As a moderately shy person, I have never been drawn to networking events nor any kind of group activity. This does not mean I’m not a people-person; I just don’t necessarily like “mingling.”
However, this shyness has not at all kept me from finding many ways to be involved here at UIC. From a pre-professional fraternity, LAS Undergraduate Research Initiative (LASURI) research, campus ministry, working at the Pavilion to working for the Provost — I have, somewhat by accident, come to know quite a bit about getting involved on campus.
Here’s a list of the top five things I have learned from being involved on campus, and why they are important to know:
I spent a good amount of my Saturday nights in my freshman year sweeping up popcorn with other students in the upper sections of the Pavilion after concerts and basketball games. Now as an office assistant in another department, I work primarily with the administrators and faculty. Through the Honors College I am involved in the process behind first-year success. By working in such diverse settings, I now understand how all aspects of the university are so important to ensuring I am able to get an education.
There are so many opportunities to meet like-minded peers on campus. But I so deeply appreciate the ability I have to meet so many people different from myself. UIC is such a diverse campus, so involving myself in multiple organizations, joining every volunteering event offered, and doing research has taught me how to empathize and connect with people from all walks of life. Only on a college campus do we have the chance to meet so many different people in one place.
- What I actually want to do?
Being involved in an organization, volunteering, interning, and more will teach you about yourself in a way that academics cannot. Through trying out various leadership positions, I realized that I am incredibly indecisive. I realized that I don’t want to be a lawyer. Research and talking to various faculty taught me that I absolutely love writing.
- I have limitations
Speaking of indecisiveness, joining such a variety of organizations has taught me how important it is to know my limits. I decided to leave my fraternity at the end of my sophomore year because I no longer felt passionate about it, and I was overwhelmed. And you know, what? It was totally fine. College is about trying new things, and it’s OK to give things up. Sometimes college can present so many opportunities that it is hard to say no. I have definitely learned, at times the hard way, how to say no.
- College is so much more than coursework
Besides internships, there are so so many fun and unique opportunities on campus to gain valuable experience. I have learned about myself and my aspirations so much more in the time spent outside of class, on campus. The best way to get involved? Ask around! Ask friends, go to the involvement fairs, talk to classmates. Talk to your advisers. I ardently love all five of my advisers. With that, apply for everything that interests you! It’s better, in my opinion, to have to turn down one opportunity in order to take another wonderful opportunity.
In conclusion, don’t be afraid to try something new and uncomfortable if it is compelling to you. You might meet your best friends, you might find a sense of belonging, or you might discover a new and more beautiful life ambition that you never realized you had; you never know until you try.
Abigail Floresca is a junior majoring in criminology, law and justice with a minor in professional writing. Writing is how she connects, processes, expresses and relates to the rest of the world. Increasingly aware of the power of storytelling in bringing about change and reform, Abigail earnestly seeks to find a way to incorporate a perfect blend of writing and social work within the criminal justice system — she dreams of bringing about a positive change, one story at a time. At UIC, she is involved in campus ministry; conducts research with the criminology, law and justice department; interns with the Chicago Justice Project, and loves exploring new places downtown.