Part 44: Words to the wise

Part 44: Words to the wise

With the UI celebrating birthday No. 150 this year, we caught up with hundreds of graduates who've gone on to big things. Throughout 2017, Editor JEFF D'ALESSIO will tell their tales. Today, in Part 44: Words to the wise.

Attention: members of the incoming UI Class of 2021.

As you say your last goodbyes and get ready to descend upon Campustown, there are a few things you ought to know that won't be covered in any official orientation session. We turned to some of the best and brightest from classes past to help walk us through them.

1. Leave your scale at home — at least that first year.

If it's not the cafeteria carbs that get you — "I remember gaining 10 pounds that first year from all the bread and potatoes," says Susan G. Komen founder NANCY BRINKER ('68) — it will be something else.

NCIS special agent ROBERT BLONS ('87) remembers treating a nasty bout of homesickness by ordering his first Papa Del's pizza — "and eating the whole thing myself."

"I still crave Jarlings custard," confesses FLORENCE PAK ('02, right), design director at Conde Nast's Wired magazine.

"I'd like to thank Panda Express on Green for changing my thoughts on Chinese cuisine," says ERDEM GEZER ('15), Aston Martin's director for the country of Turkey.

Oh, and did we mention: This marks the first semester with a Portillo's franchise in town.

2. Should you cross paths with a tour group anywhere within sniffing distance of South Farms, play dumb.

You won't find this in any official recruiting brochures, but one secret behind the men's tennis program becoming a national powerhouse was a little-known, little white lie players were prepared to tell if a prospective recruit ever inquired about that sickening stench.

"During our recruiting weekends, if it was uncommonly warm, there was a distinct odor South Farms gave off that hovered over Atkins Tennis Center," says former Illini EVAN ZEDER ('05), now the tennis marketing manager for New Balance. "The entire team knew on those days with recruits in town, you had to act surprised and confused as to what this odor was to ensure that recruits didn't see any negatives about our school.

"Not one recruit ever brought it up again because of how amazing everything was that Illinois had to offer, and the following year, if and when that player came in and it came back, you just told them it was always going to be there and get used to it. It was our homecourt advantage on hot days, and luckily, the golf team's new facility takes away that odor now."

3. If you haven't figured out your life plan yet, fear not. There's still time.

JACKIE OROZCO arrived in the fall of 2003 thinking the military was in her future. But as big a blast as Army ROTC was — "I learned how to swim in my full Army uniform and I rappelled off of Memorial Stadium. So cool," she says — the future reporter at WOFL-TV Orlando discovered her career calling when she stumbled upon a sign about opportunities at the campus' FM radio station, WPGU.

And had PAUL LISNEK's (left) adviser not hit him with an important follow-up when he told her he wanted to major in accounting — "Why?" she asked. "Because I need a job," he responded — he likely wouldn't have gone on to be an Emmy-winning legal TV analyst who earned his law degree in 1983 and 12 years later was a prime-time regular analyzing the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

4. Exhibit some self-discipline on Quad Day.

Take it from NICOLE COTTLE ('01, right), whose first memory of her time here was "enthusiastically signing up for more registered student organizations and activities than my schedule would possibly allow."

It wasn't the last time the future deputy chief counsel for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would do something regrettable in her favorite campus spot: "I often made it all the way to the steps of English building but just couldn't convince myself to go inside to class, so I'd sit outside on the Quad reading in the sunshine or hanging out with friends who passed by — and hoping not to be spotted by my professors."

 

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