Signature Student Experience

How to Turn Failure into Success Your First Semester at UIC

Akshay is a student from Qatar

Written by: Akshay from Qatar

Well, you are finally at The University of Illinois at Chicago. You have been looking forward to this ever since you found out you were coming to the United States. You promised yourself that you would make the most of it, setting goals like: “I’m going to get all As, go to the gym seven days a week, make a lot of friends, try new things, and overall, be my best self.” Well, I don’t know about you, but for me the first two goals didn’t pan out the way I would have liked. I spent too much time out with my friends and my first semester grades were disappointing. I didn’t put in as much effort as I should have, and I did not take advantage of the countless resources UIC offers students to help improve their academic performance and personal growth.

During my first semester, I struggled to understand what my professors wanted to see in my work, and that included writing papers, doing lab reports, and running code. Worst of all, I felt alone. Nothing is worse than having to deal with work-related hurdles, especially as an international student with a family thousands of miles away. So, when you read this article, what I want you to know most of all is this: You are not ALONE! There are people who have stood in your shoes, who have failed, who have had it even worse than you. Yet, they never gave up! Outlined below are steps to get back on track and turn your year around. Don’t worry if you fall along the way. Continue to reference these steps and trust the process.

Four Steps for Your Best Year at UIC

  1. Stop blaming yourself. Realize that failure is a part of the ride. No one successful has had an easy time of it. They just had the grit to get back up and learn from their failures.
  2. Analyze your failure. This one is hard for me even to this day, because I don’t like looking over my mistakes, but it is necessary if you want to succeed.

Were you going to every class? Were you paying attention, actually paying attention, or just watching Champions League matches on Reddit? (*Tip: Use Reddit to watch soccer, but not during class.*)

Are you taking notes? Effective notes, not just jotting down everything the professor says? Try rewriting the professor’s lecture in your own words. This will force your brain to actively focus and learn the subject. Sometimes, I become over-confident and I often don’t take notes. This is not helpful. I know for a fact that writing something down also reinforces the subject in your mind.

Were you taking advantage of the various resources available for different subjects? The writing center for English, the CS Lounge for Computer Science, the Math Learning Center for Psychology. (I’m just playing — it’s Math, but you knew that!) These are just a handful of academic resources UIC offers students. If you have any questions or concerns, you can email or meet with your UIC Global advisor. They are there to help you succeed.

  1. Seek help when you need it. Go to office hours. Ask questions. Reach out to people. At the end of the day, you are here for you. You are paying a lot of money to get this level of education; make it worth every penny.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to others. You are you. And you are smart. Just keep one thing in mind: keep moving forward. You will fail, but make sure you avoid the same failures. Like I said, trust these steps.


At the end of the day, have fun. It’s not all about the grades, it’s about developing your whole self.

Like coding? Make something.

Like photography? Make Chicago your model.

Like volunteering? Reach out to charitable organizations.

Just make sure to take advantage of living and studying in one of the best cities in the U.S.

Learn more about UIC Global’s student services.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.