An open letter to graduate students about school spirit

Dear hypothetical graduate student,

I know it’s the middle of the semester; you’re tired, behind and overworked. I know you probably have a pile of readings you never even started, a mountain of research you’re attempting to avoid and a calendar so packed you avoid looking at it. It’s questionable when was the last time you had a decent meal, a shower or a full night’s sleep.

I’m there myself, and it’s not very pretty. But I’m here to remind you of one more thing that you should be doing with your life. Did you know that there is a gigantic campus outside of the four walls you’re confined in every day? Or that there are quads and fields and tennis courts? Or that you can attend sporting events at all these locations for free or reduced prices?

You’re at a Big Ten school for your graduate education, and with that comes Big Ten athletics right in front of you. We’re talking volleyball, football, basketball and even gymnastics — teams that have some of the best athletes in the nation, athletes who can realistically make it big. Yes there’s also the ones that will never make it big, too, but that’s life.

It’s OK to step out of that graduate student bubble and show a little school spirit once in a while. Attend a football game — and not just a tailgate. Or take a moment to read about the sporting events on campus. You could go to a swim meet, a cross country meet, even a tennis match. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you could even join Illini Pride, the student fan organization for Illini athletics.

I know you have an excuse list a mile long: There are a million other things you could be doing. (But really, how much time do you spend on NetFlix a day?) You just don’t care. (That doesn’t mean it can’t help to enter the sunlight every once in a while.) Your loyalty is with your undergraduate University. (You live in the cornfields now, get over it.) You’ve never been a sports person. (It’s never too late to give something a try.) You’re too old for this. (I’m not saying you have to start tailgating at six in the morning, though cheers if you do.) Undergraduates scare you. (It’s OK, you don’t have to sit by them.)

The list can go on and on, but face the facts. Not that much harm will be done by taking a few hours off and attending a football game once in a while. If anything, attending a sporting event will be something you can cross off your bucket list. Or maybe you’ll find a passion you never knew you had and a way to ease the constant stress of grad school. Maybe you’ll be the next person who paints up in orange for every game and never misses an event.

Illinois sports may not always have the best teams or athletes, but there is a long-standing history of success and tradition. This is your chance to be a part of that tradition. There are 19 Division I teams here, in addition to more than 70 listed athletic and recreation activities on campus.

Graduate students make up roughly a fourth of the student population at Illinois. It’s not just the undergraduates’ jobs to show support for their University; you can pick up some of the slack.

Graduate school may only be one, or two or five years of your life. Don’t let it be a time where you missed out on every opportunity to see the outside world because you spent every hour of every weekend holed up in your lab.

Let’s face it: a full night’s sleep is never going to happen anyway.



Emily is a graduate student in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @EmilyBayci.