The Start of a New Beginning: My Journey to NIU

Editors Note: Hello everyone, I want to introduce myself before I start this article. My name is Louie Zmich, and I am a transfer student from Harper College, a community college in Palatine, before that I went to Elmhurst College. So this entry is going to be about my journey here to NIU and what it was like in the transition into a bigger school while transferring over credits from two different colleges. If you would like to know more about me you can follow me on all social media @LOUIEZMICH and check out my Beard and Mustache club that’s here at NIU on Facebook to find out what we’re all about, simply search “NIU Beard and Mustache Club.” Enjoy!

(I am the gent on the left.)

Transfer Student Experience - Louis Zmich

Transfer Student Experience - Louis Zmich

What was it like transferring to Northern Illinois University; honestly, I would describe the overall situation as being very smooth and welcoming for the most part. I am a firm believer in the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason.” That being said, NIU was always one of my top picks for schools, but when I graduated high school my number one priority was going to schools that offered me the opportunity to play golf, and was close to home in order to be close with my family. Elmhurst College fit the bill, as I was not only able to play golf, but I was also able to study Psychology, Sociology and Philosophy at a school that was known for those majors, it was perfect, until everything came to a halt. Elmhurst College was a private school and tuition was a monster to pay for. Not only that, but since it was so expensive, I had to commute an hour round trip everyday just to get to classes. It just didn’t even feel like I was attending a university because at the end of the day I was back in my parent’s house. From Elmhurst College I saved some money at the community college, Harper College, but I quickly realized that even though I was passionate in Psychology, Sociology and Philosophy, my personality was much more suited for the world of Business. I just loved the concept of meeting new people while being professional, and working my way into the corporate world was something that really got the gears turning in my head. It also helped that the majors I listed above were great assets to have to put towards the Business world.

Even though I had decided on Business, my decision was still not set on NIU. My gut feeling kept telling me NIU, but all of my friends were going to schools in the city, and loving the city life, so naturally I was pulled to follow my friends. I felt that universities in the city just did not match the needs I wanted. NIU is a big college but professors here do not treat you as just another number, they actually want to sit down with you and help you succeed. Any college can say that, but I experienced it first hand when sitting in on classes and talking to students at universities in Chicago. That reason alone spoke wonders about the staff at NIU, and that goes a long way in my book, after all isn’t that what you’re paying for? Plus, NIU has a wonderful bus system that will honestly take you anywhere you’re looking to go, even to the train station to travel to the city, so it was a win, win. NIU even has an app that is constantly being updated and shows you where the bus is, in real time, you cannot get anymore convenient than that. Right off the bat, the fact that the people on the phone and in the classroom were so accommodating to all my questions, along with transportation to visit my friends, left me excited to find out more about the school. When I came to visit, I was pleasantly surprised.

The DeKalb area felt very welcoming to me, some people do not appreciate these little things but I sure do; the little mom and pop shops, the small farms down the road selling their farm made produce, and all the old homes that have been here for almost a century. That stuff really pulls me in, and I had not even gotten to the school yet, so overall it had a small town feel with a big school atmosphere, everywhere you went, people were supporting the NIU Huskies, I loved that.  After our tour of the school I realized something very important to me, besides the cool places around campus, like comic shops, places to eat, and the old nostalgia the buildings had, to the beautiful new buildings on campus, I realized that NIU really took the time to make sure you got involved and fit In wherever you were coming from. Sure other schools do that too, but everyone I met, professors, and TA’s all gave me their Business card and actually made me feel like I could contact them anytime and ask questions, little things like that really resonate with me, and trust me, I have made connections with professors from contacting them and meeting with them. On top of that, NIU has a wonderful program connected to all the community colleges and Universities in the area, where your credits easily transfer over. I honestly didn’t have any credits get misplaced when transferring in, and as you may know, that is quite stressful not knowing if something will transfer over, NIU made that very easy to achieve.

