I think this TikTok video perfectly captures my thoughts before starting at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the fall of 2018. To be honest, I was scared and excited at the same time. I was excited to start a new chapter in my life by finally being an “adult.” But at the same time, I was scared because I did not know if I would fit in. As I started to become adjusted to my small dorm room, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and try to meet as many people as possible during my freshman year.
The first thing I did was attend Quad Day to see what type of RSOs are on campus. Like any student, I signed my name up for everything to get free stuff. But one RSO that stood out was Illini Bhangra, a South Asian competitive dance team based on the Bhangra dance style. Ever since I was in high school, I always loved to dance, and joining this team would be an opportunity to develop my skills as a dancer and get to know more people on campus.
Sure enough, I was welcomed with open arms. Slowly, I started to open up to the group through dance. We would often have opportunities to bond, which included watching the last season of Game of Thrones as a team. Over time, not only did I become a good dancer, but I also found a family on campus.
Ultimately, the highlight of my freshman year was dancing at Bhangra Blowout, our final competition in Washington DC. Who would have thought that a freshman would be dancing with veteran dancers on the team!
But even before coming to campus, I knew a few people from back home who went to UIUC through BAPS, a Hindu social-spiritual organization. Interestingly enough, they had a student organization to bring students together to learn more about the Hindu and Swaminarayan way of life, called the BAPS Campus Fellowship.
We would often meet up at someone’s apartment, make dinner, and play a few games to take our minds off of school. The upperclassmen would take interest in my education and offer advice based on their experience. They would always be willing to give us rides and help us wherever they could. The level of genuine care was what touched me the most.
Each year, the BAPS Campus Fellowship puts on a Campus Diwali Celebration for all to join. I remember the campus lead of the organization asking for my help. Personally, I did not know if I could do it, but with the help of the entire campus family, we pulled off an amazing Diwali celebration. Throughout the year, each student played a vital role in contributing to the entirety of the organization.
Throughout the last two years of college, I joined various clubs, interacted with people from different backgrounds, and used Gies College of Business as a resource to drive my future opportunities. In every business class, I was forced to work with other students of various backgrounds on different projects. Whether it be the capstone project for BUS 101 (Business Dynamics), working on a project using Python for BADM 211 (Business Analytics II) or case assignments for my accounting classes, working in teams was not only valued but a necessity to do well in the class. This is one of the many reasons why the Gies community is so tightly knit together. By working closely with your peers, you learn various skills from each other and learn the importance of working as one unit. This is why Gies is one of the greatest communities that I have found on campus.
I know what you might be thinking, “This is all great, but what can I do as a freshman?” Here’s my advice:
- Find a community that resonates with your values.
- Look at different RSOs, and reach out to them to learn more.
- Use Gies Groups – our online community for Gies Business students – to connect with business RSO’s and fraternities.
- Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. If you don’t feel like you are a good fit, at least you tried!
- Build strong relationships with your peers in similar classes.
Overall, be open to new experiences, people, and relationships. College is all about making new and unique experiences, so make the most of it while you are at one of the best colleges in the world!
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