Hi! My name is Taneco and, like every college student, my Hopkins experience has been a bumpy, but amazing ride. This is the story of one of the bumpier times, when I didn’t really have everything figured out and my college journey wasn’t the endless perfect adventure I had hoped it would be.
Everything is fine.
Coming into Hopkins, I was aware of the fact that I needed to take care of myself emotionally, but never put much thought into it. During my first semester, I thought that emotional health at college would be a simple, one-and-done affair: I would push through all of the normal things that all college students go through, emerge stronger, and move forward without ever having to look back. And for my first months at Hopkins, that’s what I did. I felt a bit lonely, but quickly made friends with people on my floor and from my Orientation group, so everything was fine. I felt a bit homesick, but began calling my mom and my sister once a week, so everything was fine. I felt a little stressed out by these new, harder courses, but I signed up for a PILOT session and went to my professor’s office hours, so yeah, everything was fine. With a couple of determined actions, I created my ideal situation and truly believed my mental health was taken care of for the rest of my college career.
This is fine…
It wasn’t until spring semester that I realized maybe everything was not as fine as I had convinced myself. My second semester of college was intense, and I was somehow facing both new challenges and all of the old problems I thought I had “solved” before. It started out rough, as I was taking classes so challenging, I could barely pronounce their names (I’m looking at you Protein Engineering and Biochemistry Lab). Second, I had come back to campus early for Intersession and was beginning to miss home, longing for my mother’s cooking and my sister’s dumb humor. As the weeks marched on, my social life went through a dramatic upheaval when two of my close friends broke up and my tight-knit friend group began to splinter. Then, I started going through a sexuality crisis that felt like it was turning my entire world on its head. Everything felt like it was piling up on me all at once, and it all came to a head by my second round of midterms. Between so many drastic life changes, I felt like I was losing my sense of self and these recurring challenges meant that I couldn’t handle Hopkins. The person who I thought I was could make it, but I wasn’t good enough. It was scary, it was stressful, and everything was even worse because I didn’t have my normal support system next to me. I felt like I was alone. When my grades and personal relationships began to suffer, I knew I needed to seek some help.
Finding the right choice for me
The Counseling Center was always an option that I had heard of, but it never felt like the right choice. Growing up in an unemotional, traditional immigrant household, “therapy” was always something that was weird and taboo, and the service felt like it required me to open up in an unjustifiable way. For me, talking to a professional, licensed counselor felt like a bit too much and not what I needed. Since the challenge I was facing wasn’t clinical depression or a serious mental health crisis, just a string of really bad days, I decided to try A Place to Talk.
A Place to Talk is the peer listening and mental health advocacy student group on campus. As advertised through their ubiquitous flyering, they promote empathy and kindness at Hopkins, while also offering late-night private peer listening services. The first time I visited them, I was tempted by a fun-size Twix sitting by the open door (they always have a basket full of candy that anyone can take, regardless of whether or not they want to chat).
For me, my first visit wasn’t a simple solve for my mental health, but it did help me realize that I needed to start making my mental wellness a priority. I began to realize how stressed I genuinely was and that I had slightly overwhelmed myself by taking maximum credits my freshman year. I realized how homesick I felt, and figured out that it was important to me to visit my parents and take a break. And, most importantly, I realized that there were thousands of other people at Hopkins that I had yet to meet and that I still did have friends and strong relationships, even if they looked different than before. I began to understand that the challenges that I had been facing were valid, but I also had options for coping with them.
Everything isn’t always fine, and that’s okay
Today, I’ve realized how genuinely challenging it is to be a college student, but I’ve also figured out a system that works for me. I found out that the Counseling Center was a much more accessible resource than I thought and that the room I visited, A Place to Talk, was actually a club I could join as well. It takes time for us as students to discover what works and what doesn’t; for me, those challenging months made me rethink how I was approaching my own needs.
If you’re considering coming to Hopkins, by now you have probably realized that this University is going to be a challenge. You will grow, meet some of the most extraordinary people in the world, gain life-altering new perspectives, and find opportunities that you can’t get anywhere else—but it’s always important to focus on mental wellbeing no matter where you go. Recently, after feedback and calls to action by students, the University has taken action to improve resources with the Task-Force on Student Mental Health and Wellbeing, as well as the launch of the new Wellness initiative. When you get to college, classes are going to be tough, relationships aren’t always easy, and the transition to adulthood is going to be a rocky road. My mental health journey at Hopkins is unique to my experience, and every student here will have their own personal journey. But what you can always count on is there being an entire family of Blue Jays to support you, because, at Hopkins, you’re never alone.