Kate Daumen is a junior studying communication in the College of LAS at the University of Illinois.
Over the course of my now three-year journey at the U of I, I've grown in a number of ways. Here are three that come to mind most readily.
1. I've learned to be independent and make my own decisions.
It was like a bubble popped once my parents drove away after moving me into my dorm. After realizing my parents no longer were involved in my decision making, it was terrifying but also freeing. You think you’re ready to be on your own, and then you’re at a large, new place surrounded by other adults, some who know what they’re doing and some who are just as terrified as you. It was my first time paying bills and making a budget for spending. After a few too many cookies were bought at one time, I learned pretty quickly how to "adult." At college, you’re pushed to do tasks independently—for example, running an event on your own. I was given the responsibility to run an event for my sorority all alone and, at first, I instantly thought I couldn't do it. But then I thought to myself, "I am already doing all these other things independently, I definitely can accomplish this task."
2. I have become more confident.
Since starting at Illinois, I have become a more confident person. At first, I didn't have the courage to talk to my professors or ask them for help because I thought they would turn me down. Once I started asking questions and going to office hours, I realized that they are here to support you, not hinder you.
My advisors have also helped me gain confidence in what I want to do in life. For the longest time, I was not confident in what I wanted to do in the future. I knew I wanted to work one-on-one with others but didn’t know what jobs entailed that. My advisors even gave me the confidence to become a peer intern, helping others find their place here at Illinois. Gaining friends here was overwhelming at first—it's a university with 40,000+ students, so I had no idea where to start. But once I realized everyone my age was in the same boat, it made that adjustment far easier.
3. I’ve learned when to take a break.
In high school, I was an all-around student: a varsity athlete, on the honor roll, and involved in various clubs. It was very difficult to take a break and manage stress. When I wasn’t at practice, I was at a club meeting or I was studying and constantly stressing about keeping my straight A’s. Now that I am in college, things are different. I purposefully took things slow and focused on school first, giving me time to take breaks and socialize with friends. Once I was able to balance that schedule, I got more involved on campus, joining a sorority and the Illini Union board. I even took some stress management classes here at Illinois, and I still use those strategies today. Now, when things start to get overwhelming, I don’t just let it escalate anymore; I have the power to stop what I'm doing and relax. Of course, I still worry about getting good grades, but I know now that it is OK to give myself a break once in a while and not be so worried about everything.
When you first start college, it can be a very intimidating thing. You’re stepping into a world where you have to learn to be on your own. But Illinois is a great place to learn how to navigate the world, and it will help shape you into the person you want to be.