Make Yourself Stand Out at the University of Illinois

Find a meaningful way to stand out from all the other new grads with high GPAs from great colleges.
by Ann Abbott

Why you need to find a way to stand out

Face it, every student at the University of Illinois is intelligent. Lots of students make good grades. Students in the same major take the same required classes. A whole lot of students take on part-time jobs. Many students spend their summers working and taking on-line classes.

You have to find a way to stand out. A way to destacarte.

You need to do this while you're in college.

Yes, it's so that you can then truly stand out when you're looking for post-graduation jobs.

But it's also so much more than that. Avail yourself of all the once-in-a-lifetime resources at your disposal at college so you can better figure out who you are. What you care about. (Beyond grades, please.) What you're good at. What you thought you cared about but then found out didn't really light your fire. What the mentors you meet during these opportunities reflect back to you about yourself. What makes you smile. The snippets you share with your family and friends when they ask you what you've been up to lately.

Another day I will blog about how to find the way to make yourself stand out. But today I just want to give a list of a few evergreen opportunities that will help you stand out along with a couple of right-now opportunities that have popped up in my email or Facebook feed.

Choose one. Apply. Even if it doesn't work out, you'll be better at writing applications.

Perennial ways to stand out

Community service learning classes

You know I'm going to promote these courses. You have to do the work. You have to break free from the typical "student" role and really throw yourself into the community partner's mission and work. You have to reflect upon your actions, your learning, your preconceived notions, your new appreciations, your understanding of why things are as they are, your ideas about structural (or not so structural) innovations for social justice. You have to see the importance of grunt work. You have to be willing to file as well as interact with clients. You have to see the value in the work you do--whether or not anyone tells you thank you. (Though thank-yous are always nice and motivating.) You're always welcome in my classes: Business Spanish (SPAN 202), Spanish in the Community (SPAN 232) and Spanish & Entrepreneurship (SPAN 332). But take a look around the course catalog and the website to find more service learning or community based learning courses. Take them. Throw yourself into them. Then have something to talk about that shows that you know about ideas AND about doing the work.

Study abroad--for a year

You probably know by now that studying abroad is no longer seen as unique as it once was. And because of the changes taking place in study abroad (shorter stays, all English, etc.), you might not have that transformational experience that truly sets you apart from others who have never gone abroad. But I guarantee you that if you go abroad for a year (two semesters) you will stand out. You will be different than the others because:
  • Your language skills will be better. More time immersed in the language is simply more time to become proficient.
  • Your transcultural competence will be stronger. You will have interacted with more people, in more circumstances and in more complex situations. It's just a factor or time. And you will have more experiences to draw upon to tell your unique story. To illustrate your problem-solving skills. To show how well you work with people from other countries, who speak other languages. To highlight how you respond under pressure (ever missed a train or plane while traveling abroad--and didn't totally melt down?).
  • Your level of commitment and risk-taking will be evident. A semester is safe. A semester is what most people do. A semester means that you don't have to give up your beloved apartment. A semester means that you'll only miss your boyfriend/girlfriend for a little while. You really show your mettle when you sign on for something hard, something unknown for a whole year.
Why not apply to our year-long program in Barcelona, Spain? Or see about staying two semesters on one of the other programs we sponsor. French, German and Japanese also have year-long programs.

Write an honors thesis

If you are interested in going to graduate school in Spanish or any other discipline, a traditional research thesis will set you apart. In our Spanish program, you have to find a faculty member who will work with you on a two-semester research and writing project. That's not easy. This is for excellent students with high levels of commitment to working independently, writing and taking constructive criticism in order to rewrite. You also have to be really comfortable with ambiguity, because research projects cannot always be pre-defined or follow a rigid schedule. 

And even if you're not particularly interested in grad school, see if you can find a faculty member who might work with you on a research project of a different kind. For example, I once had a team of students work together to write a case study for me. I can imagine many kinds of community-based research projects that are more closely related to the types of research, writing and presentation that you need to do in a job rather than in graduate school. 

Time-sensitive ways to stand out

Here I'm just going to list several opportunities that have come to my attention recently. Rush to them. Apply to them. Thoughtfully connect your experiences (in courses and outside of them) and aspirations to the underlying mission of the opportunity itself. Work on that. Write it, then sleep on it. Revise it in the morning. Do your best work in the application. And afterward.

