Freedom, independence crucial to the college experience

Overwhelming. That would probably be the best word to describe my first five weeks here at the University as a freshman. Fun, most definitely, but overwhelming all the same. Stress levels went into overdrive as classes, the social scene and the tight confines of my dorm room all hit at the same time.

But what I found most overwhelming on the streets of Champaign-Urbana was freedom.

It’s now up to me whether I go out or stay in. Whether I choose to continue going to church (I do), or whether I choose to eat healthy (sometimes) is all up to me. Class is optional, and the direction of my future is entirely my choice.

I still get great advice and support from friends, family and the fantastic staff in the College of Business, but the responsibility from where I go from here is all mine.

This freedom is a scary concept. It brings with it the likelihood of failure and the possibility that I won’t make the right choice in every situation. I certainly don’t like the chance of screwing up. But that’s how it is, and it’s been hard to adjust.

Of course, there’s always the ability to mess up, and there always has been. Before college, and certainly in high school, we all did things we regretted. But now the margin for error has shrunk, and the stakes are much greater. That’s what stressed me out.

Now, five weeks in, I’m feeling much better about this new experience. And I’ve learned that it does get better. The college life doesn’t have anywhere else to go but up from the sweltering confusion that struck on move-in day.

What made it get better was a realization that these newfound freedoms at my disposal allowed me to be me.

The liberty that comes with the college experience on the best campus in the state is the means to an end: whatever end is best for me. If that’s a triple major in international business, biology and political science, while still being involved in organizations on campus and supporting the Fighting Illini, then I can do it.

The freedom here allows us to explore and push past the boundaries that held us back in the past.

If there is anything that I have learned in professor Bob Murphy’s calculus class, it’s that some limits do exist. But that doesn’t mean they’re defined.

If the limit of where you’re coming from doesn’t come close to where I’m headed, then there is nothing holding both of us back. You can be successful your way, and I can try out my own path. I would love to go into the societal math, but that’s for another time.

Everyone’s limits and abilities, now and in the future, are going to be different. And it is not for me or anybody else to tell you what yours are. This collegiate experience is for you to discover for yourself what yours are and who you are. You do that through your free choices.

Freedom is the collegiate ideal for this reason. The decisions that define us are much broader in scope than solely major ones. These choices impact the rest of our lives.

We are the collegial collegiate youth. We don’t have to rely on the judgment calls of others, and why should we? All of us are at a time in our lives where we have the most personal liberty that we may have ever experienced. At this University, we are embarking upon our future of newfound rights and responsibilities; free to blaze our own path, free to fail and succeed. And through that, we are free to become who we are meant to be. The choices are our own and not anybody else’s to make.

That’s how it should be.

_Dylan is a freshman in Business. He can be reached at [email protected]_