Joanna Rataj is a nursing major from Palatine, IL
Hometown: Palatine, IL
Year: Expected graduation: May 2024
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you pursuing that as a major, or have you taken another path?
As I was growing up I actually wanted to be a teacher but as the years went on, I started taking more health-related classes that made me realize I wanted to go into healthcare. One of the classes I took was a lifeguard class, and after having my first save, that was the turning point for me. I became a hundred percent sure I wanted to work hands-on in a hospital: saving and impacting lives.
What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
My major is nursing with a hope of becoming a pediatric nurse one day. I decided on this major because lifeguarding really showed me that I wanted to be a nurse. Nurses are the people who patients really remember. They're the people who check on you regularly, help you with daily tasks, etc. I also decided on pediatrics because I love kids so much and I believe I have enough strength and patience to work with them and make their hospital visits a little less scary and more happy, just for them.
What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
I am pleasantly surprised at how organized and helpful NIU has been through this pandemic. It's a hard thing to do with so many students but somehow they made sure to tackle every problem, and they even created options for students so they would be comfortable in their learning environment for this year.
How have you connected with other students at NIU?
It has been hard connecting with students this year because of COVID-19 but I think that what really helped me was the Facebook Group. I got the chance to connect with students who had the same majors and interests as me, and then I traded social media accounts with them, which gave me a chance to make friends I already had connections with.
Are you involved in any student organizations or extra-curricular activities? If so, which ones? How have they added to your experience as a Huskie?
I plan to be involved in some kind of water polo club or swim club at the Anderson Hall Pool.
Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
My favorite spot on campus is the Holmes Student Center because it creates such a good learning atmosphere and has a bunch of different spots to choose from — whether you want quiet, Starbucks, food, or a place to sit and talk with your friends.
What advice would you give to a student who is applying to colleges?
My biggest piece of advice is to never be afraid to ask questions. As a first-generation college student, I really had to step it up and make sure I knew about everything.
Coming to college, what is something that you have had to learn to do differently?
Workload is definitely way heavier in college than it is in high school, so I think you need to learn how to plan everything out or else you will fall apart. Planning and time management are things I believe you need to do in order to succeed.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
My friends and I love to go on walks when we feel overwhelmed, watch movies together, and go out to eat together.