As I embark on my senior year here at Illinois, I can’t help but reflect on the wild journey I’ve had thus far. Freshman year was completely normal, and so was sophomore year, for the most part. Second semester sophomore year, we were sent home due to the pandemic. Just as I was finding my way and getting into the groove at UIUC, our whole lives were upended. I didn’t step foot in a classroom again until this semester, and man, it has me feeling nostalgic. Here’s a few things I wish I could have told myself if I only knew the circumstances we would be put under. I couldn’t see the future, but I hope I could effect someone else’s here at UIUC.
Dear freshman-year Lauren…
Do NOT miss class.
Don’t oversleep. Get to class early. Not only does attendance matter, but those moments spent in the classrooms, auditoriums, halls, and on the quad are more precious than you could ever imagine. During the pandemic, I found myself longing for a chance to walk to class on the quad on a fall day. Backpack on, earbuds in, coffee in hand. I missed taking notes. I missed my own handwriting in a spiral notebook. Online school had launched me into a digital world where everything was on my computer. I longed for the slight struggle it takes to balance your notebook and laptop on those tiny auditorium desks. Go to class, be present in the moment. You’ll miss this.
Physical and mental health should be a priority.
Those late-nights spent studying, or quick and cheap unhealthy meals don’t seem so bad in the moment. The truth is, this stuff can really add up and take a toll on physical and mental health. Remember that nothing is worth sacrificing a portion of your physical and mental health. Go for that walk, you can study afterwards. Go to bed, you’re too tired to learn any more. The dining hall will taste so much better than that cup-o-noodles you’re eyeing now.
Not everyone will become your bestie, but every relationship is unique and important.
You’re going to meet so many people here. Not everyone will become your best friend, you may never even text them, but every interaction and relationship could be special. Take interest in the fact that you’re on a campus with tens of thousands of unique individuals. You never know what could come from what seems like a harmless conversation in class. When the pandemic separated us all from each other, I missed more than my friends. I missed everyone. I missed meeting new classmates each semester, and striking up conversations with strangers. While on your journey, be mindful of your fellow travelers.