Senior column: Worth it in the end
Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 7:15pm
IF YOU HAD asked me at different points throughout high school whether or not I was glad I came to Uni, my answer would have varied. Sophomore year (the year that I transferred) it would have been a wholehearted yes; by the end of junior year, probably a no; and don’t even get me started on first semester senior year — I couldn’t wait to get out.
Today, though, less than a week from my graduation, I feel like my answer’s changed again. There are a lot of things I won’t miss about this school — the workload, the administration, the sometimes stifling smallness of the community — but at the same time, it’s given me a few things I can’t imagine living without.
Habitat for Humanity is the first example that comes to mind. Now one of the most important things I spend time on, I know I never would have gotten involved in Habitat had Uni not given me the opportunity to go to Mississippi, or had I never met people like Bill Sutton, Doug Mynatt, and Bob Coverdill. While it may not be a school-related organization at all, it was the school community that led me to discover it, and for that I’ll always be grateful.
The second thing is athletics. Interestingly enough, it took me until a few nights ago when my soccer team was knocked out of the post-season to realize how important sports have been to me throughout high school — a “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” thing, I guess. I honestly would have been miserable without a soccer or cross-country practice to look forward to after school — winter is depressing for just that reason, in fact — and Uni is partly to thank for my involvement in those two sports.
Admittedly, I played soccer before Uni and would have continued on my old high school’s team had I never moved here — it’s always been my favorite sport and I’ve never needed any convincing — but the fact that I joined cross-country as a junior is something I attribute completely to Uni. The team was huge at my old school and I never would have had the guts to try out, but the Uni team accepted me like a family and made the running aspect entirely bearable — even a little fun, believe it or not. I never expected to, but I truly will miss it.
Most importantly, though, Uni has introduced me to friends and teachers who have genuinely impacted my life. I said earlier that the small community is “sometimes stifling,” and I do think so; I went to a school of around 2,200 before moving to Champaign, and though that was hectic, it was sort of liberating at the same time for there to be so many different people at your disposal that it was easy to get out of a bad social situation.
However, as a transfer, I appreciated the small-school environment because it allowed me to become immersed into my class with ease and immediately feel at home. It’s also allowed me to get to know my teachers on levels that I don’t think I would have achieved if they had all had hordes of other students to teach each day.
Furthermore, while I won’t say that the education one gets at Uni is necessarily superior because I know from previous experience that it’s very possible to get an excellent education at a large public high school if you push yourself and take the right classes, I will say that the classmates I’ve had at Uni have provided me with a unique kind of educational atmosphere. It’s tough to value your academics when you go to school with a lot of kids who don’t care about learning, but at Uni the students who work hard and have strong academic passions far outnumber those who don’t, and it makes for a more positive environment.
Thus, looking back, I don’t think I would have had my four years of high school happen in any other way. I’m grateful to have spent my freshman year in a big public school because it taught me not to count on people to baby me all the time, made me appreciate and understand diversity in a way I think Uni would have struggled with, and exposed me to things like violence and crime that, while unpleasant, are parts of the real world.
However, I’m also glad I came to Uni sophomore year. There’s been a lot about the school that has frustrated me, but to complain now would be vastly ungrateful because the few things I have really appreciated and benefited from during my time here are too important to let the downsides take precedent. I can’t say I’m sad to leave, but I am happy to have been here and excited for my future. If you ask me, that’s a pretty good way to feel before closing any chapter of your life.