Communication is key… but so is being myself

I’ve always been a reserved, introverted person and communication has never been easy for me. As a kid, I used to get into trouble for being too scared to even order a sandwich. There were opportunities in life that I missed out on due to my fear of speaking up. For example, in elementary school, my teacher assigned us a project, and I did my best to do well on it. I bought toys, clay, and paint—I really went all out! But I didn’t know we’d also have to present in front of the class, and as my teacher examined my work and praised it, I refused to present, too shy to even lift up my head. I’ve always dreamed of becoming an actress, but my mother says that if I don’t break out of this shell of mine, I won’t make it. She doesn’t mean it unkindly; she’s only trying to help me, which I understand and appreciate. I’ve read about actors and actresses who are shy like me, or a little awkward like Aubrey Plaza, and it’s reassuring to know that I can realize my dream despite my shyness.

I’ve been communicating more since coming to Geneseo. I’m still scared to talk sometimes, but there have been situations where I’m able to push past the fear and express myself even if it’s difficult and intimidating. I’ve made some new friends on my own, and I try not to overthink things or act awkwardly around them. I see a lot of performing arts groups on campus, but I don’t think that I’ll join. I’m too nervous and afraid to audition, but maybe my feelings will change over time. There are a lot of confident and outgoing people in this world, and society makes it seem like you can’t be successful or happy unless you are that way too. I used to think the same thing, but now I believe that I’m fine just the way I am. Yes, I’m shy but not to the point where I can’t communicate in my own way. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a first-year is that I can go far by being myself.

A period of transition 

As the first semester of my sophomore year comes to a close, I can say this has been the most eventful time of my life. Catching Covid in September pushed me back a lot in my work and social life. I missed so many assignments and campus events that coming out of quarantine felt like I was starting over from scratch. Being isolated for almost two weeks made me realize that the world doesn’t wait for you. Work piled up and it was as if everyone forgot about me while I was away for what seemed like forever. My friends checked in when I first started isolating, but then the communication stopped. I had no idea what was going on outside of my cold room in Niagara Hall.

The death of my grandfather from dementia and cancer took a toll on me this fall as well. It signified a great change in my life; one that I thought I would have more time for. My close family has remained constant and stable throughout my childhood, but after his death, I definitely noticed a shift. There is a lot to deal with after a person dies and many loose ends to tie up. My mother has become very involved in this process, and as a result, I feel a lot more independent as a young adult. I’ve wanted this kind of freedom since I was a little girl, but I miss the attention from my mother. While my grandfather’s death was something my family expected, it shocked us all in different ways. Each of us had our own personal connections to him, but I will never know about them. In my family, we rarely express our emotions. Our lack of expressing emotions is something I think about constantly because I wish it were different. It would be nice not to have to venture outside of family to discuss family business. The whole situation felt strange, especially the timing of my grandfather’s funeral—I went home to New York City for the services while my peers were celebrating Halloween weekend. The lesson that I’ve learned so far in sophomore year is that the world will not wait for me. With sickness and death altering my life this semester, I have learned that life is short and should be lived to the fullest.

Lessons of my first semester

So far, my first-year experience has been everything I imagined it would be. I feel like I’m settling into a routine and becoming a mature, independent college student. However, just as I’m finally getting the hang of things at Geneseo, my first semester of my freshman year is coming to a close. The adjustment from high school to college has not been easy, but I have learned some helpful life lessons along the way that I would like to share.

One valuable lesson is time management and balancing school work with my hobbies. In the midst of a stressful fall, it’s critical to find time to enjoy myself. Getting my assignments done on time and studying properly to ensure that I do well in classes, as well as having fun with friends and maintaining a social life, takes work. However, once a happy medium was obtained (about halfway through the semester, but better late than never!), I’m able to say that I hit my stride. With all of the activities and campus events for students, deadlines and exams come up closer than you realize. From the first unit test, essay, or quiz to the next, the days fly by, and you will need to avoid procrastination. I, for one, learned this lesson the hard way. Without your parents reminding you to be productive and prioritize school work, it’s simple to put an assignment on the back burner and tell yourself you will “just do it later,” knowing that you won’t want to complete it then either. I fell victim to this bad habit by scrambling to finish my work right before the due date at the beginning of the semester. Now, I’ve conditioned myself to get a jump start on assignments, which alleviates a lot of stress that tends to build up as deadlines approach. One strategy I’ve used is setting a timer on my phone for 30 minutes to block out uninterrupted work time, then allowing myself a 10-minute break after that timer goes off, then repeating until my work has been completed.

Another lesson I’ve learned is the importance of putting yourself out there. As a member of the volleyball team, I was lucky enough to enter college with a built-in friend group, but that didn’t stop me from continuing to make friends with people in my dorm or in my classes. This can be tough for a majority of freshmen, but once you find a solid group of friends, you won’t regret taking that leap of faith. Although my first semester of college is almost over, I’m not leaving empty-handed—I will take all the lessons I’ve learned here so far with me, and I hope you will, too.

