California to Illinois

Hi everyone! I wanted to write a post in response to one of the comments my friend Alec received on his post “Choosing the School for YOU”:

“I am at the deciding point and will be visiting the campus on 4/8 for Admitted Student Day. I am from the San Francisco Bay Area in California. I would love to hear from other students from California about their Illinois experiences and why they have chosen a school far away from home. What is the best way to connect with some of these students?”

I happen to be from the Bay Area as well, so I thought I’d take a crack at answering this. I apologize in advance for the length, but I really want to address all aspects of this question. I hope this post is helpful to any of you out-of-state or even international students considering coming to Illinois!

I give a brief overview of my motivations for choosing Illinois in my bio, but upon further reflection, I thought I’d add a few more things on the topic of being far from home:

  • A large part of choosing Illinois was this expectation of being physically removed from everything I was used to yet still having a wonderful support system. Living in a college town is so unique because you get to feel like a student 100% of the time. Moving from the hectic Bay Area to the cornfields of the Midwest seemed intimidating at first, but I actually think the sense of isolation has some productive outcomes. There’s a huge sense of community here on campus, and I feel like I’ve been able to invest in relationships and my education more thoroughly because there are fewer distractions.
photo from U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report

  • Despite the fact that our campus might seem like it’s in the middle of nowhere, we are a large public research university with a global presence. Students and faculty across all departments are doing some really cool things, and being a student here means you have access to it all. For example, Research Park in Champaign is home to over 100 technology-based companies, from big names like Yahoo! to startup companies born from the university’s own tech incubator. These companies are always looking to hire and collaborate with Illinois students and entrepreneurs. As a Silicon Valley native, I was blown away by the fact that a place like Champaign is such a tech powerhouse, and that even an undergraduate student like myself has exclusive access to these learning opportunities.

Here’s a quick video on Research Park if you’re interested:

So those are a few reasons why I chose Illinois, but if that’s not compelling enough, here are literally 200 more reasons why you should consider becoming an Illini.

To answer the second part of the question, there are a couple of things I did to get in touch with other admitted students from my area:

  • From what I recall, someone created a separate Facebook page for admitted students from the Bay Area/California, and we all got to know each other through that. Keep an eye out for any social media groups or take the initiative and make your own! It’s always nice to see a few familiar faces your first week on campus, and it might be a useful resource to coordinate housing and travel plans down the line.
  • Reach out to any current Illinois students who graduated from your high school. Talking to them is probably your best shot at getting candid feedback about their experiences. Not too many people from my high school had come here before, so I relied on contacting friends of friends.
  • You’re bound to meet more California students during your first year—there are so many of us here! I’ve met other Bay Area natives through clubs I’ve joined, classes I’ve taken, and random events I’ve gone to. You’d be surprised how quickly you’ll form your own community here.

Hopefully this was helpful—if any of you have more questions about my experience at Illinois, feel free to comment and ask! I’m always happy to answer them. In the past, I’ve written about a Californian’s thoughts on Illinois weather, as well as some personal reflections on my college decision process, so check those out as well if you’re interested. 🙂


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