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Welcome to town, UI Class of 2022. Picking up where we left off last week, we asked all-star alumni for words of wisdom they'd offer the freshman class on the eve of classes starting.



Barack Obama look-alike, actor, comedic impersonator

"A pack of 25-cent Ramen can cost you $2.50 by the time you pay it off on a credit card.

"Financial success comes from financial freedom. First step: Don't rack up debt on credit cards.

"If you can't afford it, don't buy it. The system is stacked against you. You will make money later on in life; success will come if you work for it."


HIN ('91)

Urbana native founded Evelyn's Kitchen of Harlem

"Explore C-U outside the campus.

"Lil Porgy's BBQ on University is always my first stop when I come back to town.

"Art Mart on Prospect has the most unique things to make your dorm room a little cooler — plus the best coffee in town."


KER ('80)

Structural engineer honored with 2017 Alumni Achievement Award

"Work hard and play hard but don't try to mix the two."


URIA ('01)

Director of retail marketing, Skechers USA

"Make sure you dress in layers in the winter.

"While you will wade through slush in sub-zero temperatures to get to class all bundled up, the thermostat will not account for your snow suit and wool sweater.

"A T-shirt will undoubtedly be your best friend."


SIEGEL ('80)

Best-selling novelist among 2012 Illini Comeback Award winners

"On Quad Day 1976 at the beginning of my freshman year, I signed up to be a staff member of Star Course, the student-run concert promotion company that's still in existence. I didn't know anybody working for Star Course at the time, but I spent the next four years working at concerts.

"I don't think it had any significant future career implications, but I made a bunch of friends for life and I had a great time. And I got to meet Bruce Springsteen backstage in 1978.

"Forty-two years later, Star Course is still promoting concerts at the U of I and I got to see Springsteen on Broadway.

"My advice: find an organization that excites you, sign up right away, and do everything you can to make it a big part of your campus life. You'll meet a lot of interesting people, some of whom will be friends 40 years later.

"One more tip: Don't bother going to the football games. You're in for 40 years of endless suffering and you'll end up old and bitter like me."


O ('99)

Director of innovation, PayPal

"It is the relationships, the experiences and the stories that will make your years at the U of I really matter. Make friends, start a business, join clubs — do all those things.

"Get decent grades, just don't flunk out.

"By the time you graduate, you nor anyone else will care about your grades. But those experiences last forever."


Y ('11)

Producer, 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,' HBO

"Go for a walk or a run across campus in your first few weeks to get a sense of the Champaign-Urbana communities and neighborhoods.

"It's easy to get accustomed to a certain route to classes or Green Street, but the campus has so much to offer. Explore it early on and then enjoy all that's available to you for the rest of your four years."


OLEY ('02)

Novelist, HarperCollins

"Go to class, even the huge Soc 100 lecture in Foellinger where nobody will notice if you sleep in.

"Do all of your readings, both required and suggested.

"Go to office hours.

"Say yes to the party; say yes to the barn dance; say yes to the football game, Krannert and the Canopy Club; say yes to the picnic on the Quad and the weird avant-garde play where your friend is starring as a talking bicycle.

"Don't hole up in your dorm room to study — go to the UGL, the Union, Grainger, the coffee shop or my personal favorite, the sunny little atrium in the middle of the English building.

"Treasure your friends — you will graduate and scatter and you'll never get to spend this much time with them ever again.

"This is all to say: Live it up. Four years flies."



Coordinator, disabled services and guest relations, New York Yankees

"Meet as many people as you can. One of the U of I's strengths is that there are people from all over the country and world going to school there.

"And have fun. This will be the only time in your life where you will have so many people around that are the same age as you in such a concentrated area."


IN ('82)

NBA agent founded Priority Sports & Entertainment

"Get the very best out of New Student Week. Use the week to explore everything about life on campus and to make as many new friends as possible.

"Make sure to get out of your comfort zone and meet people from all over the state and world as these are the building blocks for relationships you can have for the rest of your life.

"It's an incredible time on campus, where there is no pressure of classes and it can really set the tone for a great four years."


B ('10)

Editor, BlackDoctor Inc.

"Network, network, network.

"It's not solely about what you know, but also who you know.

"The next four years will be filled with amazing people — make the connections."