than skeptical when the weather report said it was supposed to be 75 degrees today. But, as any Midwesterner knows, the weather loves surprising people. After a good two weeks of low to mid fifties and two entire days of rain and gloom, today’s Indian summer is just as welcome as it is random.

Dominican’s campus was alive with activity. I was thrilled to see many students taking advantage of the weather. Shorts were pulled from the depths of drawers and donned with eagerness. Students were sprawled out in the quad, strumming their guitars and having impromptu jam sessions with their friends. Students lined the many benches across campus, previously chronically unoccupied. Everyone seemed extra industrious and thrilled with life.

Days like these make me unbearably happy. I donned my whitest skirt and my reddest sweater and practically skipped to class, a giant smile on my face. We flung the windows open in German class and breathed in great gusts of fresh, warm fall air. I plucked a few flowers from the flower beds—probably not a habit I should get in to, lest the grounds keepers find out, but I could not resist.

Today I was reminded of the phrase “carpe diem” which is Latin for “seize the day”. To me, it is virtually impossible not to carpe diem on a day like today—a day when the campus is alive with a flurry of activity, the sun is shining with beautiful intensity and it is literally the perfect temperature. It’s much harder to seize the day on a day like yesterday, for example, when the rain and clouds seemed to depress everyone’s mood (or mine, at least). As far as I’m concerned, this is just fine. After all, if we didn’t have gloomy days we would never be able to appreciate the glorious ones.

Studying hard for an exam or passing a test or volunteering your time—these are all ways to seize a day (even a rainy one). Don’t let anything (or anyone) hold you back. When people give you strange looks for being so happy, smile back at them. If someone says that you can’t achieve something, don’t listen (unless it’s something like hang gliding without a parachute…). And always remember that there is no such thing as being too excited about something.

Dominican is the perfect place to carpe diem. There is always something beautiful going on, whether it is a good deed drive, a musical concert or mass in the Rosary chapel. The campus is constantly beautiful, no matter what the season and the faculty and staff are chronically helpful and optimistic.

Glorious days like this one refuel and reenergize us. We can store up this energy and use it on the not-so-glorious days. If we seize each and every day, we can turn gloomy days into glorious ones with a pinch of optimism, a sprinkle of happiness and a dash of joy. Glorious Days

October 5, 2012
flowers lewis entranceAutumn at Dominican University


There’s no denying it: Fall is here. Shorts and tank tops are being replaced by jeans and sweatshirts. Cool winds are blowing across campus and I already have a craving for apple cider. Today on my way to class I noticed the maintenance workers digging up the summer annuals and replacing them with white and burgundy mums (at least I think they are mums…don’t quote me on that). The air was ripe with the smell of flowers, both old and new.

At first, the sight of dead flowers piled in a heap on the ground made me sad. I did not want to admit that summer is over, and winter is on its way. Saying goodbye to another summer reminds me how little control I have over the passage of time, and how I wish I could stay young forever. It reminds me of how I am no longer approaching what parents ominously refer to as “the adult world;” I am in the adult world. Things get difficult and stressful when you grow up. There are choices to make, money to earn, classes to pass and jobs to find. Sometimes I wish Peter Pan would fly in my window and sprinkle me with fairy dust.

At the same time, growing up is exciting and fulfilling and delightful. With everything you have to let go of there is something even better that takes its place. With each new job you have you get to experience something new. With each new semester there are new people to meet and friendships to build. With each new class you get to learn exciting things.

Yes, college is difficult and stressful and often frustrating but it is so much more than that. It makes you feel accomplished and successful and alive. It helps you reach your full potential (or “self-actualization” for all the Psychology majors out there). At the end of a long week of projects, exams, and piles of notes and flashcards you can be proud of what you accomplished. Your dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon or a lawyer or an actor are that much closer to becoming a reality.

If you are a high school student searching for the perfect college or a senior embarking on the sixth week (hard to believe, I know) of classes, I hope you find the same fulfillment as I do here at Dominican. I hope you find yourself in a college where you don’t slog through the 15-week semester waiting for winter break, but you take advantage of each day and find fulfillment and purpose.

For me college is by far the biggest challenge of my young life but it is also the best thing I have ever experienced. I hope that, like me, you can look at the relentless passage of time and feel joy rather than sadness. I hope you can hold on to the memories of summer, not with regrets of time gone by but rather with hope and excitement as you look forward to a bright future.