Welcome to My Village

It takes a village to… do a lot of things, actually.

It takes a village to raise a child, sure. We’ve all heard that a million times. It also takes a village to graduate from high school, even though I know I wasn’t as cognizant of that when I was there. At Whitman, though, it’s impossible to ignore the village who is helping me graduate in May!

After a pleasantly welcoming first year, full of making friends and adjusting to college, a pretty difficult summer and sophomore fall semester followed. I started having a lot of trouble eating, sleeping, and focusing in class, though I was also pretty bad at recognizing these changes within myself. Luckily, my roommate was much more observant, and she eventually recommended that I make an appointment with the counseling center. Let’s welcome her as the representative for the first part of this village: the remarkably encouraging student body at Whitman. Whether it’s seeking out a tutor, asking a professor for an extension, or getting help for a more personal issue like I’m sharing here, I have been met with nothing but full and vocal support from everyone I have reached out to. They have been there for me through it all, and I’ve even made a lot of friendships through our shared struggles with our mental and/or physical health. Friends and roommates and the people I run into in the dining halls, welcome to my village!

I had never been to counseling before, and was as nervous as I could be about my intake appointment. As you might guess, there wasn’t a single thing to be worried about. I went to the counseling center during one of their drop in times, filled out an intake questionnaire to give them an idea of what I was struggling with, and then saw a counselor for a short first meeting to figure out the best route forward. I started seeing a counselor weekly for talk therapy, and have continued weekly meetings since then. When the going gets tougher, I have often been able to schedule an extra meeting or reach out to my counselor over email, and was even able to be referred to a doctor through the counseling center once we decided that looking into medications would be productive. Starting counseling is one of the scariest things I have ever done, but it is now one of the things I look forward to most every week. Counselors and doctors who have encouraged me through my most vulnerable moments, welcome to my village!

Once I started counseling and working through finding a medication regimen that worked for me, it became clear that I would need some extra help in my classes. Being a full time student is challenging enough for the best of times, and I knew I needed to put just as much time into taking care of myself if I had any hope of getting back on my feet. I started regularly visiting the Academic Resource Center (affectionately called the Arc) for advice, disability support, and occasional test proctoring, and this may well be the most important part of this village. Coming to terms with having a mental illness was difficult, and learning how to ask for help didn’t come easily to me. As well as recovering from a difficult semester or two, I noticed that there were parts of my brain that had changed forever through this mental health journey. The ways I read, write, and process information just aren’t the same as they were when I was in high school, and all of these resources helped me realize that that’s okay. Meeting with a disability support advocate and getting tons of great advice about time management, different study techniques, and honestly just life in general has been immensely helpful, and we haven’t even gotten to the institutional help the Arc has helped me get!

Because my mental illness fluctuates day to day and week to week, I have been able to work out accommodations for absences to help me stay on top of my work when I have to miss class due to physical, cognitive, or emotional manifestations of my mental illness. They have helped me inform my professors and guided me in how to start conversations with them about how I can best succeed in their class with whatever is going on that semester. During my most challenging semesters, they have also helped me withdraw from a class after the deadline through petitioning the Board of Review, and they walked me through the pros and cons of taking a medical leave of absence earlier this year, which is easily the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. The Arc has been there for my greatest challenges and successes, and their help was the biggest reason I was able to stay here last semester. To Antonia and everyone else in the Academic Resource Center, welcome to my village!

College can be HARD. Classes are hard, adjusting to living independently is hard, and figuring out what you want to prioritize in these short four years is hard too. But, that all comes out of classes being more interesting, learning about yourself, and having too many awesome options ahead of you! I knew that I would enjoy Whitman when I opened my acceptance email almost exactly 4 years ago, but I had no idea that I would be this aware of all of the amazing resources Whitman offers, or that I would have this many reasons to be proud of graduating at all. After all of the things that have changed for me over these four years, I am so grateful for the friends, staff members, and faculty who have helped me this far, and I hope that all of you find as much support here as I have!

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