La Línea: Intern or Volunteer

La Línea is now looking for volunteers!
Currently, our greatest volunteering needs are:
1) Operators for the month of August: We are looking for volunteers to help out with the phone this month. Please let us know as soon as possible if you are available!

2) Interns for Fall 2015: If you are interested in serving as an intern with La Línea in the fall, please consult the attached internship description. Note that while the internship is formulated for students in the School of Social Work, you do not need to be a social work student to apply. Please send a resume and cover letter by August 24 if you are interested in applying.
Contact: Megan Flowers at
Thank you!

Part-time Saturday Morning Program Coordinator

East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center
Job Description
Saturday Morning Program Coordinator
Part-Time, 10 hours per week
The Saturday Morning Program Coordinator will report to the Co-Coordinators of ECIRMAC
General Responsibilities:
·         Manage the operations of the Saturday Program.
·         Model inclusiveness, collaboration and teamwork.
·         Communicate effectively.
·         Demonstrate strong organizational and problem solving skills.
Specific Duties:
·         Develop and train a team of volunteers for the Saturday Morning Program.
·         Lead the program as needed.
·         Manage Budget (purchase and/or secure workbooks and supplies for students and tutors).
·         Develop the organizational structure of the program.
·         Complete an annual program evaluation and prepare a written report.
·         Assume other responsibilities as agreed by supervisor and/or staff.
Required Qualifications:
·         Experience in education
·         Experience in program management
·         Excellent interpersonal, communication and organizational skills
·         Experience in working with volunteers
Desirable Qualifications:
·         Experience in ESL and familiarity with resources
·         Fluency in a second language
Work Schedule:
·         Ten hours per week, excluding holidays and breaks in the University of Illinois Calendar
·         Saturday Program meets from 10 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Additional hours are for a weekly coordination meeting and preparation.
·         Flexible schedule consistent with meeting the requirements of the position
Supervisor:  Co-Coordinator of ECIRMAC
Supervises: Two student leaders and Volunteers
To Apply:
·         Send cover letter and resume to Deb Hlavna at
·         Deadline for Applications is August 21, 2015

Yankee Ridge After-School Spanish Class

For Yankee Ridge Elementary in Urbana I am looking for someone to teach a Spanish after school enrichment class. It would be 6 week course for September-October this fall. Please let me know if you can help me find someone who would be interested in teaching this course. It could be one of your teachers or may be one or more students who could get teaching practice this way.

Thank you so much!

Anine Singh-de Grood
Enrichment Coordinator
Yankee Ridge PTA
(You'll have to look up the contact information; I didn't receive any in this forwarded message.)

European Union Center Social Media Intern

Job Description

The European Union Center is seeking a web savvy intern to develop, implement and maintain day-to-day social media strategy across our various social media platforms. This intern will be responsible for developing a strategy, as well as maintaining and growing our social media community. Although unpaid, the intern position may qualify for course credit.  Flexible work hours of approximately 5 hours/week will start at the beginning of the Fall 2015 semester (September 1, 2015). This internship is a great resume builder and reference!

  • Manage all of EUC’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Blog, LinkedIn, Pinterest) including:
    • Developing and posting content
    • Monitoring conversations
    • Engaging with and responding to fans/followers
    • Tracking, analyzing, and reporting metrics to measure the impact/effectiveness of social media tactics and reporting results to the staff
  • Develop and execute creative strategies to increase engagement and to continually improve our social media presence
  • Research and recommend new opportunities, trends and features in the social media space

Desired Skills and Experience:
  • Pursuing an undergraduate degree in Media, Marketing, Communications or other related field
  • Experience working with different social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.)
  • Demonstrate interest in Europe and EU cultural, political and educational affairs
  • Experience using Social Media monitoring tools such as Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics
  • Basic computer skills (Microsoft Office Suite)
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills

Send your resume and a cover letter (max. 2 pages) to
European Union Center
324 ISB, 910 S. Fifth St.
Champaign, IL 61820

Deadline: August 21, 2015

For more information and list of EU Center Social media,

please go to the EU Center website:


  1. You are so right. It's hard to make yourself stand out from others. These are all great ideas for any major student, actually. Employers want to see experience, not just good grades. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Gracias, Paige. I agree with you. At a big place like this university, it can be a bit overwhelming for students but that also means that there are many opportunities. My Business Spanish Students will work as social media marketing consultants this semester so that they can have some real experiences to talk about in job interviews and on their resumes--I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with!


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