If you aren't too shy to find your way around, there are opportunities to be uncovered to explore your interests. And if you are one to venture out confidently into the unknown, you can place yourself in fascinating classes with professors who are engaging, articulate and eager to share their expertise and hear yours. You can find honest and good friends. You can learn about anything you want - the Yiddish language, aliens and our society, samurai in Japan. And if you hook up with the right people (a professor from your favorite class, a graduate student in your major) they might just hand you the keys to some secret door leading to the best chance of your young life. Scholarships, fellowships, research, travel and experiences alongside people you thought you would never meet can all be yours if you use your free time to dig in the right places.
It is so easy to fall into a routine of classes + dinner + study (or not study) + sleep. To not attend that lecture by escaped North Koreans because it's a Wednesday and you feel too full to leave your room. To opt out of a visit to the apple orchard because none of your friends are going. But it is these experiences that will make college more than school, but a time that is worth your while.
It is also difficult to navigate the unpublished secrets of squeezing the most juice out of the university. Without at least some of these, you're U of I experience is almost certainly destined to become a fog of routine and frustration at the system. The teachers that give the best lectures, the TAs who are most warm and helpful, the gen eds that are a pile of busy work and the ones not to be missed - ratemyprofessors.com alone won't help you here. You need a special connection - big "brothers" or "sisters" in your major, friends from your club, or asking a professor whose class you enjoyed about similar courses. And unless you put on a brave face and march into the wilderness, you can easily waste your four years on cheap beer and too much sleep.
Yes, I am someone who started out in a bad place: every day was the same, and when I talked to my parents school was always "OK" or "the same." But I'm starting to crawl out of my box and look for ways to get involved in things I'm interested in, and I'm seeing that for the student that doesn't give up, there is a valuable experience to be had here.
The night life is Spent in a Bar
Favorite class is EALC 250 - Introduction to Japanese Culture
Favorite professor is Brian Ruppert