Name: Alexander "Guide" Sobecki
Hometown: New Lenox, Illinois
Committee: Communications/ New Student Initiatives
I was told I was not going to graduate high school. Somehow, I did. I ended up at Northern Illinois University with nothing in my hands but fear, hoping I’d pass those first classes. Somehow, I did.
Three years later, my advisor says it looks like I’m going to graduate in four years. That’s quite an achievement nowadays. But imagine doing it when you have two majors in Sociology and Corporate Communications and two minors in Chinese Studies and Southeast Asian Studies. I was one of the first students to study abroad in West Africa, and later I was one of the first to go to China. I’m a third year Community Advisor who has mentored over a hundred students and watched them become amazing people. I have studied Mandarin Chinese for three years and am now starting Malay. I’ve coordinated charity events, apprenticed under renowned experts, led research teams, touched ancient artifacts, met extraordinary people from every walk of life, and somewhere along the line I became a competitive fencer. Whenever I walk across campus, people call out my name, cars honk their horns, and there’s always someone chasing me down to ask a question or ask for help with something. I’m known for wearing red and black, and never take off the necklace with my fraternity symbol on it. I’m still worried about passing my classes. But I’m more worried about getting into graduate school next year, trying to get my first paper presented at a conference, and launching a campaign to fund a school I visited in Africa.
What happened? Northern happened. I came for a diploma; I’m leaving a different person.
Like many people who come to college full of fear and doubt, I was given a second chance. Every door was open, many upperclassmen made time for me, and a few incredible professors had the patience to put up with me as I grew and changed. I tried to do everything, and many times hit that brick wall face-first. But for every few run-ins with that wall, I found something I never thought I was capable of that I could use to shape the world and help others. Most people stop when they find a major they like and a club or two, I . . . went a bit overboard, but I don’t regret it and it’s made me who I am today.
In the end, all the lines on my resume and all the obscure achievements mean nothing to me. What I’m truly proud of is being able to meet a terrified freshman who feels they’re alone in the world, and tell them first-hand that they can do it. That’s what I have to thank Northern for.