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'I've always liked pressure and stress'

Meet the freshmen: halfway

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Brandon Bell
Brandon Bell: “I almost feel like I’m closer to my parents now that I’m gone. We talk on the phone a lot, and it’s more in a friendship kind of way.”

Photo: Kathryn Marchetti

This fall, UIC welcomed nearly 3,000 new students to its freshman class. UIC News will follow four of them — Brandon Bell, Malikha Daniels, Parthiv Patel and Camille Sanchez — through the challenges and opportunities they encounter in beginning their college careers.

In September, we spoke with them as they settled in. Here's the second round of interviews, soon after midterms.

Brandon Bell’s life has gotten a lot busier in college.

Juggling a schedule that includes Honors College coursework, a job and volunteering for residence hall organizations has been tough, he said. But he’s confident he isn’t taking on more than he can handle.

“I’ve been staying up really late lately,” Bell said.

“A lot of freshmen burn out, but I’ve made it this far without crashing, so that’s pretty exciting.”

Bell works 10 hours a week as an office aide in the Campus Housing office at the Polk Street Residence Hall where he lives, earning extra spending money and funds to pay for next semester’s books.

“It hasn’t really affected my grades, so that’s good,” he said. “And it’s a way to make connections.”

Bell also volunteers his time in the Residence Hall Association and the National Residence Hall Honorary, a leadership and service group.

He’s a representative on the hall council, which plans events like a Halloween party for children whose parents work past Chicago’s designated trick-or-treat hours. More than 200 children collected their candy this year from UIC students in the residence halls.

Though he’s taken on a lot in his first semester, Bell said he thrives on being busy. Besides he’s in the Graduate Professional Program Admissions program for nursing.

“I’ve been keeping up good grades so far,” he said. “I’ve always liked pressure and stress. It makes me feel like I’m not wasting my time.”

But it’s not always easy to stay on track when you’re living in a residence hall, Bell said.

“You’ll have your door open while you’re writing a paper and people will come up and ask if you want to go get something to eat or watch a movie,” he said.

“Nine times out of 10 I will end up staying up late because I got distracted. There comes a time when you have to close your door.”

Coming to UIC from small-town Ottawa, Bell is excited about city living. But the reality of school has set in, he said.

“I’m in Chicago, but I’m slightly confined to this university,” he said. “During the week it’s all school.”

He explores the city on weekends or weeknights for special occasions. The highlight so far was the Grant Park rally for President-elect Barack Obama’s victory speech.

“Just being in the crowd was really inspiring,” he said. “I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.”

He’s happy to head home this week for Thanksgiving — the first time he’s been back to Ottawa in nearly two months.

“I really miss my family,” he said. “It’s nice to be away, but it always feels good to be home.

“I almost feel like I’m closer to my parents now that I’m gone. We talk on the phone a lot, and it’s more in a friendship kind of way.”

He’s surprised by how much he’s learned at UIC so far — inside and outside the classroom.

“It seems like almost every moment I’m here, I’m learning something or gaining perspective,” he said.

“Just talking to people here expands my view on life. I never really leave the classroom.”


Keep up with the other freshmen:

Making new friends a necessity for fun, and help with chemistry

Keeping afloat with heavy course load

All-nighters and a daily commute

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