Dinner with friends

As my first semester at Geneseo draws to a close, it’s fitting to reflect on my college experience so far. I have made more friends since August, and I owe a lot of that to Madelyn, my best friend, who introduced all of us in our circle of friends. I met Madelyn when my twin sister Ally and I were eating dinner in the dining hall alone because we hadn’t made that many friends yet. Madelyn, being the nice person she is, called us over to sit with her, and we have been inseparable ever since. Despite having the comfort and familiarity of attending college with my twin, we both have shy personalities, and we were grateful that she invited us to sit with her. Alannah, my other best friend, is just as kind and welcoming. I also met her at dinner at Mary Jemison with Madelyn and Ally. She lives around the corner from Madelyn, and plays softball and volleyball with Madelyn. I love that we all have the same energy, and there’s no fear of judgment because Madelyn and Alannah are such genuine people. I have always had a hard time making new friends, due to the fact that I have an identical twin, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Having Ally with me at college makes me feel very much at home. If she wasn’t here, I don’t know what I would do. She is my whole world; my “ride or die.” College has been one of the best experiences of my life because I have a great group of friends and my sister by my side. Over the past 15 weeks, I’ve learned that getting my work done and keeping my grades up are important, but so is having a good social life. In those hard early days of the fall semester, if I went home every weekend, I know it would have been even more difficult to make friends, so I’m glad that Ally and I stayed on campus. You never know where you’ll meet a lifelong friend: in class, at a hockey game, or while eating a meal!

The part of college no one talks about

If I’m being honest, my first few months at Geneseo have been difficult. As a first-year, you think that you’ve made some good friends, but then people change. They stop inviting you out without an explanation, and it makes you feel like you did something wrong or you’re not likable. It can really mess with your mental health; personally, it made me more cautious about meeting new people than I already was. Just when I feel like I’ve gotten the hang of college life, there’s a sad night when all I want to do is go home and be in the comfort of my own room. I assumed it would be easy to meet people and make friends, but it turned out to be a lot harder than I thought, especially when it looks like everybody around me has already made lifelong friends and is having an amazing time. Luckily, my dad knew someone who helped me get a job with the hockey team here, which keeps me busy, and I’ve even met a few people through it as well. I get to go to all the hockey games and film them—getting paid to watch my favorite sport is an added bonus! Along with school and my new job, I need to have something to look forward to in order to keep myself motivated. Right now, it’s visiting my brother in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with my sister for Thanksgiving. I’ve grown used to not seeing my older siblings very much throughout the year. They both left the house when I was going into 7th grade: my brother went to Ann Arbor, Michigan to play for the USA NTDP hockey team and my sister was attending college at Florida State. It was a hard transition for my whole family, so any time all five of us get to be together, we make the best of it. Hanging out with my brother and sister is one of my favorite things. They are basically my best friends but, of course, we fight like all brothers and sisters do. My family is an important part of my life, and I’ll happily spend time with my parents, siblings, and extended family whenever I get the chance. But this has made creating a “home” on campus challenging. I have been spending most weekends at my parents’ house, so my dad and I agreed that I need to stay in the dorms for a little longer than a week, so I can get used to being independent for longer stretches of time. I love my family and I get homesick quickly, but I’m going to try my best.

Finding friends, or people to just hang out with, has been the biggest issue for me. I’m someone who likes to do stuff and go places. In the spring, I will be able to rush a sorority, which seems like a good way to meet like-minded people. My mom and sister were both in sororities in college, and it’s where they met their best friends, so I’m putting my hopes into that. Since August, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions, good and bad times, but I know my family and childhood friends are just a phone call away. They will always be there for me when I need them, and this helps me stay positive. The adjustment to Geneseo has been one of the toughest experiences that I’ve gone through. College really pushes you mentally to take control of yourself and your life. In every way, it’s a whole new world, but it’s rewarding when things finally feel like they are falling into place, and this is what I trust next semester will be like for me.

Belonging: A transfer student’s take on finding a community

Perhaps the most valued experience in human nature is to feel connected to a community of like-minded people. Since starting my first semester at Geneseo, I have felt this sense of belonging on campus. I worried that it would be difficult to find “my people” as a transfer, as most students in my classes had already established their friend groups, just as I had at my previous college. Luckily, it took almost no time for me to feel at home, and to have a special collection of people with whom I enjoy spending my time.

