Monday, April 29, 2024

     Coming to college, a fresh start can sound rejuvenating but for many young adults it can be one of the most turbulent times and their first experiences on their own. Do you remember when you were 18 or 19? Life was exciting and chaotic all at once. From the first day of moving into your dorm room to finding your new friendships, building a sense of security and community can be overwhelming when you haven’t done it before. While a student’s first year can be intimidating, for many these anxieties continue throughout all their years at college. From balancing a job to navigating personal relationships, big and small stressors present themselves daily. Many students are just starting to develop the skills to resolve these independently, and sometimes they need additional time and support to persevere.

     In my experience as a first-generation college student, coming to the University of Iowa was a challenging time I knew I needed to figure out a lot of this transition to college on my own, and the added layer of the COVID-19 pandemic made it even more trying. My first year I succeeded with my support network of friends, the dedicated staff in the First Gen Hawks program, and my instructors' commitment to create a relaxed and affirming learning environment.

     Since high school, I have been a driven student with my involvements and academics. However, life has ebbed and flowed in recent years, even more than it did in the past. The last four years have been a time to learn on my own even through some of the most difficult situations with mental health, relationships, family matters, academics, and campus involvements. With flexibility on assignments and meaningful conversations, my most compassionate instructors have seen me as a person first.

     Student mental health and well-being is paramount to the mission of the University of Iowa. Faculty and staff have the power to impact students’ lives and bring positivity on days that may be a chaotic mess. Easy steps to better support students include:

Connecting with a student and checking in on them

Giving flexibility on deadlines and attendance

Being aware that students have a million responsibilities outside of the classroom or workplace

Sharing your story as a student and reassuring them in their journey through college

For me, supportive moments like these have made a major impact on my life through college and helped me feel like I belong. Creating a culture where individuals feel able to talk about what is affecting them reinforces the inclusive environment we aim to cultivate as Hawkeyes.