Beyond the Quad: How to stay involved after the big day
August 21, 2021
There’s an old adage that goes somewhat like this — find three hobbies: one to make you money, one to keep you in shape and one to be creative. A time-tested template for a fulfilling life. Everyone needs to make money, exercise makes you feel good and the human drive to create is as innate as our need to sleep or drink. And in college, anything that doesn’t revolve around the classroom can feel like a hobby.
Quad Day exists as a sampler platter of what one can do at Illinois outside of the classroom. But once the day passes and you’ve made your laps around the Main Quad, collecting enough free T-shirts to clothe a small village and absolutely ruining your chances of having a clear email inbox ever again, you’re actually going to have to choose which activities to stick with. Narrow down the wide world of possibility into a few concrete choices. Plot out your next four years, pad that resume with softs so you can get into a T-14 and conquer the world like you came to this University for.
The importance of not spreading oneself too thin is self-evident — it’s best to devote your time and energy into a few organizations and make earnest efforts to connect with others in the organization instead of being so busy you can’t actually get anything accomplished. So, how do you choose what organizations to get involved with? I’d like to offer a modified version of that original adage: Find three organizations that will fulfill you in different ways.
First: an organization to give you experience. It’s not quite the same as money — experience doesn’t pay the bills — but it’s easier to make money with experience under your belt, and what better time to get that experience than while you’re still in college. Whatever it is you’re studying and you intend to do after graduation, do it outside of the classroom as well. Nearly every major has a related organization on campus designed to give students practical experience.
If you’re an engineering major, there’s Engineers Without Borders, Illini Solar Car and the Society for Engineering Mechanics — among dozens of others. If you’re an advertising major, there’s the American Marketing Association, the American Advertising Federation and The Fashion Network. If you’re a journalism major, there’s no better place to get experience than The Daily Illini. Point being, use your time here to get experience doing what you want to do once you’re out.
Second: an organization to get you out of the dorm. While a fitness-centered organization might not be for everyone — and I wouldn’t consider just going to the gym an organization — it’s important to not get bogged down with the daily grind of wake-class-study-eat-sleep-repeat, and make it a point to actually get out every now and then. Find an organization that motivates you to get out the door and meet new people, forge new connections and have new experiences.
This can be anything: an a capella group, a club sport, Greek Life, a book club, even an improv troupe. While I just over explained the importance of getting career-related experience while in college, not everything you do in college has to be related to your career. Have fun, do something. While it’s hard to say at this point how many organizations will be in person during the upcoming semester, as long as you wear a mask and respect other’s personal safety decisions, there will always be a way to get out of the dorm.
Third: an organization to be creative. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a creative person, the human desire to create is something that can’t be denied. When we hunted and gathered, we also drew on cave walls and sculpted figures out of clay. While the economic pressure of getting experience and turning every hobby into a side gig pervades college life, it is possible to find the time to escape all that. And if your other organizations are higher pressure and/or time-consuming, the benefits of a creative outlet will come to fruition in multiple ways. Anything that you do for you is an act of creation, and organizations that help you do that exist just as much as the others.
Of course, these are just guidelines. For some people, one organization can cross off all three aforementioned categories. Leadership positions can add an extra layer to what one can get from each organization as well. The point of all this is to enrich yourself as a person, and get the most out of your time at Illinois. With more than 50,000 students, we’re the eighth largest public university in the country. To delve into a cliche — the opportunities are endless.