Students find reasons for optimism during a difficult semester

Even in the midst of a difficult semester brought on by COVID-19, students in the College of LAS found reasons for optimism: a favorite class, an amazing professor, the strength of the Illini community, or a great internship opportunity. Their resilience and perspective inspire us all to look forward to brighter days in 2021.


Read below for more stories of optimism and resilience from LAS students.


Katrina, Psychology & Global Studies

Although this semester has been nothing short of stressful and overwhelming, I always looked forward to my weekly lab meetings with my psychology lab, as it was a great space to discuss our anxieties in regards to the pandemic, the election, and to academia as a whole. I also looked forward to meeting with a graduate student from that lab every week to discuss a literature review we were working on. It was so great learning from her experiences, and listening to all the advice she had to give in regards to applying to graduate school, as well as pursuing a career in academia. 

Ailaa, Communication

One source of genuine life and optimism that I have found this semester is the beautiful campus we sit on. I have grown to appreciate just how large the UIUC campus is and how to take advantage of it this semester. I learned quickly that things can change in a blink of an eye, and because of that, I need to utilize all nice weather days to walk around campus.

With online courses, I have had a little extra time to go on daily walks and runs. When I do this, I try to take a little different route each time so I see a new part of campus. Taking some alone time to go on walks and runs allowed me time to reflect on this year so far, especially classes and this semester. During this time I call family, listen to podcasts, or usually just listen to the campus life and think about the world around me.  This has made me feel grounded and feel a sense of normalcy amid the pandemic.

Rebecca, Spanish Education

This semester has been very challenging for all students at the University of Illinois. However, I think there are little things that we can take joy in and help us feel better during these difficult times. I am thankful to be at a university that offers COVID-19 testing because it has allowed me to continue to participate on the Velocity Dance Team. This year, I am the president of the team, and every Tuesday I look forward to practice so that I can see my friends in a safe manner. These practices allow me the opportunity to dance and workout safely to give myself a break from the stresses of the week. I am able to express my creativity by choreographing dances for my team and practice my leadership skills as I teach them the dance moves. This team has made this semester so much easier for me as I know that the girls are always there for me and we are able to support each other through all the hard times. I think that the ability to still participate in student organizations on campus has allowed students to feel as though they are not alone and has provided us with a chance to make new friends, which can be challenging right now. I have even talked with some of the freshmen on the team who've expressed their gratitude for the fact that this team has allowed them to feel more welcome and comfortable as a first-year on this campus. Therefore, being a part of the Velocity Dance Team has definitely been a highlight of my semester and the thing that has kept me going when I am feeling down.  

Sharon, Economics

This semester has been quite an interesting semester with classes transitioning online and face to face interaction with friends, colleagues, and professors significantly decreasing. Between making the difficult choice to live at home this semester and missing being on campus, my motivation to keep pushing forward came from an unlikely source. I had decided to take on the position of a Student Intern for LAS 100, a course that strives to help international students transition to college life. I had never taken the class even though I am an international student myself, but I do remember how overwhelming the first few weeks of college were when I was trying to adjust to new surroundings and overcome a major time zone difference. During my internship I was assigned to my group of students and led discussions in groups that were filled with individuals expressing their thoughts about the world, education, and pressing issues that need to be fixed. Teaching the class has by far been one of my high points this semester as I was able to interact with numerous individuals who were starting off their college life and were passionate about making their ideas known. Being able to aid them in their transition to college life was extremely fulfilling as I was able to give back to my community in the small way I could. I know the start of my college experience was defined by the positive encouragement I received from others who had already walked in my shoes, and being able to share my advice as an upperclassman was a remarkable moment as it helped me realize how much I had learned about the U of I community, and how attached I have become to the place I call home.

Isaiah, Biochemistry

This summer, we as students knew that this semester would look much different than what we were used to seeing on campus, especially with many more online and hybrid classes compared to in-person. Wanting some sense of normalcy, when I was redesigning my schedule, I wanted to try getting as many in-person sections for classes as I could because I knew I learned best, as many do, in-person. I was able to get an in-person discussion for my organic chemistry class, but the in-person activity that I look forward to the most is the research lab I am a part of starting this fall semester.  

I had been waiting to start in my research lab since this past March right before the onset of the pandemic, but thanks to the university’s protocol with testing, I was able to start in my lab this fall. My lab is a biochemistry lab that is studying the protein Azurin among others and how it can have electrochemical potential when combined with certain metals. I get to work in the lab on weekends and have been getting hands-on training in the lab while working with a post-doc and grad student. I am really thankful for this and am hoping this experience will help me land another research internship for the summer of 2021! 

Kevin, Biochemistry

Having all of my classes fully online this semester has been a challenging transition, but one thing I am thankful for is that I was able to continue working in Dr. Bo Wang’s research lab this fall. I hadn't worked in his research lab since last spring because of the pandemic, so I was very eager to get back into the lab and start performing experiments again! Being able to go in the lab each week and conduct experiments with mice and liver cancer cells has been great to keep me motivated throughout this semester!

Shreya, Biology

Despite there being many struggles for many students this semester, there were different facets of my classes that I really liked. My highlight of the semester was the EMT class I took through Illini EMS. Every week I had lecture and lab where I learned the basics on how to be an Emergency Medical Technician. There were lots of hands-on activities that helped me learn so much, and I also made a lot of friends with people in my class. The practicals were nerve-wracking, but in the moment, I actually really enjoyed working through practice scenes. I also got the opportunity to do clinicals in the Emergency department and in the ambulance, which was an amazing experience. It’s a very rigorous course, but I am so glad I am taking it!

Alexa, English

As this hard semester goes by, I am very thankful for the wonderful texts which the English professors in Illinois incorporate into their classes. I love reading and it is something that allows me to escape reality which is something that is much needed this semester as we go through these hard times. 

I always looked forward to reading the texts in my English classes and even getting recommendations from my English professors. I look forward to this and to discussing these works and it has honestly help me as I make my way through this tough semester and times. I am very thankful for this and feel beyond proud to be an Illini this fall.