Cornfields, testing, and coffee shops. Those words can sum up my experience at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is located in the Midwestern United States (or Midwest). I had learned from textbooks that the Midwest was mostly flat. However, I hadn’t realized that I would be able to see the vast cornfields of the US during the 2.5-hour bus ride from Chicago to Champaign-Urbana. The area surrounding UIUC is mostly cornfields, so it was not surprising to find out that UIUC has one of the best Agricultural Engineering programs in the US. The Agricultural program was founded in 1867, which is the year UIUC was founded. UIUC is a public research-intensive university and is the flagship campus of the University of Illinois system. Home to 17 colleges that offer over 150 programs of study, UIUC is located in the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana.
Because UIUC is located in the middle of vast cornfields, the campus is very big and flat. The campus has four main quads (or large courtyards) that make up the center of the university and is well known for its landscape and landmarks.
UIUC is also well-known for its library. UIUC has one of the largest public university libraries in the world and has the second largest public academic collection in the US, just behind Harvard University.
Even though UIUC has so much more to offer than just cornfields, I can still remember the cornfields surrounding the campus. You could even see some within the UIUC campus. The city of Urbana even hosts the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival every August to showcase its love for sweet corn. Life at UIUC, as you can imagine, was very peaceful and quite compared to life in Seoul.
Testing, in particular, ESL (English as a second language) testing was a big part of my school life while I was studying at UIUC. I worked as an advisor to the institutional ESL writing test at UIUC. It was a great learning and training experience as well as a chance to meet great colleagues and make awesome friends. Furthermore, I was able to meet international students from all around the world and apply their feedback and comments to the improvement of the test. In fact, I was able to retrofit an existing ESL writing test to a new delivery mode and the entire process of test development was something that I will never forget. I am truly grateful for the opportunities that I had received as a graduate student at UIUC.
One of my small joys while studying at UIUC was checking out local coffee shops to find suitable studying and writing spots. I enjoy reading and writing in coffee shops and because grad life mostly consists of those two activities, I spent a lot of time working in various coffee shops around town. I cannot imagine how many gallons of coffee I have consumed during my grad years in order to concentrate and work. I think coffee shops provided just enough distraction and background noise to help me focus on work. Working outside also made the process of writing a bit more pleasurable.
When I look back on my graduate life at UIUC, I remember so many things that I did not have the chance to write in this essay. I remember the hard work that I put in and the many hours that I spent thinking and discussing issues related to my field of study. However, the things I remember and miss the most are the friends and colleagues that helped me see the world in a new way and the experiences that helped me appreciate the opportunities that I had received.
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