By Maddie Sievers
During my time on the University of Illinois campus, I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons from my classes, peers, advisors, and professors. Each of these learning opportunities has helped to shape me into who I am today as a graduating senior. Looking back, I have come a long way and have changed a lot to become my best self! Here are ten of the most important things I’ve learned as an Illinois student that I hope you may be able to learn from, too.
Hard work pays off.
At the end of the day, Illini students work their rear ends off to get where they want to go. U of I has all the tools and resources to make any goal a reality, so it all comes down to how much effort you choose to put in. Work hard enough, and I guarantee good things will come of it – whether it be an awesome job or internship, an executive board position, or a scholarship.
Some people just aren’t worth it.
It’s inevitable that you will encounter people who make you less than your best, happiest self. If you’re lucky, you’ll figure out early during your time as a college student that sometimes you have to admit certain relationships are toxic and need to end. College should be a time when you meet some of your best friends, so don’t put this opportunity to waste!
Learn how to deal with difficult people, they are unavoidable.
Contrary to my last piece of advice, there are certain situations when you can’t get around interacting with people who frustrate you, like coworkers or group project members. My time at the U of I presented me with plenty of instances like this, so my best advice is to just learn how to deal with it. It can be frustrating, but the sooner you learn to pick your battles, the better.
There’s not enough time to do everything on campus, but you can sure try.
UIUC has literally thousands of clubs and organizations. It might seem overwhelming, but it’s important to push your boundaries and try lots of things to see what you like best! You never know, one of them could lead you to an undiscovered passion or help you find your niche on campus.
Learn about anything and everything that interests you.
One of the perks of going to such a large university is that you can take a class on just about anything you can imagine. College is a time of exploration, so don’t be afraid to take some classes that have nothing to do with your major or minor. Looking back on my college career, some of the most memorable classes I took were ones where I learned about subjects that were brand new to me – like Severe and Hazardous Weather – or just fun classes to take – like Intro to Floral Design.
Don’t strive to be as busy as possible.
While it is very important to try out lots of things and have a busy schedule, don’t specifically try to jam-pack your life to the point of having no free time whatsoever. I learned quickly that constantly doing homework, studying for exams, attending meetings, volunteering, or working can negatively impact your mental health. Your health and happiness should always be the number one priority, so regularly take time to evaluate how you spend your time.
Good grades aren’t everything.
Similar to the lesson before this, I learned during my time at UIUC that while good grades are great, they’re not the end-all, be-all to happiness. Always prioritize your mental health, getting a healthy amount of sleep, and eating well.
Health and happiness should come before everything else.
I can’t stress this enough! This is one of the most important things that college taught me.
If you need help, all you have to do is ask.
Another super important lesson I learned during my time on campus is that whatever you need help with, there is someone out there who can lend a hand. More than likely, they’re probably just waiting for you to come ask for help – like TAs and professors at office hours – or are going through the exact same thing and need someone for mutual support.
Take advantage of the Illinois network.
Speaking of asking for help, I’ve learned that Illinois alumni are almost always willing to lend a helping hand to current students. In my experience, they miss Champaign-Urbana and would give anything to reminisce about their college days. Don’t hesitate to ask them about internships, job shadows, or general career advice. Our network is huge, and alumni are notoriously loyal to their alma mater and other Illini.