Celeste Acosta is a Molecular and Cellular Biology major at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Read on to learn about her first year at UIUC, and her views on being a Pullman Scholar!

What drew you to your college?

My parents always emphasized the importance of going to college – especially because they were not able to go themselves. College has always been the place where I would expand my knowledge about the world and people, both in the classroom and beyond. As a first-generation college student, attending college also drew a sense of fulfillment and achievement for myself and my family. It’s one step to obtaining a life-long career.

What are your passions or hobbies?

My hobbies include photography, listening to music, dancing, and journaling. A lot of my hobbies bring out my creative side since I study STEM related things in school.

I’ve always liked taking pictures of moments that I know I’ll cherish for a long time. This is the main reason why I always run out of phone storage. Listening to music from different eras and different languages is something I love to do. Good music always makes my day better. I used to be a dancer from the ages of 3 to 11. It’s always been a part of me that I can’t let go, despite not performing in such a long time. Journaling is one of those things that I don’t do consistently but when I do, I gain a lot of mental clarity by writing out what I truly feel and why.

What’s your favorite aspect of college? What was your first semester of college like?

My favorite aspect of college is finally being in control of my education and falling in love with learning again. It sounds a bit strange, but I love having the freedom to learn what I am truly interested in and discovering even more interests through that. It’s a feeling that I haven’t had since elementary school. I also love meeting new people and making friends that have similar interests as me.

If I could describe my first semester experience it would be a trial-and-error experience. I felt like I was constantly adjusting to the environment and to the pace of college level classes. For a majority of the semester it was quite overwhelming. However, I learned a lot about what works for me academically and what I have to do personally to be at my best and put in my full effort into my studies. Overall, first semester was a huge learning experience and it definitely prepared me well for second semester.

What do you like about being a Pullman Scholar? What does being a Pullman Scholar mean to you?

The thing that I love about being a Pullman Scholar is the sense of community and connection. Not only do I feel connected to my Pullman Scholar peers, as some of them also go to my college, but I am connected to other resources that I wouldn’t have learned about through the Pullman Scholar community. I also love the sense of encouragement that I get from other scholars’ achievements throughout their college journey! Being a Pullman Scholar to me means always putting my best foot forward despite any situation and taking initiative when it comes to embarking on a new opportunity. Being part of this community encourages me to become the best version of myself in order to one day give back to others.

Celeste in her favorite study spot – the Undergraduate Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign