By Aye-Oritse Ikomi (The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)
So, I just wrote a really long post and accidentally deleted it so apologies but I am having to write a condensed version!
I have been at UIUC for two months now! I can’t believe it’s been so long! It’s gone so quickly, but also I feel like I’ve been here forever!
For any prospective students who are thinking about coming, I am going to write a bit about the accommodation. I am living in Hopkins Hall in the Ikenberry Commons, which is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made here. It’s very sociable, a 10 minute walk from the Quad where classes are and it has one of the best dining halls.
Hopkins is a great option as it is a transfer cluster, meaning everyone has either transferred from a different American university or are international students. This is great because everyone’s new, looking for new friends, but aren’t first year students (also known as freshmen – no offence to freshmen!). So if you can, I’d reccommend living here. I’ve made some great friends here on my floor! Oh, and the whole roommate thing is really not as bad as you think it’s going to be! Another great thing is that the Ike (Ikenberry Commons) is right next to the ice rink and the ARC (Activities and Recreation Centre) which is home to two swimming pools, an indoor running track, squash, badminton, basketball and volleyball courts, a sauna, dance studios and four floors worth of gym equipment. ALL FOR FREE!
The workload is high! This is one of the best public universities in the States and they make you work for it. Participation and attendance is recorded and counts towards your final grades, and it’s worth doing all your reading or you risk being shamed in front of the whole class (this hasn’t happened to me yet thankfully!). Once you’re used to it, it’s actually fun being in classes where people are passionate and voice their opinion; I even put my hand up from time to time.
I’ve taken a few trips to Chicago now, the closest cosmopolitan city, and am confident in saying it’s one of the nicest cities I’ve ever visited. The city is beautiful, the people are friendly, it has great shops, cool architecture and it’s own beaches! Best of all, almost all the students are from Chicago and it’s suburbs, so when you go you’re basically guaranteed free accommodation (Midwesterners are very hospitable and wonderful people!).
Unlike Manchester, (sorry Manchester) school spirit is huge here. When you walk across the Quad you’re greeted by a sea of orange and blue; tops, jumpers, umbrellas, water bottles, trainers, even the soap dispensers are emblazed with the Fighting Illini I! And it’s contagious… I am now the proud owner of my own assortment of Illinois gear! Sports is huge and the stadiums are incredible, especially if you sit in the student section for American football games.
So far, I’ve been so busy I’ve not had the chance to get homesick, and I think having a job has been great for that. I’m working for University catering, which hosts events such as weddings and conferences. I’ve made lots of friends, it’s easy and really flexible. Also, if you have a Netflix account, it switches to the American version when you come here, which is awesome – every show your heart could desire! If you miss British shows, you can dowload an app called Zenmate onto Google Chrome which changes your location so that you can watch 4od and iPlayer! (Credit to Ellie Cook for that info.)
Homecoming, Halloween and Thanksgiving are coming up, so I’m preparing myself for a culture shock there. Halloween falls on a Friday this year, so the whole weekend (and apparently the weekend before) have been dedicated to it. Three costumes at the ready!
Finally, the most important thing to know about this state: the weather here is insane. One day you’re bundled up in 10 layers and a coat, the next it’s 28 degrees! So pack wisely and be prepared to mix and match!