Recently, the Winter Olympics came and went. While the games were on, the Illini Union Courtyard played the Olympics every day on a giant projector screen. Each time I visited the Courtyard, I saw a large group of people watching. Whether it was curling, skiing, hockey, or any other sport, the students were engaged. Even curling, a sport that probably only gets screen time in the United States every four years, had a bunch of Illini on the edge of their seats!
This sight made me think about all the times that I have seen Illinois students gather together around common interests. On Quad Day each semester, students’ enthusiasm for taking part in activities with others is on full display. Each amazing organization created by students is a testament to what makes our student body great. It’s awe-inspiring that thousands of people from diverse backgrounds can accomplish such amazing things together.
Seeing students at the Illini Union enjoying curling and other sports rang so true to what I believe is a core strength of our university. Being active in a community that seeks to involve everyone makes learning and growing as an individual such an amazing experience. Some might say that Illinois is a large university, and they are right. I happen to believe this is one of our strengths. The ability to find others who love what you love and care about the same things you care about makes every day an adventure. It makes every day of college so valuable.
When classes end for the day, the sun goes down, and the moon comes up over the Quad, Illinois students never stop learning. The next learning experience of the day is spent with others. Four years at Illinois can be so much more than your two or three classes in a day. It can be whatever you want it to be when you choose to get involved.
Finding the people who share your interests and wish to share an exploration about those same topics will be unforgettable at the end of it all. Don’t be afraid to start a star-gazing club, an RSO based on watching Jeopardy, collecting rocks, knitting sweaters, or anything else your heart desires. Your four years at Illinois will only become more special. I’m sure someone else will be right there ready to go on that journey with you.