A Welcoming Community with a Place for You with Mike

Segment #7 from University of Illinois


The University of Illinois is located in the twin cities of Urbana and Champaign, which together have a population of around 100,000 people. The term micro urban does a good job describing the kind of place this is. It’s friendly, affordable, and easy to get around, but it’s also a bustling diverse place which has consistently been named the number one Midwest food town. There’s also a great music scene here in the community and on campus. Mike, the student you’re gonna hear from next, over in the Illinois Street Dining Center is really involved in the music scene. When Mike talks about Campustown and the great community here, he’s clearly talking about the people as well as the place. Mike, take it away.

Hey, everyone coming to college was a big transition for me. My first semester was full of new experiences and honestly, it was a struggle for me to adapt. I had to step out of my comfort zone and find my place. All it took was that first step to realize how amazing the U of I community is. It has so many friendly people with diverse interests. You can join a campus group for everything from water polo to origami. In fact, I even started my own club for solving Rubik’s cubes. The first thing I joined my freshman year was a Shakespearean theater group on campus. I made so many very good friends that way.

Now that I’m a senior, I’m renting a house just off campus with five of them. It’s so great, you’ll never get closer to friends than you do by living with them. I’m a business major and generally an entrepreneurial person. So I’ve met a lot of people through the resources and activities on campus. Last year, I had an app idea and my roommate was on board with helping out. All we needed was engineers. An on-campus startup competition called Cozad was perfect for our search. Cozad brings an experienced entrepreneurs to give students expert advice on starting a business. After we gave our pitch, we found three engineers to join the team. We didn’t win the competition, but we learned so much about the ins and outs of starting a business. It was a great outlet for finding entrepreneurial people and ideas.

I’ve also met tons of people through the fantastic music scene here. We have Midwest demo, R&B and many other indie influences in a wide variety of venues close to campus that bring in great shows. When I first got to campus, I dabbled in music, but I’ve really started working at it when I joined Music for the Masses, an open mic group on campus that hosts bi-weekly open mics at the Illini Union.

When I first got on that stage in front of a bunch of people, I was so nervous that I had to sit down during my first song. My legs were shaking that much, but everyone was so encouraging that I came back every two weeks. I eventually became a host and now I’m vice president of the club. After people started hearing my music, I got a job performing weekly at the Illini Union Food Courtyard Cafe. It’s amazing to think about how I started my musical journey, being so nervous to go on stage, and now I’m a known artist here on campus.

Last semester, I finally released my first album with the help from a friend. I submitted one of the songs to the student radio station, WPGU, and the next thing I knew, it was put into the mix. Now it’s on rotation for the whole campus to hear. This inspired me to work on an indie folk album, which I hope to release soon.

When I think back in my entire U of I experienced, one of my favorite memories is from one of my sets here. I was singing, “Take Me Home Country Roads” in front of an audience of students that joined in with me, singing harmony and tapping to the beats. It’s a perfect example of how great the students are here. I’m really gonna miss this community after I graduate, but I’ll never forget the memories. Back to you, Alex.

Mike, I’m always up for a country road sing along on. Can I also put in a request for Jack Johnson “Pirate at Forty”? Whatever you do my man, keep on playing the world always needs more music. Thanks again.

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