As a new freshman at the University of South Carolina, I had no concerns about living in campus housing. For me, that meant a really small room with one other roommate and a hall bath. I had always shared a room with my sister growing up and I was one of four siblings sharing a bathroom. How bad could it be?
My roommate was assigned, and we got along great. Early into the semester she got to enjoying some of the freedoms of college a little too much and ended up getting a DUI. Her parents quickly pulled her back home at the end of the first semester to attend a local college. I arrive for Spring term after the holiday to find I have a new roommate, a transfer from a university out of state. She had a different background, but we got along great. However, she had an underlying medical illness that flared, and she ended up taking medical leave just weeks into the term. Next up was a student who was on the wait list for a room and became my third roommate in 6 months. She already had plans for who she would room with next year, so she was just passing through. We got along but the experience was pretty transactional and temporary. By then, I decided this was getting a bit old and I needed to line up a roommate for the next year myself. I found someone I met through a student organization I became good friends with. Enter fall of my sophomore year, things are great. A semester into it all, not so much. Her behavior became erratic, and she experienced a total mental breakdown. It was exhausting and tough seeing her in a hole that I, nor her therapist, could pull her from. She withdrew from school to seek more intensive therapy, which was the right decision for her.
Oh, did I mention my next-door neighbor’s boyfriend committed suicide on the sidewalk underneath our room window after the first week of class? My other neighbor who shared a wall with me had a boyfriend and let’s just say they spent a lot of time together and it made our thin walls quite awkward ALL the time. So, for me, peace was not easy to come by. Academically I was fine and determined. Socially, it was rough. I was feeling like Charlie Brown trying repeatedly to kick the football and each time it got pulled and any hopes of progress were fleeting.
So, what kept me going? My federal work study job with great employees as friends and friends I met through class and some student groups. I was determined to enjoy the things I came to the University to make the most of. If the housing was not ideal, I would not let it rob me of the classroom and outside classroom activities and experiences that put me there as my school of choice.
Fast forward on my path and I ended up pursuing a graduate degree in counseling and higher education to work with college students in providing comprehensive, developmental supports outside of the classroom. Was that by chance? It certainly was not on my radar as an entering freshman. Perhaps those trials helped me understand and have a heart for those who were struggling to find their space, muster up their GRIT and deal with the unexpected. Twenty-nine years later, I’m still in higher education as a career, I’m still advocating for all students, and I know that this, too, will be a part of their journey they can make something of. Sometimes in the face of challenges, it just comes down to being like Nemo in the movie, so like he does…just keep swimming.
Julie Goley, Director, Career Services
The office of First and Second Year Experiences (FYE/SYE) serves to provide experiences that challenge and support the transition of students from the point of enrollment through their second year of Augusta University. Read the new features from FYE/SYE about GRIT (Growing Resilience Into Tomorrow) and hear from campus leaders, students, alumni, and faculty on their academic resiliency!