I am officially an alumna of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign! I received my B.A. in Creative Writing Saturday night in a beautiful ceremony at Smith Hall. As a first generation college student, this is a pretty big deal for me and my family. I got a job offer to work for a creative video advertising agency out in Hollywood, CA, and I have a few more weeks at my current apartment before I make an epic 21-hour drive across the country to begin a life out on the West Coast.
Here are a few things that I’ve come to realize over commencement weekend:
- You’re not the same person who attended convocation
- You made lifelong friends and/or found your significant other here
- It’s hard saying goodbye to professors, faculty, and advisors
- All your mistakes, all the “what-ifs” don’t matter anymore
- Change is a good thing
It’s weird being done with undergrad. I remember not wanting to attend convocation the first week of college because I couldn’t stand large crowds and I just felt nervous to walk by myself with no one I knew. Today, I am so glad that I did. I’m so glad I got out of that shell and just went for it. Not only did I meet some friends there who are still in my life, but that’s how I met my best friend and fiance. Yes, I met my future husband husking corn for the 2012 Guinness Record. You just don’t expect these little things to have a profound impact on you! I guess, #ILLINILOVE is a thing.
It’s also hard knowing I have to leave this place I made my home for the past four years. The people you meet at this time in your life change you. You learn to be responsible, forgiving, and you understand you can’t see them all the time because of other obligations. I think that’s the moment where you truly grow up and begin to appreciate those around you. Anyway, my best friend served in the Marines, and then enrolled to the English department’s Creative Writing program because he wanted to share his story and passion for fiction writing with the rest of the world. We’ve had so many workshops and classes together, and I’m sad that’s coming to an end, but we learned so much about ourselves, our craft, and how to be a better person addressing constructive criticism. He’s expected to join the MFA program out in Purdue in the fall. So proud of him!
Saying goodbye to the professors in your life is strangely difficult too. My Creative Writing professors took so much time out of their schedules to meet with me on side projects and for pitching advice my way on MFA programs. You hear about their lives, their current writing projects, and they become more of a mentor than just an instructor. They invest in your ideas, if you’re invested in challenging yourself. That’s what’s so incredible about my time here as a student; I didn’t just feel like a number, I shared an overwhelmingly creative space with passionate folks.
Sometimes, I find myself regretting not joining a certain RSO (Registered Student Organization) I expressed interest at first on Quad Day and didn’t bother to pursue, or regret on the fall outs of a few friends from my residence hall days. Looking back now, things just sort of work out in the end. I completed college working two jobs most of my undergrad career to support myself financially and I maintained a high GPA, volunteered when I could, and completed my assignments with pride. I’m a better writer now taking risks in all sorts of experiences—from prose to marketing writing—and that’s what makes me feel like a better writer and person today. Even as a socially anxious person, I signed up to be a campus tour guide! How daring that was.
I don’t know if I’ll always enjoy writing, and I don’t know if I’ll stay in the same career path all my life. Heck, I don’t know if I’ll stay in the LA area my entire life. All I know is that I’m ready to welcome change, an entry-level writing career, and that I’ll always be a bit nostalgic about my days here. These were my formative years, my time and place to experiment and fess up if I didn’t know anything. Now, I better brush up on the Chicago Manual of Style before my first day of work 😉
Thanks for reading and following my blog. I hope my posts provided comfort for first-generation students seeking to enroll in college!