Finding my place in LAS

Alyssa Shih is an atmospheric sciences major and a philosophy minor in the Class of 2026. On campus, Alyssa can be found on photography assignment for the Daily Illini or organizing events for the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC) and Illinois Student Organization of Meteorology (ISTORM). Aside from a love of atmospheric research, Alyssa is a violinist and does Chinese dance, traditional calligraphy, and book binding in her spare time.

Alyssa ShihU of I was admittedly not my first choice school. As a high school senior, I was one of those students that was sure I would go to school out of state. I got offers from schools out of state as well as an offer to transfer to my top choice school after freshman year, but to my own surprise, it seemed like U of I was the best option for social, academic, and financial reasons.

I started my freshman year fully expecting to spend it taking core classes before transferring out, but students I talked to that had turned down the offer gave me the advice to still live the Illini life to the fullest. One friend told me that "you might actually have ended up where you’re supposed to be."

I kept my mind open to all the opportunities there are at a school like this. It seemed like there really was a space to get involved in anything. I joined the meteorology RSO. I started writing for the Daily Illini. I became one of the students that played the chimes in Altgeld Hall. I made friends. On the academic side, I started doing research and taking my major classes with some of the top scientists in my field. I signed up for classes that had nothing to do with my course of study but were just interesting to me. When else in life would I get this amount of opportunity?

Of course, I still had to actually decide what I was going to do, so I visited the other school. Students at the other school, while nice and welcoming, didn’t have the same pride and dedication that Illinois students have. All the Illini I talked to wanted me to stay but genuinely cared about me and wanted me to do what felt right, making themselves available for all of my questions. They were proud of being a U of I student, but that pride wasn’t the reason why they came here.

I ultimately decided to stay here at U of I and haven’t looked back since. I realized just how much of a powerhouse U of I and my own department are. In just two years I have had experiences I never would have expected when I started. I have been able to support sustainability through allocation of the Illinois Green Fund. I recorded a track on the Altgeld Chimes CD and visited the University of Michigan with the Altgeld Ringers to play their bell towers. I do research and have presented at a national conference. I have met people with so many stories to tell and taken classes that change the way I think. It took the effort of getting involved, but I have found that same pride in myself for being a U of I student because of all the opportunities there are here and the people that make Illinois vibrant.

As I look back on my college experience so far and my attempt to live the Illini life to the fullest, I can not help but agree that I did really end up where I am supposed to be.

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Alyssa Shih