Liza Buhr is a communicative disorders major from Ottawa, IL
Hometown: Ottawa, IL
Year: Expected graduation: 2022
Major: Communicative disorders
Minor: Rehabilitation counseling
Transfer from: Illinois Valley Community College
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you pursuing that as a major, or have you taken another path?
Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher. I loved going to school and would beg to go even when I was sick. As I got older, I kept that dream but also investigated other avenues like journalism and speech pathology. When I first started college, I was undecided between elementary education and journalism. I threw speech pathology out the window because I didn't think I was smart enough to achieve that goal. During my third visit to NIU, I attended an engineering open house with some friends (mainly to just look at campus again, not to become an engineer). While we were walking around talking to all these engineering majors, I could hear the excitement in their voices about their majors. I knew I wasn't that passionate about journalism or education anymore. A lot of the students were encouraging and said things like, "Yeah, the major is difficult, but the hard work will get me where I want to go." After that visit, I decided to stop limiting myself and pursue speech pathology. I was afraid of failing the higher-level math and science courses, but I was inspired to take the risk and work hard toward something I was really passionate about.
What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
My major is communicative disorders with a minor in rehabilitation counseling. I chose to pursue communicative disorders because I wanted to work with smaller groups of people or patients one-on-one. I am really interested in school-based speech therapy and hope to someday work in an elementary school. I chose rehabilitation counseling as my minor because I worked in the Office of Disability Services at my community college and really loved it! This minor seemed to fit my personality because I enjoy helping others. Additionally, I liked that this minor incorporated skills involving counseling because I can see myself in a counselor position in the future if I choose not to pursue speech pathology or change my career at some point.
What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
As a transfer student, especially during a pandemic, I have been pleasantly surprised by how connected, welcomed and loved I feel. I was really nervous to transfer this past fall because everything was going to be virtual and I was going to live at home again. I thought I wasn't going to make any friends and that I was going to be all alone. That is definitely not the case! At NIU, students and staff have made it super easy to get involved and feel connected. Even from afar and through this virtual world, I have made some great new friends and connections with professors. I feel heard, noticed and appreciated, which is something I haven't felt in a long time.
How have you connected with other students virtually to study for classes, meet new people or form new friendships?
The best way I have connected with others is by just being bold during the first few weeks of classes. I have found it easiest to just say, "Hey do you guys want to study together? Here's my number or my Snapchat." This typically gets a response of relief as I have found several people were nervous about online classes and not knowing anyone. I would say I have made a pretty good number of new friends for school being online. In fact, a small group of us met up at Jonamac Orchard (with masks of course) and tried to figure out the NIU-themed corn maze.
Are you involved in any student organizations, mentoring programs or extra-curricular activities? If so, which ones? How have they added to your experience as a Huskie?
I am involved with Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU), Communicative Disorders Student Association (COMDSA), and the University Honors Program. Getting involved with these organizations has really helped make my transition and time at NIU awesome. I have made almost all of my friends by being involved in these groups. I have really enjoyed being in CRU because it has allowed me to make friends outside of my major and attend some in-person events. COMDSA has been super fun because they always have so many virtual events going on, and it makes me feel like I have a sense of community and things in my schedule to do other than homework and classes. Lastly, the honors program has provided me with great friendships and pushed me academically and professionally to be a better student and person.
Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?
Oh, this is so hard! I have two top professors so far. First, Dr. Gulsat Aygen and her TAs who teach ENGL 207 (Fundamentals of English Grammar) are awesome. I took this course during my first semester at NIU, so my nerves were through the roof. Dr. A and her TAs took a difficult course and made it fun with memes, celebrating birthdays, telling stories and overall just being understanding and wonderful people. Even though the course was difficult, I enjoyed it a lot because of how Dr. A structured it.
My other top professor so far is Dr. Allison Gladfelter. I am currently in her COMD 305 and COMD 221 courses (Language Development and Phonetics). She is also the advisor for COMDSA. Dr. G is another awesome professor because she is super passionate about her work and is always willing to help. Dr. G explains things really well and will slow down if you get confused. It has been great to be in Dr. G's classes, and when I think I can't be a speech pathologist, I just go to Dr. G's lecture and I am reminded why I can be one.
Overall, all of my profs so far have been great! They have been some of the most understanding people I have ever worked with.
Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
Well, as a transfer student during COVID, I have only been to campus a handful of times. I would have to say one of my favorite spots is the MLK Commons by the big NIU sign outside the Holmes Student Center. I love being in the center of campus. Maybe it's because I am a transfer and I am not used to being on such a big campus in comparison to my community college, but it just feels good to be there. It makes me happy every time.
What advice would you give to a student who is applying to colleges?
I would just tell them to take a deep breath. It can be really overwhelming but you just need to relax. Everything will be okay. Have people proofread your application essays for you and remember that you have done the work, so it will all work out! I would also advise students to just go for it! Even if you think you can't succeed at some major, you probably can with enough hard work. If you want it, go get it!
Coming to college, what is something that you have had to learn to do differently?
After being in college for a while, I wish I would've learned earlier that you don't need to be perfect. It is okay to fail and be wrong. I used to get so worked up about being perfect that it was all I would think about. No one is perfect and your professors know that. Just work hard and take care of yourself and the rest will fall into place. This is advice I have to tell myself all the time because I still forget it.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
My favorite way to relax and recharge is with some Ben and Jerry's ice cream and Netflix. I am currently obsessed with All American, Spinning Out and Grey's Anatomy. I love to watch Netflix with my cat Lulu and eat ice cream or other snacks. If I am not watching Netflix, I enjoy running and working out to reset my brain and get ready for the next tasks on my agenda.
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