Join ACES in celebrating the Class of 2021! Through a challenging year, these students have persevered and shown what it means to be part of the ACES family. Here, a few of our graduating seniors share the challenges and successes of their time in ACES, as well as advice for their classmates.
Ricardo Lopez – Food Science and Human Nutrition/minor in Business
What are you doing after graduation? Master's Program in Food Processing and Engineering.
What’s a piece of advice you would give incoming freshman or next year’s seniors? Check your email and apply to everything.
What has been the most challenging part of your college experience? Focusing on just one discipline to learn about.
What has been the best part of your college experience, especially in the College of ACES? The many opportunities I was encouraged to undertake. From IFMA, AFA, LeaderShape, summer semester in France to undergraduate research. With the help and sponsorship from the College of ACES, I was able to take on more out-of-class experiences than I can list here.
What have you learned this past year during the pandemic? How fragile the health of everyone can be. And that there is no more revolutionary action than feeding and clothing your neighbor.
Maddie Yoo – Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Child and Adolescent Development/minor in Psychology
What are you doing after graduation? Attending Washington University at St. Louis for their occupational therapy doctorate program.
What’s a piece of advice you would give incoming freshman or next year’s seniors? Always take advantage of opportunities to try new things, meet new people, and see new places (especially on campus!).
What has been the most challenging part of your college experience? Cultivating confidence in my decisions, abilities, and future pursuits.
What has been the best part of your college experience, especially in the College of ACES? ACES Short-term Winter Break Study Abroad program in Cape Town, South Africa with Jan Brooks!
What have you learned this past year during the pandemic? You are more resilient than you think you are!
Kevin Zhang – Computer Science + Crop Sciences
What are you doing after graduation? I will be starting as a Software Engineer at Amazon.
What’s a piece of advice you would give incoming freshman or next year’s seniors? I would like to encourage everyone to actively lookout for the opportunities that are available, and sometimes you can achieve so much more than you have imagined.
What has been the best part of your college experience, especially in the College of ACES? I greatly appreciate all the opportunities I was provided at ACES. I was able to participate in research, and also found my internship in AgTech through the Department of Crop Sciences.
What have you learned this past year during the pandemic? The pandemic had definitely interrupted many people's lives and plans, including mine, but I am also grateful for everything I've learned through this pandemic, especially in never losing a sense of direction and always set a clear goal of myself.
Eileen Foerster – Food Science and Human Nutrition with a concentration in Human Nutrition
What are you doing after graduation? After graduation I will be working as an R&D food scientist at PepsiCo. I interned there this past summer and I loved working with the team and being consistently challenged on technical projects.
What’s a piece of advice you would give incoming freshman or next year’s seniors? As an out-of-state student, my biggest advice to freshmen (in or out of state) is to get involved early! During my freshman year, I began the school year not knowing a single person, but after I joined the food science clubs on campus, volunteered with the service fraternity on campus, and started research, I felt much more comfortable on campus. These were all very meaningful experiences that allowed me to meet people on campus and explore my passions outside the classroom before receiving internship opportunities.
What has been the most challenging part of your college experience? There are always semesters that are extremely academically challenging, but I think those are the ones you learn the most about time management, taking more time to destress, and reminding yourself of the end goal when everything seems overwhelming. The semesters I overloaded with credits or took graduate classes kept me outside my comfort zone, and taught me the importance of hard work and patience to achieving my long-term goal of graduating with high honors and getting to pursue a career that I am truly passionate about.
What has been the best part of your college experience, especially in the College of ACES? My favorite part of my college experience has been seeing my personal and professional growth, as well as that of my peers, throughout the last 4 years. From memories of attending the ACES fall festival, participating in James Scholar meetings, involvement in Student Advancement Committee, and being an active leader with Association of Food Technologists, the College of ACES always has great opportunities that really help students carve their own path to achieve their goals. I like how the College of ACES is large, but also feels like a small welcoming community at the same time. In the last 4 years I have grown close to a lot of my classmates and getting to see everyone come together for group events, yet have their own unique interests is really exciting to see.
What have you learned this past year during the pandemic? Being a junior and senior during the pandemic meant there were so many unknowns for my immediate future, from internships being cancelled to a majority of classes being moved online. During this time filled with so much uncertainty, like so many people I have learned to have a greater appreciation for the little things. Although many of the typical senior activities have been cancelled or moved online, I am grateful I still get to attend a lot of my food science labs in person, get to see my friends more with the flexibility of being online, and have the opportunity to walk in person for graduation. It is so much easier to focus on everything that has gone wrong, but instead placing my energy into the present and my potential for the future has really shifted my outlook on life for my last year of undergraduate.
Alec Sanchez – Animal Sciences with a concentration in Pre-veterinary Medicine
What are you doing after graduation? After graduation, I will be returning home to work as a Vet Tech at a local animal hospital for this upcoming year. After my experience, I plan to return to UIUC to attend Vet school in the Fall of 2022.
What’s a piece of advice you would give incoming freshman or next year’s seniors? To next year’s senior class, make the most of it! Make sure to start looking for job and internship opportunities to ease the transition out of college. Most importantly, enjoy the remaining time you have on campus and the freedom that comes with living in such a fun environment! You won’t remember the grade you got on your MCB exam but you will remember attending sporting events, walking down Green Street, and connecting with your peers. To the incoming freshman, get ready for an amazing four-year journey. Time really does fly, so start out your first year by familiarizing yourself with campus and all of the programs and clubs offered. I know it’s a very strange time with the pandemic still relevant, but put yourself out there and introduce yourself to peers and staff to get comfortable within your college!
What has been the most challenging part of your college experience? The most challenging part of my college experience was not academic. In fact, it was coming to understand the number of different personalities you will encounter during your time here. I learned a lot about perspective and how people operate at a level they are comfortable at. Learning to identify who you want to be around will give you the most enjoyable memories and present you with the best opportunities. Always trust your judgement and remember it’s never too late to help yourself.
What has been the best part of your college experience, especially in the College of ACES? The best part of my college experience had to be keeping up with our basketball team. Watching us go from an “ok” Big 10 team to a conference championship team was such an exciting way to end my senior year. I’ll always be an Illini and will keep up with the basketball program. In terms of my experience at the College of ACES, I loved how personal the professors were. Having all of my Animal Science courses on the South Quad made me feel like I was meeting with family every time I walked by the bell tower. While I associated it with the bulk of my academic work, it also felt like a breath of fresh air and comfort when I would find myself on the South Quad.
What have you learned this past year during the pandemic? The first is patience. Everyone is still adapting and figuring out how to make the most of a crappy situation. Reminding yourself of how much you’ve accomplished can help keep nerves down. Communication is huge when living with roommates so it really turned into a great time to improve my social skills and strengthen relationships. The second lesson is enjoying the little things in life. Sometimes the biggest smile on my face would come when I was walking through the quad listening to music and thinking about how much UIUC means to me. You can’t expect something exciting to happen every day, but looking out for little things can help crack a smile anywhere.