I am a person who struggles with adjustment; I don’t like change, and it takes me a little longer to adapt to new things in my life. This was the case when I arrived at Geneseo this fall. I was uncomfortable and nervous at first, which caused me to build a lot of walls with the people around me. As I got more comfortable and started to get to know my suitemates more, I started to open up, and now they are the people closest to me on campus. A similar situation happened with my softball team, but it was an easier adjustment as my suitemates also play. The softball girls spend every weekend together at the softball house, and even when our games or team meetings are over, we go out together. Through the softball team, I’ve become friends with members of both the baseball team and the swim team, and I’ve met a lot of great people from various Greek organizations. Being a part of an athletic team on campus is a crucial part of my positive experience at Geneseo because I was able to have an almost instant group of friends who shared similar values and interests, and they introduced me to others who share these same things.

The confidence and comfort that I gained from being a part of a team carried over into my academic life, too. I have grown more comfortable talking to my classmates, and I have even started to see some friends in my classes or in passing when I’m going to class. As a biology major, I spend a lot of time in Newton Hall and the ISC, so I have started to talk to some students who also take the majority of their courses in these buildings. Not only does this add to my sense of belonging at school, but it makes me more at ease whenever I participate in class discussions. The people in my major are more than willing to help if I have a question on an assignment or lab, and their kindness and welcoming attitudes toward someone they’ve never talked to is reassuring. The community I’ve met from being a biology major is wonderful, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

Since starting school this fall, I’ve worked hard to make my college experience the most enjoyable it can be. I look forward to going to classes, seeing my friends, and being with my teammates at the softball house on the weekends. Having a sense of belonging is the key to happiness; we are all trying to fit in somewhere. My community is made up of other student-athletes, but everyone seems to find their own community based on their particular niche. Those who are interested in art, or music, or Greek life, tend to gravitate toward others with those passions, but Geneseo’s diverse population of students are open and friendly toward those who may have different personalities or ideas of fun. I’m glad that it was so easy to find “my people” and for college to feel like home at last.

Stop, drop, and breathe!

My first semester in college has been eventful to say the least. Before coming to Geneseo, I had my preconceived notions and thought everyone would have their cliques and go partying every weekend. I worried that I would feel left out because I’m not the most social person, especially following nearly two years away from people my age due to Covid. I went to a Catholic high school and had a small group of friends. I often refrained from participating in school events because they didn’t seem worth my time, but after spending my entire senior year in the corner of my bedroom, missing out on the many milestones and memories that come with leaving high school, I decided I wanted to approach college differently.

First off, I was excited to attend Geneseo and to live in the dorms. I felt like dorming would be a huge part of the college experience, and with that freedom from my parents, a new me would be born. I made a vow that I wouldn’t limit myself, but I also wouldn’t force myself to do anything that I didn’t want to do just to make other people happy. I wanted to go to all the school events. I wanted to try. I wanted to come to this school with a positive attitude. However, my new self took many blows during my first month: the emotional damage of a heartbreak, the death of my great-grandmother, falling behind academically due to financial issues, being hospitalized after a panic attack, and living so far away from home. I felt like I was already failing at college life and I was gasping for air. As an African-American and first-generation daughter of an immigrant family, expectations were always significantly higher than an average teen. I felt an enormous responsibility to live up to what was an unattainable ideal: to be everything for my family and to do what they never got to. Where they grew up in the Caribbean, mental health isn’t really a big thing; however, I decided I wasn’t going to make the same mistake and overwhelm myself to the point where I couldn’t go on any longer. I wanted to get better and be healthier. As a result, I spent a month away from campus.

With the help of my amazing professors and friends at Geneseo, I was able to return as a full-time student, catch up on the schoolwork I missed, and get back on track for the rest of the semester. I’ve overcome my irrational fear of asking for help and learned that the faculty here want what’s best for me and understand my struggles. I continue to work on my mental health, and I’m grateful to be in a community that prioritizes my mental and emotional success as well as my academic success. Since my return, I’ve accomplished a few things on my bucket list, such as starring in a Youtube video, going to my first college party, watching the incredible sunsets, making new healthy friendships, and much more! I’m not entirely sure what the rest of my first year at Geneseo has in store, but no matter what comes, I know that I’m not alone.

A guide to conquering college stress

Anxiety is not something that’s new to me or my family. My parents, my sister, and many of my cousins, uncles, and aunts have struggled with it or continue to. But regardless of whether or not you have a family history of anxiety, or even a diagnosis, the truth is that we all feel burdened by fear and stress at times. So, I’ve compiled a list of helpful strategies that I employ when I feel an anxiety attack coming on, which can be caused by any number of factors. Sometimes, it’s just general “school anxiety,” or it can be more specific stimuli, like a stressful group presentation or exam coming up. Many of these suggestions are common pieces of advice, but they can be useful reminders, especially in that moment of panic.

