out of state student

So, Like, Why Are You Here?

It's not easy feeling welcome as an out-of-state student, but not for the reasons you might think.


Illinoians, your state is pretty cool. Stop selling yourself short! Chicago aside (that would be its own article -- ever since I visited the major cities of our country, I've preferred Chicago over NYC and LA), you're the Land of Lincoln, rich with history, and full of pretty tasty corn. But best of all, you've got some of the best universities in the Midwest, best in the nation in many categories.

So why are people so shocked when they hear I'm from California, and I chose to come here?

A little about me: I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. My mom was a local, my dad grew up in St. Louis and moved out west to go to Stanford for grad school. I adore my state (I'm getting a tattoo inspired by the flag soon!) so yeah, why *would* I leave? Why would I go to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign? Why didn't I just go to a school in California?

Well, for one, the top schools are pretty brutal to get into, and they tend to prioritize out-of-state and international students, often for financial reasons. Many universities do this, and that's fine! I think it's great to increase the diversity of campuses and unite people from many backgrounds. That said, it doesn't make things easy for Californian students. I was admitted to some excellent California schools, but not the ones I was truly hoping for.

Meanwhile, the magic I felt when I visited UIUC was always in the back of my head. Everyone was so welcoming despite it being such a large school, and I continually saw it on lists of underrated schools in the nation. The beliefs and values of the community were very similar to those that I loved most about my home. I was very impressed with the psychology department (my major). I remember when I ran outside of my physics class senior year, freaking out because I got the email, "You're an Illini!" My teacher even gave me the rest of class off to call my family and celebrate.

After this exciting experience back home, I had no idea that my classmates would be so shocked to hear I was from California.

The questions I'm always asked haunt me. "Why are you here? Isn't California so great? Don't you miss how sunny it is every day?" Rarely do people ask me why I chose this school, the way people from California do. I want to talk about how much I love UIUC and what brought me to this school and not have to explain that, no, the entire state of California is not sunny every single day, yes I have seen snow before, no I don't go to In-N-Out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I get it: people aren't setting out to make me feel unwelcome. They're just curious. But a lot of times, I leave that interaction feeling like I don't belong here. Meeting a fellow out-of-state student or an international student from a nation that is less represented at our school is a breath of fresh air. I feel like I've made an instant friend. We laugh about the kinds of questions we receive, and how uncomfortable it is to have to explain what should be fairly simple: we came here because we like the school, just like in-state students.

So, in-state students, I have one thing to ask if you want to help make your out-of-state and international classmates feel more welcome at your school. Next time you run into one of us, give us a chance to tell our stories. Try to refrain from making assumptions about our home state or country. Focus on our similarities rather than our differences. Recognize that the fact we chose to join your community is a compliment! We are here for the exact same reasons you are: to learn, make friends, and forge a path for the rest of our lives.

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To The Senior Graduating High School In A Month

"What feels like the end, is often the beginning."

It wasn’t too long ago that I was in your shoes. Just a little over a year ago, I was the senior that had a month left. One month left in the hometown that I grew up in. One month left with the friends that I didn’t want to leave. One month left in the place that I had called “my school” for the past four years. You are probably thinking the same things I thought whenever it came down to only 30 days left. You’re probably scared, nervous, worried, or anxious. Maybe you’re like me and are dying to get out of high school, ready to start a new chapter. Or maybe you aren’t so ready yet. Maybe you’re wishing for a little more time.

As scary as it is, this month you have left will fly by. You’ll blink and you’ll be standing in your cap and gown, waiting for your name to be called to receive your diploma. You’ll look back on your last four years at your school and wonder why time went by so fast. It’ll be bittersweet. However, trust me when I say that you have so much to look forward to. You are about to begin taking the steps to build your future. You are going to grow and learn so much more than any high school class could teach you. You are going to meet amazing people and accomplish amazing things. So, as scared as you might be, I encourage you to take that first step out of your comfort zone and face this world head on. Chase your dreams and work towards your goals. You are smart. You are brave. You are capable of achieving amazing things. All your life, the lessons you have learned have prepared you for this point in your life. You are more than ready.

There are times when you will feel alone, scared, or confused. There are times when it won’t always be easy. But those are the times when you will shine the most because I know you will work through whatever problems you may face. Don’t think of the bad times as a terrible thing. Use them all as learning experiences. As author Joshua Marine once said, “Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

You might think that this is the end. However, it’s not. This is only the beginning. Trust me when I say that the adventures and opportunities you are about to face are nothing compared to high school. Whether you are going to college, going to work, or something else, this is the beginning of your journey called life. It will be exciting, it will be terrifying, but it will all be worth it.

So, as you walk out of your high school for the very last time, I encourage you to take a deep breath. Relax. You’ll always have the memories to look back on from high school. But your time is now, it begins today. Embrace it.

Cover Image Credit: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1152445/images/o-HIGH-SCHOOL-GRADUATION-facebook.jpg

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10 Pieces Of Advice From My Parents That Have Helped Me Survive This Thing Called Life

I don't like admitting that they're right, but they've helped me through more than they'll ever know.


As I've entered my 20s and have made it halfway through college, I've learned that life can be hard and challenging at times. Like many kids, when I was growing up, I could care less about what my parent's advice or opinions were. Nine times out of ten, I would do the complete opposite of what they said. Once I got older and actually started listening to their advice and put it into perceptive, I learned that they're right more often than I'd like to admit.

1. Don't take things for granted

leonardo dicaprio

I've learned to cherish what I have because I might not always have it. It's easy to take life itself and many things it involves for granted. They've taught me to take a step back from this crazy life sometimes and be grateful for all that I have.

2. Don't be afraid to put your heart on your sleeve


My parents have taught me that if you feel something, don't be afraid to say it or embrace it. If you love someone, then tell them. Don't be afraid to put your heart out there just because you might get hurt.

3. Be vulnerable

risk taking

In life, in relationships, in your work. Take risks, get shot down, and then try again. Being vulnerable is scary yet so powerful.

4. You can never have too many shoes


Otherwise known as it's okay to treat yourself. Life is hard, so take care of you. If that means going on a shopping spree every once in a while, then so be it.

5. You're going to be okay

finding nemo

Whatever it is you're going through, you're going through it and you're going to come out on the other side. It may seem horrible now, but you'll learn from it and be okay in the end.

6. You have to have friends in life


It's important to have people to lean on, especially on your bad days, and to celebrate with on your good ones. You can't just have you or a significant other to rely on.

7. Never be afraid to share your opinion

laverne cox

Don't be afraid to put your thoughts and opinions out there because they might be wrong. They could have a huge impact on someone or something.

8. Don't stress over things you have no control over

don't stress

Everyone is on their own path, which means everything will work out the way it's supposed to, even if it doesn't make sense right now. Again, you're going to be okay.

9. Happy, healthy, wealthy, wise


My dad always says if you tell yourself every day that you're happy with yourself or your life, you're healthy and strong, you're wealthy in love and surrounded by great people, and you're knowledgable or wise, then you can achieve anything in life.

10.  S*** or get off the pot

pitch perfect

My all-time favorite piece of advice. Making decisions can be hard and scary, especially if the outcome could be getting hurt in the end. So, you either make a decision and roll with it no matter the outcome or you walk away.

Thanks, mom and dad for always being a phone call away when I need it! Just know that your advice and words of wisdom don't go unnoticed. For others, your parents have been on this planet much longer than you have and most likely experienced the same situations that you're dealing with. They don't have all the answers, but they are there to help.

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