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.