So, I got accepted and I’m ready to move out, what’s next. Well, I need a job to pay my bills, and more importantly I need a place to live. This was my only gripe through this process, was finding a place to live. Quite frankly the housing on campus is just inconvenient for me, the price tag is just not obtainable for me at all, but I do have to say that I would have met much more people a lot sooner if I had stayed in the dorms, so maybe you’re also paying for the convenience. So, dorm living and apartment living in Northern View, was just not an option for me personally, but I would have loved to stay in the dorms to meet all the cool people and participate in the floor activities. After looking around at the local housing situations, I decided that I was best suited with a private company with a small owner. To me, it fit my needs because I was able to have a relationship with the owner and have a landlord that I knew personally after a while. That is just my style, but it certainly was welcoming to see so many housing options, there is an option for everyone’s living wants and needs. So once I made that realization, I then looked at the private companies around campus, and I could not have made a better decision. I ended up going with D & J Properties, a small company owned by Dan and Joe Sears. Cheap, close to campus, and the brothers live in the neighborhood, so anything that goes wrong, they are around within the hour, it really was a perfect fit, I could walk to campus and still pay for myself to live on my own.

My next objective before even coming to this school was to get involved and find a job. This section right here is what I think NIU strives, there are so many clubs and organizations on campus, you honestly will not be getting the full experience if you do not join something. Seriously, professionalism aside, get off the couch and join a club, you will be happy you did. There are so many choices for jobs and activates, it’s a bit ridiculous, but in a good way. I applied to a lot of jobs on campus, and they were all responsive in a timely manner, but I ended up taking a job at the Police Department on campus being a student patroller. The Chief of Police here honestly has done so much work over the last two years he has been in office. As students, it really feels like the officers are understanding at the fact that you’re going to go out on the weekend, so there are no questioned asked services like walking escorts home, and buss services like Late Night Ride, as long as you’re being safe and getting home safe, you’ll have a way back to your bed at the end of the night. Just for your sake, and the officer’s sake, be respectful and they will respect you. That’s so comforting to me, and I’m sure it’s comforting for your parents to hear as well. Everything is so close to campus as it is, so the walks home aren’t that long anyway, but a warm buss on a DeKalb winter night cannot be passed up, trusts me. The Police Department fit my schedule needed, as the job is overnight work, and it gave me a chance to move up in the company as next year I will be a supervisor on the team for Huskie Patrol, what a great experience.

Lastly I wanted to talk about clubs and organizations, there are seriously too many to choose from. An entire gym full of tables has rows and rows of clubs and organizations to choose from. Sports to hobbies and Greek life, you name it they have it. Well, maybe not everything, so why not start your own? That’s what I did, I wanted to create a club that taught boys how to be functioning men of society, to teach how to dress, speak, and treat women the way our grandparents did. So, I had the idea and ran with it! You only need one other person to back you up and you can start your own club, and boom, the Beard and Mustache Club of NIU was born. Now, it’s more complicated than that to have your club recognized by the school, but you can find that out on your own, you just need faculty members to get involved and most are accommodating. But seriously, join something, no excuses, when you join a club you are going to make friends who instantly have the same interest as you, and that is so valuable, trust me, sometimes it’s about who you know in life and what hands you shook, and you can only do that when you get involved. I personally joined the Ultimate Frisbee club, Bowling Club, and started my own club in a matter of weeks being here. Unfortunately the Ultimate Frisbee and Bowling Team did not really fit my schedule for the semesters, but along with scheduling issues I also decided to try and join the Profession Business Fraternity of Delta Sigma Pi, I currently am a pledge and I can say it honestly has been the best time I have had at NIU so far, seriously, again, join something, make friends and just get involved. So many people probably have told you the same thing, but its true, I cannot stress enough how enjoyable my time here has been because of these clubs and organizations. With a little hard work you really can go far here.

