Four years at a glance

Holly Brenza

“I am UIC, and always will be, long after the final box of things is packed and the skyline is in the rear-view mirror,” says Holly Brenza, who graduates next week with an English degree. — Photo: Jenny Fontaine

It’s August 2011. Do you remember what you were doing? If you’re graduating this year, maybe our August was similar.

I was packing everything up to move to UIC. Then I was moving into an unfamiliar place, knowing only one other person living in the residence halls. The next thing I knew, my family was gone and I was on my own.

That’s when the panic set in. I was embarking on an entirely new journey and completely terrified. This terror carried into the next few days as I met roommates and other eager freshmen.

On my first day of class, I learned just how different college professors are from high school teachers – just one of the many big changes in my life. I knew the only way to feel a sense of belonging and potentially ditch the homesickness would be to join leadership organizations. So I did.

I started with my building’s hall council. It seemed like a sense of sameness to me, as I was so involved with my high school’s student council. I attended countless other things, and in January 2012, I was inducted into the National Residence Hall Honorary, perhaps my favorite thing I’ve done while at UIC.

Then I was hired as a resident assistant in my building. I was thrilled and couldn’t wait for another new experience to begin.

Until it was August 2012 and I was moving in. I felt like I was losing weeks of my summer by having to move back early (spoiler alert: this feeling comes back every year). But serving as a primary resource to 60 freshmen residents really made me forget about some of the struggles I was facing.

Things only got better. I took some of my favorite classes sophomore year, learning about everything from the universe to professional media writing. Sophomore year was when I discovered what I want to do as a career. This was a huge moment for me, as I’m sure it is for all of us.

I came back to campus junior year feeling accomplished; I had completed an amazing public relations internship over the summer, and suddenly, college had a purpose to me. I knew I was headed in the right direction. I loved meeting my residents (this time only 25) and helping them in whatever way possible. I was voted to the executive board of the National Residence Hall Honorary. I started blogging for “I am UIC.” Blogging meant so much to me and made me feel so connected with the entire UIC population. I realized that whether we live on campus, commute, are faculty or staff, we are all UIC, and there are a lot of things we have in common from being a part of such a great university.

In the winter of 2013, I started another internship, and that’s when the bug hit me. I loved internships, and with the little time I had left in college, I vowed to do as many as I possibly could. A huge part of my junior year was writing a proposal to reinstall a senior student staff position, which would allow me to serve as a resource to RAs. I got the job – in the same building where I had lived since freshman year.

I came back to campus this year more excited than ever. I was going to do everything I hadn’t in the past three years and get straight As (the first probably didn’t happen but the second did!). In my new supervisory role, I helped new and returning RAs with many parts of the job. I started a yearlong internship on campus that made me feel even more connected to UIC.

Being involved and making great friends defined my college experience. I am not just a blogger for “I am UIC” – I am UIC and always will be, long after the final box of things is packed and the skyline is in the rear-view mirror.

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