Ode to being an Illini

By Courtney Linehan

I love being an Illini.

I love move-in day at the Six Pack, with minivans jamming First Street and Rubbermaid bins spilling from the sidewalks. I love the first few weeks of the semester when I know I’ll make the dean’s list, get a job, go running every day and go drinking every weekend.

I love Fat Don’s. I love sleeping in the back of Foellinger Auditorium with 700 other students. I love Quad Day. I love those damned gray squirrels that jump on your table outside the Union. I love dining hall breakfast.

I love the promise of each new football season, when everybody is excited about the new recruiting class and the purity of a clean record. I love the ladybugs that fly on you as you walk to the first few weeks of class. I love cold packs from McKinley. I love looking out the windows of the English building to see the red and yellow and orange leaves of the trees on Wright Street.

I love running stairs at Memorial Stadium. I love seeing kids get Schwinned when they walk into the bike path. I love when Dad’s Day and Halloween fall on the same weekend and all the dads dress up and go to the bars with their children. I love tailgating. I love Country Night. I love Pokey Sticks on Tuesdays.

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    I love the stars on the south side of campus. I love that iconic image of a college in autumn. I love volleyball games at Huff Hall. I love the classical architecture of Illinois’ buildings. I love Nevada Street, with its Greek-turned-cultural houses. I love napping in the Union. I love Thursday nights at Brother’s. I love calling Jimmy John’s at 2 a.m. I love doing three loads of laundry: a white load, a dark load and an orange load.

    I love walking on the Quad during the first snowfall with new gloves and a Mexican hot chocolate from Moonstruck. I love when the Altgeld Chimes play Christmas Carols, but love it more when they play “Hail to the Orange.” I love Orange Krush, for the friends I made while in it, the passion I’ve seen from it and the integrity it stands for on and off the court. I love raspberry iced teas from Espresso Royale. I love lunchtime lectures at the YMCA. I love Late Night in the residence halls.

    I love green beer, green T-shirts and green tongues on UnOFficIal St. Patrick’s Day. I love when they plant orange and blue flowers in front of the Alma Mater. I love the writing on the bathroom stalls at Lincoln Hall, Gregory Hall and Murphy’s Pub. I love finals week, when the Illini Union Ballroom turns into a massive study lounge with free coffee and lemonade. I love blue caps and gowns with orange trim.

    I love seeing groups of alumni trying to blend in with the 19-year-olds at KAMS. I love when all the former football players come back to campus in the spring. I love knowing that, like my mother, I will hide my children’s mail from other schools and incessantly insist that they come to the University of Illinois. I hate leaving. I love knowing that I’ll come back.

    I love being an Illini.