So besides the small things I said about the school, I really only scratched the surface, I glanced over the fact that there’s tutors all the time ready to help you, and most of the professors are ready to jump by your side.  The campus is full of tools and just like anything in life, you get out what you put into it, if you come in here just wanting to coast by, you’re going to get an experience that fits the bill. If you try new things, meet new people and really get involved, you never know whom you are going to meet. More importantly, you don’t want to look back on your college experience and realize that you didn’t take advantage of everything this school gives you, from the surrounding town, to finances and activities, I am glad I transferred and switched my major, because the three years I now have here, I know are going to be some of the best years of my life. Good luck on your journey, and hopefully your experience is going to be just like mine, amazing.

Keeping Cool When Changing Schools

This next post is written by my dear friend and brother, Zack Kochetta, from the perspective of an undecided transfer student.

It is nuts, absolutely insane, how comfort sets in the moment I have to reconfigure my life completely. It’s terrific, no sarcasm or anything (said Zack Kochetta sarcastically)!  I’m learning quickly to just never get comfortable, purely out of superstition. But yeah, aside from irrationalities, that time has come again where one chapter is wrapping up and another one unraveling. I am an upcoming, incoming transfer student, and it’s got me feeling the pressure, similar to countless other transfer students, to whom I extend my deepest compassion. Hopefully I am speaking for a good handful of them as I express the hopes and anxieties of the whole process, so here goes nothing.

I would be lying (or a stinkin’ bum) if I said that the uncertainties of the future were not a concern of mine. In my education, I just need to receive the tools necessary to put my fears to rest, or else my text books will make for good bonfire fuel and I will do to my laptop what Michael Bolton and Peter Gibbons did to the Initech printer (please catch the reference). The scariest thing to me is the possibility of walking away from school without something to show for it. I don’t want to grab my degree, cap and gown on, and return to my seat at graduation feeling like I had been knocked out and in a cryogenic sleep for the past two years. That’d suck! It would make my final two years of school seem entirely pointless. To have a better handle on the concerns of the future is the main goal at hand, and if I feel that I haven’t gotten that….oy vey, will I be a wreck!

Another scary thing is the 180 degree lifestyle change. People say all the time that you can get that “college” experience while attending a community college, but I also learned during a psychology seminar held at my community college, of all places, that people lie all the time!  Go figure. The school I attend now is great and all, but there is no independence. I go to school, go to a couple clubs a week, and then basically come home at the end of each day. During the time I have attended community college, I have visited my brother (honorably known as 2.0) at NIU MULTIPLE times, and let me tell you, there’s a striking difference. I realize now that I am basically attending High School 102 and what I am preparing to transfer into is Basic Real World Survival 100. It’s freaky; it’s a big jump from a cushy near-blow-off class to a crash course.

And then there’s the thought of where the heck to go. There are so many school options that deciding on the perfect one is really tolling. However, I must say that Northern Illinois University is a school that plays as a true contender for me. They have a solid business program, a chill campus and surrounding activities, and some really fun “social gatherings” among peers and classmates for some good clean fun.  Essentially, NIU is quite appealing to me (I say this without promotional compensation from the school). Sincerely, it’s a great place and I would feel privileged to finish my degree there. Zack Kochetta approved! But to everyone who is still searching, the perfect place will be found, don’t worry.

It’s funny, because as I look at my list of concerns, I begin to realize that they are actually hopes. I don’t want to miss out on opportunities.  I long for the freedom and independence, and I look forward to finding a school to call home. So I really have nothing to fear and plenty to hope for, and that really puts things in a positive perspective.

I just want to grab this bull by the horns and ultimately tame it. I have the world at my fingertips and I just need to stretch a little further so I can wrap them around it and make it mine (not in a wacked out Dr. Evil kinda way, but instead, an inspiring one). And although I am a little fearful of what to expect in the coming years, I realize that my hopes will not be diminished, I will make the most of this experience and not end it feeling cheated. In the work I do within my field I will put forth my all, and when I get the chance I’ll live it up a bit; no time or opportunities to do something great will be wasted!

In summation, there is a lot to consider. It is overwhelming to say the least. But I know I, as well all other transfer students, can make it through this tough process. We have to know what we want, learn where we will best achieve that, and watch it all unfold into something great that will pave the way for the rest of our lives. To all other transfer students, good luck and god speed. Zack 1.0out!