Live your life in bold.


Skilled Skiles: Writing radio scripts on election night at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, former co-editor-and-chief Gwyn Skiles has found a home in journalism organizations. Skiles emphasized applying yourself in college through extracurricular activities and looking for new friends. Photo courtesy of Gwyn Skiles

Gwyn Skiles, former co-editor-in-chief

My first week of college was tough with a capital ‘T’. 

I met nobody. I didn’t have a roommate to talk to throughout the day. Half of my neighbors decided not to come to campus. All social events were online with virtually zero attendance.

By the time I finished hanging my decorations, I figured it was time to put my Illini mask on and try to spark some conversation on the main quad. 

I circled the green lawn several times searching for a patch of friendly-looking people. I came across a group of four—two guys and two girls, diverse, masked and laughing. 

I inhaled, pinched my mask at the nose and with a leap of courage decided to ask if I could sit with them. 

It turns out they were, on average, 28-years-old. Graduate students. 

I stayed for about two minutes before the 10-year age difference prompted me to make an awkward exit. At the time, I couldn’t tell who was a freshman and who wasn’t. It’s not like high school where there’s about a five-inch difference between upperclassmen and underclassmen. 

The point of all of this is, when you’re a freshman in college, you have to be bold. You’re going to have to put yourself out there even if it’s a flop like this time was for me. 

I can proudly say I have made friends. 

That night, I sent an email, rather desperately, asking if some of my classmates in my Intro to Journalism class wanted to grab lunch. A few responded, and Farrah and Vivian became some of the best friends I’ve ever had.

But it’s not just about making friends. Being bold also pays off in other respects. 

For example, I had some spare time on my hands back in October. I decided to email my professor and ask if he had any opportunities for me. I ended up working with him to create audio stories on Election Night. Although that was my first time ever reporting or writing for radio, my work landed me an internship with an NPR newsroom.

Whether you’re graduating, or still have three more years left at South, put yourself out there. Even if going to a virtual club sounds like the most awkward thing ever or asking a teacher for extra credit sounds scary, you’ll become a better person because of it.

One day you’ll look back on yourself putting sticky notes on your neighbors’ doors or trying to spark a conversation with someone wearing AirPods, and you’ll be grateful that you were bold.