Andriana Williams is a special education major from Steger, IL
Hometown: Steger, IL
Year: Expected graduation: 2024
Major: Special education
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you pursuing that as a major, or have you taken another path?
Growing up, I wanted to be a doctor. At the age of 6, I also wanted to an astronaut, and at the age of 15, I wanted to be a chef. As I thought about the different professions I wanted to try, I realized they all had one thing in common: the absolute thrill I would get from teaching people. That’s when I realized I wanted to be a teacher. Also, since my mom is a teacher, I grew up in the teaching world. From spending time with her, I was able to get insight into the highs and lows of being a teacher. Plus, education and experience are literally the backbone of pursuing anything in this world, not to mention the way education affects everyday life.
What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
My major is special education. Growing up, I always had an interest in helping people. Though there are many fields that involve helping people, there’s something about teaching that gives me an incomparable feeling. Also, growing up with an IEP, I was not like the other kids. I was sometimes looked down on because my brain thought differently than others. I want kids who have special needs, in whatever way that may be, not to feel like they can’t do something because there’s an obstacle in their way. I want them to understand that there are always ways around obstacles. I don’t want them to be ashamed of who they are or feel weird about it. I want them to embrace it and understand that it just makes them more unique, bright and beautiful.
What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
Something I have found pleasantly surprising about NIU, or just college in general, is that it’s not at all what high school tells you. Coming into college, I had this idea that college professors don’t really care about you as a person, but it’s the exact opposite.
How have you connected with other students to study for classes, meet new people or form new friendships?
I’m still working on the forming new friendships part. I’ve had a hard time making friends all my life because I tend to be shy and a little weird at points. But who isn’t a little bit weird sometimes? With the university going back to in-person classes, I’ve been able to meet some people who will be in my life for a long time. It has also given me the chance to really explore opportunities and step out of my comfort zone in many different aspects of my life.
Are you involved in any student organizations, mentoring programs or extra-curricular activities? If so, which ones? How have they added to your experience as a Huskie?
I’m involved with the Dr. G. Mentoring Program, an amazing program everyone should join. It provides you with so many opportunities, not just in education but in life. You get the chance to be paired up with a mentor with similar goals and aspirations. It provides you with so many different resources and connections, it could honestly change your life. I was introduced to the program earlier this year by a former professor of mine, and it was the best decision I ever made. I have received opportunities and connections I never would have thought possible.
What NIU offices, departments or resources have helped you succeed? And how?
Although all the NIU offices are helpful in their own way, the ones that have truly helped me the most are the Writing Center and the Mathematics Assistance Center (MAC). The MAC provides resources that can help you with any section of math. The Writing Center is my go-to when I need help writing a big paper or doing a resume for a job. Both of these services provided me with the greatest opportunity to succeed at NIU and continue to succeed long after I graduate.
Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?
One of my favorite professors is Professor Leslie Sassone, who teaches Philosophy of Education. Being in that class gave me a new perspective on life and education. Professor Sassone was real and raw. She gave it to you honestly, which I appreciated because not everyone has the guts to do that. It also makes you want to fight and gives you the drive to do better. My other favorite professor is Professor Amie Livengood, who teaches LTCY 300. Her overall aura is beautiful and amazing. She makes the things I’m not a big fan of (such as writing) not so bad and even makes them fun. She also makes me feel safe and calm by saying it’s okay to not be perfect. If you happen to mess up, all you have to do is try again.
How have you benefited by attending class regularly?
Attending class regularly benefits me in many ways and helps me do well in my courses. Going to class allows you to have the resources to earn the grade you want. By going, you get all the information and can ask for clarification on things you don’t understand. Also, professors will sometimes throw out extra credit, which can come in handy when you need a bit of help.
Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
I’m not very into sports, but I do enjoy the football games and volleyball games when they’re in season. It’s an event that anyone can go, whether you’re by yourself or with a group. It’s so much fun and you’re able to connect with new people.
What advice would you give to a student who is applying to colleges?
One tip I would give to students applying to college is to schedule a day to just do nothing, if you can. College can be stressful, and sometimes you might even question why you’re here, because it’s difficult to balance school, work and social life. Also, use the reason you came to college in the first place as your motivation. It will make it 10 times easier to keep going and keep your eyes on the prize.
Coming to college, what is something that you have had to learn to do differently?
Coming to college I definitely had to learn a lot of time management. Transferring from a high school schedule to a college schedule was very hard for me. I find what works best for me is at the end of each day, I plan the next day. It makes me feel more organized, and I get a sense of accomplishment from crossing things off my list and knowing that I finished what I needed to for the day.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
To relax and recharge I simply like staying inside. I take the weekend as my time to stay in and binge watch movies/TV shows. I also use that time to do a lot of self-care and cleaning, because a clean space equals a clean mind. I also do yoga and kickboxing in my free time, which really relaxes my body and mind and releases a lot of unwanted negative energy.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
I want everyone to remember that they’re beautiful even if they don’t see it.
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