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Students Talk about UIC

Small-town kid discovers life in the big city, including pizza

Brandon BellSmall-town kid discovers life in the big city, including pizza

Brandon Bell: "My parents are really proud of me and I'm proud of myself, and I'm going to work really hard so I don't let them down." Read more...

Malikha DanielsA little bit intimidated, but not afraid

Malikha Daniels is excited about making the cheerleading squad. "I have to make sure I prioritize." Read more...

Parthiv PatelBusiness or pharmacy? Perhaps it's too soon to pick a major

Parthiv Patel had a major selected before he came to campus, but now he wonders. "I want to be sure I choose the right thing." Read more...

Camille SanchezA commuter student in search of the campus experience

Camille Sanchez: As a new commuter student, "I'm trying to find something to do" between classes. Read more...

Brandon BellBrandon Bell: "My parents are really proud of me and I'm proud of myself, and I'm going to work really hard so I don't let them down."

With dorm room accessories bought months in advance and the car packed the night before, Brandon Bell expected a smooth move-in day.

But he couldn’t have prepared for what happened when he and his parents piled into the family car Aug. 17, ready to start their hour-and-a-half drive from Ottawa to UIC.

When his dad turned the key, the battery was dead.

“It was a little stressful,” he said. “That day was a learning experience for everyone — not just for me. “

After awhile his dad was able to jump the battery, but they weren’t sure how long the temporary fix would last.

“We took the car up here hoping that it would start again,” Bell said. “We just kind of threw everything into the dorm and left the car running downstairs. We even left it running when we stopped at Target to get a few things.”

Two hours later and the engine still running, it was time for Bell to say goodbye to his parents, likely until Thanksgiving. With a kiss on his cheek from his mom and a handshake from his dad, Bell started his freshman year and life in the Polk Street Residence Hall.

“When my parents first left, I was kind of sad,” he said. “The freedom is really a fun thing for me, but knowing that they’re not there when I get home is kind of sad. I think I’ll get used to it, though.”

For Bell, part of the draw of attending UIC was leaving behind a small town.

Ottawa, a town of about 18,000, “is surrounded by cornfields,” he said. “The biggest thing there is a Super Wal-Mart. I wanted to go somewhere where there’s a little more action.”

Still, it was tough to leave behind his past.

“Saying goodbye to all of my friends was hard, but I see college as another opportunity to grow as a person — to figure out what I want, what I need, and what I want to do with my life,” Bell said.

He hasn’t wasted any time during his first few weeks in the city, hitting the beach at night, catching the show “Wicked” and developing a taste for Chicago cuisine.

“I’ve never seen pizza that big before in my life,” he said.

“There are so many different things I’m not used to seeing. There are so many people here. I find myself gawking at things because I’m from a small town. It’s a lot to take in at one time.”

But he’s ready to focus on schoolwork. Bell is in the Honors College and the Graduate Professional Program Admissions program for nursing. GPPA guarantees students admission to a professional degree program.

“High school for me was not the most challenging of experiences,” he said. “I’m looking forward to being around kids who want to learn.”

The first member of his family to go to college, Bell doesn’t take the privilege lightly.

“My parents are really proud of me and I’m proud of myself, and I’m going to work really hard so I don’t let them down,” he said.

UPDATE (11/26/08): "I've Always liked Pressure and Stress" (UICNews)


Meet the other freshmen:

A little bit intimidated, but not afraid

Business or pharmacy? Perhaps it's too soon to pick a major

A commuter student in search of the campus experience

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*Interview courtesy of UICNews; Author Christy Levy; Photo Kathryn Marchetti.