There’s no place like your campus home

By Katie Dunne

It’s that time of year again. We’re all back on campus, eyes bright and tails bushy, ready to take on another semester. This will be the year we make things happen. We’ll get enough sleep, read for all of our classes and improve our GPAs. We’ll work out, eat healthy and make new friends.

OK, let’s be honest with ourselves. As our August optimism wears off, college life will become routine. Bars will look more attractive than books. Sleeping will take priority to studying. For the weak among us, “Scrubs” and “I Love the ’90s” reruns will occupy more of our time than class, and our GPAs will remain unchanged, if we’re lucky.

Bearing that in mind, I would like to offer a challenge: Get involved. Make a commitment and keep it. Yes, it will require more energy than eating Easy Mac and navigating through the “New Facebook,” but it might be the most important thing you do in college.

People often complain that the UI feels too big. My best friend chose another school precisely for that reason. The size can be daunting; there are more than 40,000 of us on this campus and millions of alumni and Illini fans worldwide.

While it is intimidating at times, like when you walk into your first 500-person lecture, the sheer size of the Illini community guarantees that there’s a niche for everyone.

And the size makes involvement pretty simple; just grab the pile of fliers and pamphlets you assembled on Quad Day. You know, the ones you reluctantly accepted in exchange for a free Frisbee or water bottle. Pick a club that sounds interesting, sign up, and show up.

The first club I joined was quite an experience. The clock struck midnight at Altgeld on my first Wednesday as a college student. I skated up to Foellinger and found a large group of people, all on some form of wheels, awaiting a nighttime ride. They were the Inline Insomniacs, and that night was a rush. We skated seven miles through deserted parks in Urbana and, after several near-wipeouts, wound up back on the Quad. If you’re a night owl, with stellar night vision, this club is for you.

The political junkies out there will like the Student Senate internship program. Student Senate has come a long way in the last few years, from a few friends financing office furniture with student fee money, to a hardworking group of student advocates. Though the history of ISS is sprinkled with corruption, it has developed into a mostly functional, usually efficient organization that does a lot of good on campus. With this year’s determined leadership, I see only good things for ISS in the future. (www.iss.uiuc.edu)

If you like to volunteer, Volunteer Illini Projects has something for everyone, literally. Sign up for the Listserv (warning: your inbox will be filled), and show up for volunteer projects that sound cool. You can volunteer once a week, once a month, or once a semester. I met my roommate at a VIP event freshman year! For more information, contact Lhea Randle at [email protected]

This past summer I was lucky enough to be part of an organization called Camp Kesem. This weeklong camp targets an oft-overlooked demographic: kids who have a parent with cancer. Outside of crazy camp names, hilarious songs and more lake swimming than you could ask for, we did some serious talking and formed a strong support group for these kids, and each other. If you have a lot of energy, and you want to meet some amazing UI students, get involved in Camp Kesem. (www.campkesem.org/illinois)

These are just a few of the great opportunities this campus has to offer. So freshmen, get started early. Sophomores, take on those leadership positions. Juniors and seniors, it’s not too late. We’re in college for four (five?) short years. Don’t sleep them away. Don’t veg out in front of the TV or spend your entire weekend hungover. Find a campus community that suits you, and become a part of it. Make the University of Illinois your home, and you’ll be amazed at what you learn in the process.

Katie is a senior is political science and Spanish, and the new IMPE blows her mind.