Engaged Learning

This past summer I participated in the study abroad program titled, “Discovering Montreal.” It was amazing! Throughout our one week stay, five other students, Dr. Birberick, and I traveled the city of Montreal, Quebec and learned about the history of how the city evolved as well as current issues the city of Montreal and country of Canada face. We saw the vast amount of architecture and cultural components such as the French-Canadian population, Hasidic Jewish population, and strong Roman Catholic influence. We heard many natives French speakers and ate delicious food, some from “boulangerie” (bakery) style restaurants, as well as Middle Eastern and Italian restaurants. We stayed in a dorm not too far from the main street of, “Côte-des-Neiges,” (snowy street) also the name of the neighborhood of which the street was on. We experienced a city where the native language is French and everyone knows French, while only most know English. I had never experienced being somewhere English was not the dominant language and it was a complete culture shock. It reminded me of the diversity present in the world and inspired me to learn other languages!
Some of the highlights of the trip included seeing the many artistic parts of the Metro station. The Metro is a typical city mass transportation system via subway. There is a huge difference between the average city and Montreal’s metro system, and that is ART! there is a lot of color and different types of artwork featured, from paintings to mosaics, and everything in between. Another highlight was going to the “Moment Factory” multimedia company. They have created superbowl shows and innovative tools for kids in hospitals, among many others. Their main goal is to bring people together out of their homes into fun experiences through art. This trip was fun and not only taught me a lot about other parts of the world; it gave me the urge to want to go abroad again! If you have the opportunity to study abroad, you should do it!

I am looking forward to participating in more opportunities through the capstone project (the honors program upperclassman project), as this will be a large undertaking and fun research opportunity. This capstone project, focusing on rape disclosure and predictors of positive and negative reactions, is going to help me focus on research skills and independent thought and critical thinking, both of which will be very helpful as I prepare to apply for human resource jobs post graduation, and eventually graduate school for marriage and family therapy. The project will help me formulate ideas, I will be learning how to research and write about subject matter applicable to the real world and disclosures many individuals face.

I have attached photos from my study abroad experience. Enjoy!!


Blog # 2: Update! The first few weeks.



This semester I am taking an array of interesting classes. They are, psychopathology (abnormal psychology), Social and Personality Lab (part of the series of “lab courses” psychology students must take to learn how to conduct an experiment they come up with and practice with APA-(American Psychological Association( style writing), Family and Financial Planning, EPS-educational psychology 426-The Foundation of Psychedelics, and my third semester of Italian. I have learned a lot in a short amount of time in each class. In my lab course a group of students and I came up with a title for our own project that will be a small experiment based on divorce and the effect it has on maternal relationships with children. For psychopathology a few classmates and I are creating a poster to present at the Psychology Research day in December and hopefully the Undergrad Research & Artistry Day in the spring based on changes within the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual! For the Foundations of Psychedelics, I am working on a book report by a doctor who has researched the positive effects LSD can have in clinical settings and I will be conducting a literature review for my Family and Financial planning course to study the problems finances can cause within families. I am most excited to work on the poster for psychopathology as our project is extremely relevant to recent changes made in the psychological field. I am also looking forward to learning about the positive and enlightening thoughts about psychedelics since I have not studied it before.
Next semester I will be required to take my last semester of Italian and work on my capstone project for the honors project which I am currently thinking of ideas for.  I also need to take another psychology lab course and I am pushing myself to take a course titled, “Brain and Behavior” to help me better understand how the brain really controls and influences individual behavior.
My favorite class at NIU so far has been, “Group Parent Education 438” through the FCNS department. It was a great class because it enabled a small class to come up with an actual session of a group parenting class based on techniques we learned in class. Since I plan on becoming a therapist one day, it helped me to envision a therapeutic environment while learning how to apply group mediation techniques. Prior to the course I had never been able to feel so involved in a class!
I am truly thankful to be part of NLA this year and I am looking forward to working the football game in November. Go Huskies!


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My name is Natalie Ckuj and I am a psychology major in the college of Liberal Arts & Sciences at Northern Illinois university. I am also minoring in Family and Child Studies. My hometown is Winfield, IL, a small western suburb next to Wheaton and close to Naperville. I was born an only child but at 16 my stepmother gave birth to my little sister, Nicole. I am very close to my 97 year old grandma and was close to my late German (a.k.a. Oma). My mother is re-married to Dave, a wonderful man who is a very important person in my life. My family is very important to me and has taught me patience, love, and understanding. I am of German, Irish, and Ukrainian heritage, all of which are important cultural connections for me. I grew up Roman Catholic but within the last year and a half, found Islam to be my calling and new way of life. My significant other, Zaid has played a huge role in helping me learn about Islam and the beauty of this religion and way of life. Some of my interests and hobbies include, volunteering/helping others, photography, a love of cats (including Hello Kitty…yes, I can still love her at 23!), fashion, makeup/skincare, reading, learning about Islam and other religions, movies, baking with my grandma, learning about other cultures, studying others’ behavior, coffee and tea lover, thrifting, hanging out with of my best friends, Erica who is also my cousin, Target runs, decorating, candles, and a love for many colors.

I used to be a voice major (opera singer) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before switching my life path to becoming a psychology major at NIU. I worked hard before and during high school to ensure I would pursue a path toward becoming a professional opera singer. After much thought I decided the life of a professional singer was not for me though I showed promise in the field. I realized I could help others (a huge passion) in a different way. I wanted to originally go to a school in the city but without the finances, it would have been a huge burden. I looked into coming to NIU and I am very fortunate that I came here.  I wanted to study psychology to learn about human behavior and how I could help different individuals.  I was able to find an amazing opportunity in the Emotion Regulation & Temperament Lab through the department of Psychology.  I have found my home away from home in the lab and met many wonderful, engaged students who also want to achieve excellence. I have learned leadership, organizational, and psychological skills unlike anything I expected. I have also gained more confidence and more ambition to accomplish my goals.

If someone were to ask me, “Why NLA?” I would smile a mile wide because when I first looked at the website, I was amazed at what I saw. I read about amazing students all over campus who wanted to do more than just sit in a classroom for 50 minutes and leave when it was over, not feeling engaged or connecting with professors. To me, college is more than just class. By looking at the NLA profiles I saw talented, inspiring, caring students who were involved outside the classroom. They wanted to help other NIU students, connect with alumni, and make a difference in the community. As an idealist, this seemed like an amazing opportunity. I chose to apply to become an NLA to be inspired, and inspire others.