The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

UI college experience promotes discovery for students

Beckett Green

Away from the gaze of their guardians, young adults may find college the best place to discover themselves. For many, college marks their first time away from home and the transition into adulthood. With the freedom to explore new ideas, people and places, students can uncover both who they are and what they want out of life. 

Here at the University, many have undergone this journey of self-discovery.

Shivam Patel, sophomore in Information Sciences, reflected on his time on campus during his freshman year. He believed exploring the unique environment college offered him was a major part of his path to self-discovery.

“What I found most surprising about myself is how adventurous I am,” Patel said. “I never expected myself to really go out, explore things and have new experiences. But I’m really glad I decided to go outside and explore what there is around campus because this campus is huge, and there’s a lot to see.”

At the beginning of the school year, Patel thought he would keep his introverted shell, which left him with low expectations of college, he said.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“I thought I would just study, maybe go to the gym, make a couple of friends and that was about it,” Patel said. “But I never anticipated how much I’d actually be doing at university.”

Patel’s decision to explore his options at the University enabled him to break out of his introverted shell and discover a different side of his personality, he said. 

And while some students may view stepping outside of one’s comfort zone to be intimidating, Patel found it to be an essential part of college and a pivotal component in shaping him as an individual. 

Ashka Rastogi, sophomore in Information Sciences, shared similar experiences with Patel. 

At the beginning of college, Rastogi would have described herself as an introverted person hesitant to explore outside of her comfort zone, she said.

“However, as time passed, I realized that in order to form meaningful connections and feel a sense of belonging, it was necessary to actively engage in socializing and stepping out of my comfort zone,” Rastogi said.

An environment free of the past, a totally clean slate, may be what a student needs to reflect on themselves as they enter their adult lives.

“This year has definitely been one of growth, and I am continuously working on improving myself in this aspect,” Rastogi said. “But as of now, I feel like I have become more social and carefree.”

For Rastogi, coming to college forced her to step outside of her comfort zone, and she believes doing so helped mold her into the person she is.

While both Patel and Rastogi found their first year at college to be a transformative experience, it wasn’t always a fairy tale. 

Patel said he found difficulties trying to balance all the different aspects of college life in his first year. 

“When I first met my friends at the start of the year, we used to pull all-nighters a lot,” Patel said. “And those were very fun, but at the same time, it was impacting my academic life as well as my mental health. I feel like in the first semester, I wasn’t great at balancing both of those worlds, knowingly or unknowingly.”

However, Patel said he was able to work through the challenges.

“In the second semester, I tried to work on finding that sweet balance between spending time with my friends versus my other commitments,” he said. “As a result, it definitely improved my quality of life in general. I became happier and could focus on my studies a bit more.”

Despite the challenges he encountered, Patel said he welcomed these changes to his life and advised future college students to do the same.

“Be open to new ideas, new ideologies and new practices,” Patel said. “UIUC contains diverse backgrounds, which leads to interesting thoughts. Don’t stray away from them. Explore them, respect them and embrace them if you believe they add value to your life.

“In order to become a well-rounded person, I think having these conversations and experiences is crucial to understanding yourself and what defines your true identity.” 

Rastogi echoed Patel’s philosophy, as she urged students to step outside their comfort zones. 

“My advice for someone starting college and looking to grow and discover themselves would be to stay open-minded and embrace new experiences,” Rastogi said. “College provides an incredible opportunity to try new things, meet new people and explore different perspectives.”

She also urged future students to reach out to their peers, stating that if she could do her first year over again, she would have tried to engage more with the students in her residence hall. Rather than waiting for people to initiate interactions first, she would have aimed to make friends sooner in the semester.

All things considered, both students agree traveling down the rocky road of college had its ups and downs, but the journey has left a lasting impact.

“When I first came to college, I was inexperienced, I was confused and I was lost,” Patel said. “But ever since then, having the experiences that I’ve had and the memories I’ve made, I’ve learned a lot in the process, and I feel a lot more confident in who I am.”


[email protected]

More to Discover
ILLordle: Play now