Hello lovely internet world,
I’ve been thinkin bout you (cue Frank Ocean) for a while. A LOT has happened at Swarthmore and in my life that I have a lot to say about (typical). So let’s begin:
Fall break in October is something most schools don’t have. I always think that it’s too soon (an entire week off in October!!!), yet by the time fall break is here I’m internally yelling where have you been/why have you taken so long. I think this sentiment was especially strong this year. The week preceding break was unreal. After some difficult losses in my personal life — not to mention midterms– I was ready to go home.
This brings me to IMPORTANT POINT #1: Learn self care!
I went home…eventually. But first I went to Duke.
Which brings me to IMPORTANT POINT #2: Learn to seek out and take advantage of Swarthmore’s resources!
Coincidentally, Professor Rachel Merz (Biology) brings a group of students to Duke’s Marine Laboratory during fall break as a part of her invertebrate biology class every year, but that’s not why I was there. I had a friend who worked with Apprentice Doctor, a national organization, geared towards high schoolers to provide practical medical experiences beyond CPR/first aid. Typically, the program has a summer long camp, but with their first college chapter they planned a break intensive focused mostly on workshop and simulations.
The four very full days I was at Duke I practiced scrubbing for surgery, suturing, phlebotomy, laparoscopy, fracture reduction and was able to learn a lot from current physicians. Such an incredible experience, right??? I should mention I’m a neuroscience/pre-med major to put this into perspective. I’m also a QuestBridge scholar. Prior to college early medical education opportunities like this were either non-existent or not realistically affordable. Luckily, Swarthmore has money for such educational endeavours. This trip would not have been possible without Dean’s funding and now hopefully I will establish a Swarthmore Apprentice Doctor chapter! (#2: RESOURCES)
Then, I went home. And I surprised my parents, which was glorious. Being the first to go to college in my family I know my parents ache for my presence. Plus, sometimes all you need is a hug from your mom. This brings me to #1: SELF CARE, with a note about appreciating your family (in whatever form you define family). It is inevitable that as a college student you will be overwhelmed. It is inevitable that as a human you will, at some point, have to bear the unbearable.
This is life.
We struggle, continually struggle.
It is better to learn sooner rather than later what self care means for you. Recently, I went to the “Moving the World Forward: Exploring a Future in Public Service” conference (see #2: RESOURCES; there are many conference opportunities that you can get funding for through Swarthmore or by the program itself — like this, which was all expenses paid for by Indiana University!). Especially, with the keynote speaker being Ta-Nehisi Coates the discussion focused on contemporary issues and activism. The theme of self care kept emerging. You cannot struggle, cannot fight, without self protection. Facing either systemic issues of “-isms”, racism, sexism, ableism, etc. or personal issues of grief or depression, it is imperative to care for your emotional and physical well being.
College is full of stress, the aforementioned issues will rear their ugly heads and demand to be grappled with. Sometimes it’s easy to know what you need –I needed to be home. I needed the comfort and security of my moms’ arms, my dogs and my room. Other times you need to take the time to figure out what you need. Often, it’s the little things that help you to keep pushing. Even when I have oodles of homework waiting to be done, if someone wants to watch an eleven minute episode of Steven Universe I say yes. Time spent doing things just because I enjoy it is never time wasted. Swarthmore has a lot of support for the transition. There are plenty of events to support students in non-academic ways. Fun Fridays, fruit breaks, and movie screenings galore! There is CAPS, the mental health counselling and Speak2Swatties for student-to-student support. Ask for help. Know your options and resources. Take advantage of everything offered. Life is a struggle, but you don’t have to struggle alone.