A College Candid – Katie

Like I mentioned in my last Noteworthy post, I had the opportunity to work with Katie, who blogs at Brewing Up Style. In her College Candid, I asked about her experience at University of Illinois as an Elementary Education major.  Her answers were especially interesting to me since U of I is only about an hour away from where I live, and I fully intend to try her favorite restaurant soon!  You can find Katie on Instagram and Pinterest as well.

To start off the questions, what are some fun and interesting facts about U of I?

  • The founders of YouTube are both U of I alumni!
  • Tom Hanks’ brother is a professor in the Department of Entomology!
  • The U of I is a huge agricultural school, and because of that, the main undergraduate library was built underground so it wouldn’t cast a shadow on a cornfield.
  • Speaking of libraries, the U of I has one of the largest library systems in the country.  It’s ranked seventh behind massive libraries like the Library of Congress and Harvard!


Why did you choose to go to U of I?

I grew up in a small rural community and wanted to experience something completely different than what I knew going into college. Since U of I has over 40,000 students, I knew I would be a part of a large community of like-minded people. The U of I is also recognized for it’s great business school, which was my major to start, even though I ultimately changed it.


What was one of your favorite things about U of I?

I absolutely loved having so many things to do on campus! There were restaurants, bars, things to see and so many activities to do. I never felt bored! I also loved going to football and basketball games and being a part of the student section.


Least favorite?

Since it is such a large school, I really didn’t get to know any of my professors until senior year. It was definitely a sink or swim attitude in most of my underclassmen classes. Office hours were spotty and tutors were scarce, so I had to be really resourceful in order to pass some of my classes, especially the ones that had upwards of 400 people in lecture!


What were some organizations you were a part of?

I was a part of a co-ed business fraternity, Pi Gamma Nu, until my senior year, when I dropped in order to make time for student teaching. It was a great experience and I gained so many friendships!


Did you ever think about studying abroad?

I didn’t study abroad when I was in college and now I definitely wish I would have. It’s so much cheaper to travel that way!


How would you describe U of I’s location?

U of I is located in Champaign, Illinois. It is this hub for art, culture, and food in the middle of rural Illinois. It’s almost like an oasis!


Did you have a favorite restaurant near or on campus?

Black Dog BBQ was voted Illinois’ best BBQ last year! The only two locations are located near U of I. It’s hands down the best BBQ I’ve ever had (even better than anything I’ve tried in Texas or Tennessee!). It is still a treat to go there. The food is just so good!


Is there anything that you wish you had asked or known about U of I before you started there?

Two things: U of I has a very large Greek system, and I wish that I had known more about Greek life or joining a sorority. Nobody in my family had ever been in a sorority, so the whole process seemed crazy to me! But if I could go back, I would definitely rush. Being a part of Greek life is such a great way to meet people on such a large campus.

Secondly, since U of I is such a large and competitive school, often the entry-level science classes are referred to as “weeder” classes. They are impossibly hard in order to weed out the students that aren’t dedicated. So, just push through that first awful class. It gets better from there.


Switching to focus on your program, how and why did you decide to major in Elementary Education?

I actually changed my major twice – I started as a business major, but then switched to food science, and then switched to elementary education. I decided I wanted to work with people and have an active job. Teaching is most definitely both of those things!


How is the Elementary Education program structured?

Education programs are constantly changing, and the program I went through is almost completely different today- even though it’s been only a few years! But the essentials are this: you formally apply to an age level (elementary, high school, special education, early childhood) and then begin to take classes focused around your age level. As an elementary education major, I took art education, music education, and more! Elementary education teachers are often asked to even teach the elective classes at schools when the budget is tight, so we had to be really well rounded.

Beginning junior year, we got placed in local schools for different amounts of time with different goals for each placement (looking at content, management, and more) with the end game being student teaching. Student teaching is most often done the very last semester of college and is basically an unpaid internship. I was at the school full time, teaching full time. It was stressful but essential!


What courses did you like and dislike?

I hated the chemistry class I took. It was definitely a “weeder” class like I mentioned above. I still have nightmares about the exams in that class! It was just so incredibly hard and stressful, and that class is the reason why I didn’t continue with food sciences.

I loved my senior year education classes for so many reasons, but I really loved it because I had the same professors in fall and spring semester, so I got to know them and still have them as Facebook friends to this day! In education programs, you get placed into cohorts and take classes with the same 25 people all senior year. My best friend today is a girl I met from my cohort! It becomes such a great support system for such a tough job.


What have you been doing, career wise, since you graduated?

I’ve been teaching! And I began my blog this year!


How do you feel like the Elementary Education program and U of I have helped you with your career and anything you may do in the future?

Well, I’m still doing the thing that I got my degree in, although there’s nothing that truly prepares you for having your own classroom. Since U of I was so big, I had to learn how to be resourceful to be successful which definitely has helped me in my teaching career.

I hope to continue working and growing my blog as well! And resourcefulness has saved me countless dollars. I’ve put the time and effort into doing everything (except the logo) for my blog myself, and feel incredibly proud that I’m now self-taught at so many skills related to blogging and photography.

Being a teacher has taught me to be patient and kind no matter what, and that’s a skill I can carry anywhere.


Any last words of advice?

If I could give any high school or college student advice, it would be this: Don’t rush it. If you don’t know what you want to do, take a year off. Work at a restaurant or travel if you’ve got the money. It’s ok to even take a year off in the middle of college. I wish I had taken the time to actually figure out who I was before deciding what I wanted to major in. My interests and, to be honest, my personality, changed so much after high school. Taking a year off would’ve been really beneficial to me. That being said, if you have a passion in life, GO FOR IT. Don’t second-guess yourself. Just do you and be happy.

Interested in being featured in a College Candid?  Send me an email at JessicaAckley7@gmail.com!  I’d love to hear about and share your college experience!

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