I was a sophomore in high school when my sister committed to Illinois State. I hadn’t thought much about college before, but it was in that moment that I decided I was definitely not going there. I was my own person and, like most 16-year-olds with older siblings, would rather individually rip out my own eyelashes than mindlessly follow in my sister’s footsteps.
I didn’t know where I would end up, but it surely was not going to be Illinois State.
The first time I visited Illinois State was a year later, when I was a junior in high school staying at my sister’s residence hall for the weekend. I went because I missed my sister and wanted to see what college was like, but I was still very uninterested in attending the school myself. That weekend, I met her friends, saw the Quad, slept in her room, and when I was on my way home at the end of the weekend, I began to change my mind. I thought that maybe I could still do my own thing at the same school as my sister.
By the time I was a senior and it was time to apply to college, I only had one place in mind: Illinois State. I applied to another school as a backup, but I knew I belonged back on that campus. When I got my acceptance letter in the mail, I was thrilled. Yes, I would be joining my sister and about four of my cousins by going to Illinois State, but this was MY dream school.
Being a Redbird
Now that I’m much older and wiser, finishing up my final year at Illinois State, I could not be happier with my decision. I came to Illinois State with a lot of family members and kids from my high school, afraid that I wouldn’t find my own way surrounded by people I knew. The opposite was true. I found comfort in my monthly cousin dinners and that my sister was just a short walk away. I also loved that I lived on a floor where I knew no one. I found my own major, clubs, and friends outside of what I knew. Illinois State became my home away from home, and I had a huge support group of friends and family within reach.
Now, I am the only one in my family left at Illinois State. They all count down the days to Family Day when they can come back and pretend to still be students at Illinois State. They tell me to stay here as long as I can and, trust me, I wish I could.
The experiences I have had at Illinois State are some that I know I could not have found anywhere else. I am in an incredible public relations program, I have found my best friends, and I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else. I love Illinois State and am proud to be a Redbird.
#BirdofMouth student blogger Lauren Vahldick is a senior public relations major. Read more #BirdofMouth posts.