The sunlit south porch area of the Illini Union is where future architect Swapna Parab found herself one fine late-summer day in 2005.
After earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Mumbai back home, then working in India for the next 16 years, she made a bold decision: to come to Americain pursuit of her master’s.
She knew no one when she boarded a Champaign-bound bus from Chicago and, a few hours later, arrived on campus, “standing there with a giant suitcase that I carried from India, an equally large bag, my architectural portfolio and dreams for my life.
“Seeing that sunlit porch and the enormous Quad made me so happy,” she says, “realizing that this amazing university is home to so many students just like myself. I forgot that I had come all alone to the United States, and felt at home immediately. I sat under the tree, as I was very tired from the travel, and before I knew it, I was sleeping right there with bright sun shining on my face, reminding me of days from India. I must have slept for a couple of hours before waking up to hustle bustle.
“I loved that moment, that evening, as it set the tone for rest of my life on the campus. It offered so much warmth and love from fellow students, professors and even outsiders that I never doubted the choice I made.”
Little did she know at the time how frequently she’d return to that spot during her time here.
“I ended up working as the Illini Union building supervisor for next two years while I pursued master’s in architecture and got many more chances to hang out at my favorite place,” she says.