Transitions and Decisions
In high school, I’d planned on attending the University of Iowa, mainly because it was close to home, and I was an Iowa resident. On my trip to the school, however, I was so overwhelmed. Coming from a small town, bustling Iowa City was a shock. I see the appeal of a school like that; many students find solace in a new and different atmosphere, as that’s what college is built up to be. But it had me feeling lost. I was truly at a crossroads as I finished my second and final year at Clinton Community College, having only this loose plan of where I was to go next.
My advisor at CCC, Anthony Bielski, was always available for advice- a really friendly, easygoing guy. His wife, Gina Bielski, was also a favorite professor of mine. So I had much respect for them both and valued their opinions.
One particularly pivotal day, CCC was holding a “Majors Fair” and colleges from Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois set up tables throughout the halls. I couldn’t help but make stops at a few on my way to class. I noticed the booth for Western Illinois University, but quickly passed it, seeing it was in Illinois and not Iowa.
My advisor spotted me and asked, “Hey, thinking about going to Western?”
“Well, it’d be out-of-state. So, no. I don’t think so,” I said.
The woman at the booth, and Anthony became animated as they let me know that Iowa residents do, in fact, get in-state-tuition at WIU. Western had been Anthony’s alma mater. I decided to meet with him after class and ask for advice.
He told me he had loved it there. The town wasn’t too big. It wasn’t too far from the Quad Cities. That’s where he met his wife, my professor.
After that, I began to notice that all kinds of people who worked at CCC, people whom I respected (including my boss, the Dean of Students), had attended WIU at some point or another. And they all had nothing but positive things to say.
I applied to WIU, and was accepted. I hadn’t even visited campus yet, but I was already committed to going. I hadn’t bothered to apply anywhere else.
Everything seemed to fall into place after that. I landed two interviews for office jobs around campus (my area of expertise) and ended up getting offered both jobs.
In the spring of 2014, I attended a Discover Western with my mom, stepdad, and grandpa. We were all nervous, hoping that the campus would be “the right fit.” I am the oldest of three siblings, and the first person in my family to attend college, so none of us knew what to expect, and that was terrifying.
As soon as we arrived, I just knew. Something felt right about it. I noted that Macomb’s population was very close to that of my hometown. I needed something that wasn’t going to be a drastic change-of-pace. Macomb encompassed the relief of finally leaving home, with the comfort of feeling like I was still, sort of, home. I didn’t feel lost at WIU, as I had felt in Iowa City. Another large factor had been the people. Everyone I interacted with that day, from staff to students, was more than inviting.
I can’t imagine what it would feel like to go to a school someplace you don’t love, because I fell in love with WIU. My professors have already had a huge impact on me. They are approachable, and willing to go above and beyond for their students. I quickly found activities that I could get into: attending Western Literary Society meetings and the Boiler Room Reading Series, hearing featured readers such as Roxanne Gay, and getting to actually read my own work at the art gallery (that was an experience!). As a psychology major, but also a committed writer/creative writing minor, I am so happy to have all of the events the English Department puts together.
When choosing a college, you just have to go with your gut. When it’s right, you’ll know it’s right. My brother is finishing up his senior year of high school, and he’s pretty sure he wants to go to Western. Probably because of the way I have talked it up. My mom worries “what if it’s not the right fit for him?” All I said was, have him come visit, and he’ll know.
“It was right for me. I knew as soon as we came here that it was the place for me. I love it here, so I don’t see why he wouldn’t. But he’ll know.”