From rural to urban

From Rural to Urban

“As a rural student at UIC, you have the amazing opportunity to experience rural and urban ways of life. You can be a rural diplomat in the city, and an urban diplomat at home,” says Alex Ourth, an Honors College student from Carthage, Illinois.

By Alex N. Ourth— aourth2@uic.edu

What animals do you raise?
Have you ever driven a tractor?
Do you like country music?
What do you do for fun in a rural area?
Where is Carthage, Illinois, anyway?

As a UIC student raised in rural Illinois, I often receive questions similar to these.

Many of my classmates are unaware of what it is like to live in a rural community and the culture it entails.

Similarly, when I first came to Chicago two years ago as a freshman, I had no idea how different living in the city would be. I knew that there would be tall skyscrapers, heavy traffic and sights to see. However, I was unaware of the blend of cultures, driven leaders and amazing opportunities the city had to offer.

Although I have only lived in Chicago for two years, I feel like I have done a great job of establishing a life here and can confidently say that I made the right choice by selecting UIC for my undergraduate education.

Still, there are times when I feel nostalgic for my previous life. Sometimes I crave the golden fields of harvest, the scent of a gentle breeze coming off the wild grasses and the serenity of a walk through the woods. And like anyone, there are days when the longing for my family and childhood friends is difficult to bear.

As a student who has battled the challenges of adjusting to the fast-paced culture of the city after living in a rural town, I have some bits of advice for those who may be going through the same struggles.

  1. Accept and embrace the changes that come with moving to a large city. You will experience new cultures, beliefs and ideas that are different than what you were used to in your rural community. Keep your mind open and take in as much as you can. As Dorothy put it, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore.”
  2. Do well in your classes. Remember one of the main reasons you are at UIC is to get an education. You will feel better about yourself and more connected to the university when you accomplish the educational goals you set for yourself.
  3. Join organizations you feel passionate about. The more involved you are with organizations, the more you will feel tied to the university. It doesn’t matter what kind you pick — joining any organization will motivate you toward reaching new goals.
  4. Find people with common interests. It is important to find people who you can relate to and feel comfortable around. These are also the people who will go on adventures with you and cheer you up when you are having a rough day. I would never have made it in the city without the incredible friends I made during my first two years.
  5. Explore the city as much as possible. There are so many places to go, sites to see and so much food to eat. A few things I would encourage are: eating a gyro in Greektown, sunbathing at Oak Street Beach, riding the slides at Maggie Daley Park (even if you’re over the age limit), attending Festa Italiana, ice skating in Millennium Park and visiting museums on free admission days.
  6. Don’t go home too often. It is difficult to develop a new life at college when you continually return to and stay attached to your old life. It’s important to stay at school when you have free time to develop new relationships and build memories. This can be difficult at first but it does get easier with time.
  7. Realize that you can go home if you need to. Although I recommended not going home too frequently, it’s important to remember that if you get in a slump and become homesick, you can always arrange a trip home. Don’t bottle up your homesickness until it is unbearable. Sometimes, time at home is just what we need to rejuvenate. I go home about once a month.
  8. Use Skype or FaceTime to stay in touch with family and friends. With today’s technology, it is easier than ever to stay in contact with people over long distances. Use these tools to call your family and friends and share with them all of your amazing adventures at UIC.
  9. Be proud of your heritage and share your own knowledge and experiences with others. It’s important that you take in and learn from others about life in the city. But it’s also important to share your own experiences and culture that you have from living in a rural community. It can be beneficial to show others who you are and what matters to you. It is this exchange of ideas from the diverse groups we have that make UIC such an amazing institution. Realize that you are important and have valuable information to contribute.

As a rural student at UIC, you have the amazing opportunity to experience rural and urban ways of life. You can be a rural diplomat in the city, and an urban diplomat at home. It can be difficult to adjust to the changes, but it can have an amazing impact on your life.

I can assuredly say that it has changed me for the better.

Answers to opening questions:
1. Cows
2. Yes
3. Of course ( <3 Carrie Underwood)
4. Gardening, bonfires, mushroom hunting, trapshooting
5. Western Illinois, near the Iowa and Missouri border

– Reprinted from The Ampersand blog, written by Honors College students.