I am UIC: ‘At UIC, I dared to dream’

Michelle Garcia De La Vega

En español

It feels like only yesterday that I stepped foot onto campus for the first time — an enthusiastic, yet insecure, 19-year-old — unable able to answer the most basic question: What is your major?

As I sit in this commencement ceremony with my fellow classmates, I cannot help but congratulate myself as I recall these past four years of countless projects, essays, exams, presentations, readings, all-nighters and more coffee than I should have consumed. I also recall something deeper: the process of personal growth.

In these past four years, I’ve learned so much from so many. Semester after semester, professors reminded me to exercise my mind, place my creativity into practice, think critically and always question everything. I also met a diverse set of intelligent individuals with struggles, dreams, aspirations, and stories of their own, many of whom not only inspired me to chase my dreams, but also became my dear friends.

At UIC, I dared to dream. I hopped on a plane, flew across the ocean and experienced life on the other side of the world. I studied abroad in Spain, something I never thought I’d have the courage to do.

At UIC, I felt lost, but also found a path of my own. I had many doubts and fears, but found the positivity and courage to overcome them. My freshman year I felt small, but today I feel emboldened and leave knowing that I have the potential to only be greater. I made countless memories that will last forever and learned valuable lessons, most notably: if you don’t go after it, you won’t have it; and failure is not the end, it is only the beginning.

Today, at 22, I am still enthusiastic for what’s to come, but I’m no longer insecure. I leave UIC knowing that the importance of college was not in deciding a major; rather it was in gaining the skills necessary to pursue what makes me happy in life, regardless of where that happiness may lie.

This journey called college has come to an end, but the personal growth, acquisition of knowledge and experiential learning has not. I’m turning my tassel to the left and closing a very special chapter in my life, but also beginning a new one.

Goodbye, UIC, and thank you!

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