The Illinois Residential Experience
What’s it like to be a UIUC Housing resident? As mentioned previously, there are four main areas that the Illinois Residential Experience prioritizes: Academic Success, Social Justice Exploration, Personal Growth and Community Engagement. As a housing resident in the Nugent Business LLC last year, here’s how I personally experienced each of those four components.
Even though certain areas of the residence halls can be quite loud at times, one thing University Housing does exceptionally is ensure there are ample spaces for studying and getting work done. At Nugent, for example, not only were there lounges in the main lobby, but there were also private study lounges in the basement and on each floor (near the elevators and corners of the buildings). Connected to Nugent via an interior hallway was the SDRP and Ikenberry Commons library, which on their own had plenty of study spaces and quiet areas. As a resident of University Housing, I never had to worry about finding a place to be productive, and this fact applies no matter which residence hall you live in: You will find plenty of study spots.
Besides study spots, living with Housing also has numerous other academic benefits, too. For example, there are 10 Living-Learning-Communities (LLCs) specially designed to unite students with similar academic interests and backgrounds. These LLCs also often put on special professional development events to help prepare students for academic success. In the Business LLC, for example, some events we had included peer tutoring for different business classes as well as a business major exploration taco event (talking about which major you want to pursue isn’t particularly exciting, but tacos make it better).
Even if you don’t live in an LLC, each residence hall will have academic events and study seshes throughout the semester, so make sure to be on the lookout for them! Some events may include Cocoa and Cram (for finals season) and other networking events. Plus, if you need materials for classes, you can always go to the front desk to check out office supplies such as scissors, markers and more.
Social Justice Exploration
University Housing also has its own social resources to foster inclusivity and social justice. One fairly new initiative was the creation of a Residential Inclusion & Leadership Education (I&L) team, which focuses on promoting social justice initiatives and resolving social issues in residence halls. I&L workers are specially trained to handle social conflicts in the residence halls so that every resident feels safe and comfortable in the halls.
Moreover, University Housing also strives for equity and inclusivity in the residence halls themselves, which is why residents can choose to live in gender-inclusive housing, accessibility-friendly housing, housing for veteran-affiliated students and housing for international students. The variety of dining locations also offer meal options for those with dietary restrictions such as allergens, halal/kosher meals, gluten-free, vegan/vegetarian and more—just make sure to check out the website or the Illinois app and contact dining if you have specific meal requirements or requests! On top of this, there are plenty of culture-affiliated student organizations both within Housing and on campus itself, so definitely check out those organizations if interested.
Personally, I didn’t take advantage of many of these opportunities as I didn’t have to, but I definitely appreciated these initiatives and how University Housing promoted diversity and inclusion. During my stay with Housing, I remember regularly attending cultural dining events such as events for Diwali, Lunar New Year, Mardi Gras, Black History Month and more. I loved going to these events, and I appreciated how the dining halls strived to remain true to these cultures while educating students on the backstories and histories behind these events. For Black History Month, I remember they put up information regarding inspirational Black figures around the dining halls. I also remembered the dining halls serving hong shao rou for Lunar New Year (braised pork belly with bun). I was so pleasantly surprised to see this dish as I hadn’t eaten it for months and it’s not something you see a lot of in America, even though it’s really well-known in China—I remember sending my mom a picture, and she was really happy to see how authentic university dining was!
The LLC I was in also sent out little culturally-themed goodie bags for different holidays, which only strengthened its image of promoting diversity. We received goodie bags with various treats and candies for Lunar New Year, and I also remember the Student Dining and Residential Programs Building putting on various performances, crafts and activities for different non-American holidays. Overall, this dedication to promoting diversity and inclusion is present no matter where you live within Housing. I highly recommend you make the most of these opportunities to learn more about other cultures and be more culturally aware!
Personal growth may sound vague at first, but it basically details how you interact with others within housing, your school and your community. It also relates to prioritizing your own health and wellness, including mental health. Going to college is a big jump—you’re thrust into an environment in which you have to interact with all kinds of new people; you have to learn to handle newfound independence and also navigate the different academic, social and physical challenges that come with living apart from home for (perhaps) the first time. That’s why University Housing provides such an amazing experience, because even though you are essentially living on your own with Housing, the Housing staff are always there to support you, and there are numerous resources available so that you don’t feel like you’re completely on your own.
To help promote this growth, independence and personal wellbeing, some tips I have is to discover your routine that helps make you feel the most productive and happy at school. For me personally, this routine involved eating a big, hearty breakfast at the Ikenberry Commons Dining Center (go I-Waffles) and regularly communicating with my roommate on certain needs (such as if I needed silence to study for a test) to reduce conflict and misunderstandings. During your first few weeks of school, University Housing also provides numerous resources on handling roommate disputes and navigating college life through Welcome Week, orientation and floor meetings. If you have ever have any questions or concerns though, be sure to let your RA or RD know and they’d be delighted to help you out!
Lastly, the other key component of the Illinois Residential Experience is community engagement, and there are a variety of ways to become involved when living with University Housing. One of the biggest ways to get involved is to join residence hall councils, which help plan events, share resources and decorate hallways to improve the residential experience. My friend was on her floor’s hall council last year, and she mentioned that it was a great way to get more involved with the residence hall and meet other residents, too! If you have interest in leadership and becoming more involved with where you live, your home away from home, check out hall council opportunities in your own residence hall to learn how to participate!
Besides directly getting involved with hall council, some other ways University Housing promotes student engagement is through having floor meetings and 1-on-1 meetings (called iConvos) between RAs and each of their residents. I remember my iConvos with my RA fondly, as it was a good way for me to learn more about living with Housing, handling roommate disputes and studying at UIUC in general. It also helped that my RA was in the same school as me (Gies), so he helped give advice on selecting a major, registering for classes and getting involved in registered student organizations (RSOs) on campus. Definitely utilize these iConvos as a way to get advice from your RA and learn more about campus culture, too!
Even as you just walk down the hallways, you’ll also notice tons of flyers and posters detailing ways to become an engaged citizen of your Resident Hall and feel a sense of belonging in the UIUC community. Take a look at them—you never know what may catch your eye!