  1. Don’t forget to breathe. It seems obvious, but I personally tend not to notice that I’ve stopped breathing. When I remind myself to take deep breaths, more oxygen gets to my brain. This helps me think clearly and realize there is nothing to be afraid about.
  2. Let yourself feel. I used to think that if I suppressed my anxieties, if I buried them and didn’t give them a voice, then they would stop bothering me. Instead, they just found other ways to get to me, even when I was actively trying not to think about them. I would find my anxiety level rising with no clear reason at all—which can be scarier than when I know the source. Therefore, my advice would be to talk it out, whether to yourself, or to a friend, or to someone on campus who you trust like a professor or counselor, and address why you feel anxious. Just saying it or writing it down will often make those overwhelming feelings start to dissipate.
  3. Change the setting. Geneseo has an arboretum for a reason. That’s my favorite place to go when I’m feeling anxious. Stepping into nature has been proven to have therapeutic effects, and it also encourages me to get some exercise. But even if you’re not going to our arboretum, it can feel liberating to step away from the environment you were just in and take a break. Another option is to get in touch with the mental health resources on campus, such as Pathways. While it can be intimidating to ask for help, it’s always worth it to surround yourself with a supportive network.
  4. Finally, do what works for you. Ultimately, this list isn’t a foolproof way of preventing a panic attack, and I know that different things work for different people. Another strategy that I use is counting to 100, just to get my mind off of things, but that’s not for everyone. The more you find things that calm your nerves, the more prepared you can be in times of stress.

Anxiety can affect you for any reason, especially after such a drastic change from high school to college. There are support systems here at your disposal for whenever you feel overwhelmed or anxious, and above all, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone.

Dance like nobody’s watching: Expanding your Geneseo horizons!

All my life, I’ve had social anxiety that would manifest in various ways, even though I’m an extremely social and outgoing person. My extroverted personality constantly masks the overthinking and stress that invade my mind. From stomach aches before going out, to not wanting to go places unless at least one of my friends would be there, this fear of being alone in an unfamiliar place has always terrified me. Coming to Geneseo, I knew that I would have to face my fears, break out of my unhealthy patterns, and accept the fact that I need to explore the world on my own. College is “the real world,” and I was entering it.

As a kid, my mom signed me up for a wide range of activities from ice skating to soccer. Being as shy as I was, she realized that I needed an outlet to help me blossom. Like the sports that I played, dance is a physical activity, but it’s also artistic, requiring creative expression. I fell in love with dance, and I quickly realized an affinity for it. Dance became a safe place where I could block out all worries, as I engaged in movement and music and explored various styles like tap, modern, pointe, ballet, jazz, and musical theatre. Years later, I began teaching dance to little kids at my studio, which has taught me valuable life lessons such as responsibility, empathy, determination, and increased my interaction with people of all ages and backgrounds. Without dance, I wouldn’t have learned the people skills that I have now. Working at the studio also showed me how to adapt and lead while maintaining my personal creativity. I never could have imagined that my introduction to dance at age four would years later introduce me to a whole new group of friends at Geneseo.

I was aware of various dance groups on campus, but I had no clue where to start until I went to the club fair in September. Tables on tables lined the walkways outside of MacVittie Student Union, full of smiles, music, and treats. This opened my eyes to Orchesis—a student- run, no-audition dance group. I was drawn to the fact that there weren’t tryouts for Orchesis, which eliminated the intense competition that typically happens when joining a team, and instead people could enjoy themselves without stress. I signed up on the spot, and the moment I stepped foot in Schrader Dance Studio for my first tap rehearsal, I was brought right back home. Once the music started, all differences and fear of judgement disappeared, as our collective experiences growing up in dance studios bonded us quickly. When dress rehearsals for an end-of-semester performance began, I got to see a myriad of dances from modern to jazz, and we all cheered each other on—these people who were once strangers were now my fellow dancers and friends. Yes, leaving the familiarity of high school and coming to college is extremely hard, but you must make the most of your time here. Get out there! Try something you never thought you could, or as in my case, continue to pursue something that you love. In the process, you will meet new people from diverse backgrounds with whom you share common interests, expand your horizons with fresh ideas and experiences, and most importantly, have fun. If you haven’t already explored a club or organization on campus, I couldn’t encourage you enough to do so!

The terrible midterms

When my professors mentioned midterms, I thought, Oh no, how am I going to pass those? In the past, I was always a good test taker, but I had never taken a college-level exam before. I was nervous and worried that they were going to be extremely difficult. I went to office hours and met with my professors to get assistance with the material that confused me. By doing so, I was reminded once again that the professors at Geneseo are here for us; they not only want to see their students pass, but to succeed in their classes. Something else that made my adjustment to a college workload easier was creating a study group. I am in a study group for my geography course. It has introduced me to different ways of studying, and I get the benefit of learning how my peers remember important concepts and key ideas. Most importantly, my study group allowed me to make friends, and now I have people to walk to class with and who I can go to when I am struggling. The terrible midterms aren’t so terrible when you have a support system to help you keep your grades and spirits up!