Finding a home on this big campus


Daily Illini File Photo

The Main Quad is just one of three on campus. The grassy space is perfect for going with friends to play frisbee or dog watch.

By Jessica Peterson , Buzz editor

If you toured the University of Illinois before deciding to commit to the gem of Champaign-Urbana, you’ve undoubtedly heard a student guide utter the phrase, “You can’t make a small school feel big, but you can always make a big school feel small.”

If any of the prospective students or attentive parents feel prompted to ask how to do this, the guide will likely mention the numerous clubs or RSOs (Registered Student Organizations), get a laugh from mentioning the “squirrel watching” club, and some ooh’s and aah’s when the guide says there are 1,400 clubs available to students and no one is stopping them from joining them all.

Well, listen. Something the tour guide doesn’t tell you is that after Quad Day, when you’re in your dorm room sorting through flyers, frisbees and free condoms, you’ll barely remember which booths you stopped at to join and which booths you stopped at because you noticed they had pizza. Then, the emails come. All of a sudden there are meetings four times a day that you’re invited to with the promise of a free meal and instant friendship. So many meetings in fact, that you literally won’t be able to make them all.

It’s difficult to be in two places at once, and it is almost impossible to be in two places on opposite ends of the 1,783-acre campus. So, what’s an incoming student to do?

First off, remember to breathe. Second, remember to smile; you’re away from home, and you’ve gotten accepted into a great university. You are right where you’re supposed to be, and you deserve to let yourself enjoy it!

Alright, now that we’ve got the essentials out of the way, let yourself explore. Even if none of your friends from high school are going to the same meetings, events or lectures as you, that doesn’t mean you can’t.

A lot of other brave, new students will be meandering on their own; take advantage of this situation, speak up, introduce yourself and remember to smile. It’s one thing to collect digits from a romantic interest, but far more important to get contact info from potential new pals.

Also, with so many ways to communicate these days (Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter or whatever is hot and new), pick the medium you’re most comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to follow up with these new homies! You aren’t a burden; you’re a blessing. And they’ll learn that, especially if you hang out with them more than once.

This may seem like it transformed into a “how to make friends,” instead of “how to make a big campus feel small.” Well, I am about to enter my third year at the University, and it only started to feel small, feel like home this last semester. I can attribute that entirely to my community: the people I surrounded myself with, the friends I called when I was in trouble, the more responsible students who saved me seats in lecture.

The group of people you want to spend time with after graduation will change throughout your time in college. But the time you invest in the people you meet will lead you to find who deserves to be a part of your inner circle. The people you never thought you’d meet will be first ones you call with the good, bad and ugly of your life.

At a university with an undergraduate population of 33,368 students, you best believe there’s someone or multiple somebodies out there for everyone. Just please, even when you’re discouraged, even when you want to stop trying, even when you feel all alone, don’t stop looking. Chances are, there’s someone and somebodies out there looking for you, too.

Jess is a junior in Media.
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