Finding your place can take time

By Katie Powers, buzz editor

This August, new undergraduates will have the option to pursue over 150 different programs of study at the University of Illinois. They’ll also have the chance to choose from over 1,800 registered student organizations and become part of a group of over 30,000 students.

Those numbers are big and certainly represent that no matter what your interests are or what you want to get out of your college experience, there’s a path for everyone at the University. In many cases, incoming students are just as excited to pursue new social and extracurricular opportunities as they are about their academics.

The abundance of choices is great, but figuring out exactly where you belong can feel stressful and overwhelming. At times, it can also feel like an uphill battle with no end in sight. This was certainly the case for me as I reflect on my own experience as a new student.

Keep in mind even if you come in as a new student knowing exactly what you want to do, it’s quite possible the clubs you join, the major you pursue or perhaps even the people you hang out with at the beginning of your first year won’t end up being a good fit in the long run, and that’s OK. It’s completely valid to walk away from things you don’t feel passionate about or aren’t bringing you joy. This does not mean you have failed, and it certainly is not prophetic of your how your entire Illinois experience will play out.

Finding a community on campus takes time, experience and, most importantly, trial and error. This process can feel frustrating and lonely, but it’s part of forging an identity for yourself and giving into opportunities for personal growth. It’s also perfectly common. So many students to join and leave organizations, and spend time around different groups of people throughout their time in college, especially at the beginning. If this is your experience, remember many students are going through the same thing, even if it seems like you are surrounded by people who have already figured out where they belong on campus. Comparing yourself to others is a normal instinct, but it isn’t fair or beneficial.

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As you begin your Illinois journey, remember not everything will fall into place overnight. Finding your place on such a large campus might take more time than you thought, and that’s perfectly OK. You might find the first couple of RSOs you join are not what you wanted them to be or the courses in your major don’t align with your ambitions, and that can be challenging to accept.

If this proves to be the case for you, remember you aren’t alone. Everyone’s path is different, and you will get to where you want to be eventually. If you approach every opportunity with an open mind and don’t give up on yourself, even in the face of disappointment, your Illinois journey will be worthwhile, and you will find your place among the multitudes.

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