Learning about Life from Lions, Legends, and a Guy Named Joe

Learning about Life from Lions, Legends, and a Guy Named Joe

Pour up, drank. Headshot, drank. Sit down, drank. Stand up, drank. Here at Illinois, the state’s flagship school for research, the drinking culture is a legend that new students hear about before they even set foot on campus: stories of bars you can enter under 21, day drinking on any weekend above freezing temps and free drinks at all the fall rush parties. Ah yes, higher education really is like the movies.
“Well…no. Not really, actually,” said Elena Ruzzo, a sophomore Econ major here at Illinois.
For Ruzzo, tales of fun times and drinking quickly wore off.
Ruzzo rushed a sorority her first semester on campus. She loved the thought of meeting hundreds of new people, chances to have fun, and gaining a network of people she could call family.
Rushing was an obvious decision for her and one that most students make when they come to campus. About 25% of all undergraduates are active in a the greek life, making Illinois’ the largest greek network in the country. Although it’s not the only option for having a thriving social life, it’s one often made by college students.
“Reality is much different than the stories. At parties people weren’t talking to each other, just calling for more shots,” Ruzzo said. “Going out every few nights became a boring routine. I felt like I was constantly surrounded by people but I wasn’t getting to know anyone.”
The nightlife routine is easy for people to get used to. The repetition of binge drinking and the freedom to do anything with no supervision can easily cause you to fall into limbo or forget the reasons why you are at college in the first place.
“It was honestly the best and worst year of my life thus far,” Ruzzo said. “It was the worst year of my life because it forced me to grow up, you know? Being on my own kind of conformed me to bad habits and unhealthy mindsets.”
Your first year of college teaches you a lot about yourself and what habits you can and cannot keep. From the outside it may seem like a big party and a world of carefree bliss, there is a lot of finesse in learning how to balance a healthy social, educational, and mental life as well. Yes, college is a lot more than drinking and going out, but those moments need to happen as a right-of-passage in order to understand more about your personality and what you need.
“College teaches you so much about yourself because you’re making your own decisions for the first time in your life,” Ruzzo said. “For that same reason it was also the best year of my life. I’ve never felt more whole than I do now.”

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