What is the college experience? It's exciting, it's exhausting, it's amazing, and, at times, it can be overwhelming. From the anxieties of your first big exam, to the adjustment period that comes with living in a dorm, being far from home for the first time can be full of ups and downs. Whether you're a first-year student, a senior, or anywhere in between, knowing the resources available to you both on and off-campus can help you navigate your experiences. For students of color attending a predominantly white institution, I have found that five awesome resources available that extend far beyond Academic Advising:
5. Stafford Fitness Center
Starting off the list at No. 5 is the Stafford Fitness Center which can also include the pool, the track, or any other physical activity you enjoy. College does not have to be all work and no fun. Pushing yourself to do well in your classes is important but it is also important to stop, breath, and unwind. One of the biggest struggles of being a student of color (particularly a low-income student of color) is the feeling that you always need to be and do your best and anything less is failure. However, constantly jumping back and forth from class to the library and trying to satisfy high expectations will build up a lot of stress. Many of us came from schools that had different expectations and trying to keep up with the work load and fast pace of your courses will leave you feeling drained. Taking care of your physical health is important so stop, take a break, and go to the gym, or on a walk down to the river, or even play a game of pickup basketball with your friends. Your body and your mind will eventually thank you for it.
4. The BSU, ASU, ASIA, I-House, etc.
There are a slew (pun intended) of multicultural clubs here on campus. For many students of color, coming to St. Lawrence may involve some culture shock. Coming from a place where everyone looks like you, and suddenly being placed in an environment where you may be the only one who looks, thinks, or acts like you can be a difficult adjustment. For international students, trying to adjust and understand the mannerisms of American culture, awkward and uncomfortable moments are bound to happen. You may find yourself wanting the comforts of home but are unable to go home. Multicultural clubs are a great way of connecting with other students that are experiencing similar situations. Getting involved in a club, or even doing something as simple as showing up to Tea Time in the International House, can provide you with a wonderful opportunity to meet new people and connect with a diverse community of SLU students.
3. Faculty of Color
Perhaps one of the most underutilized resources on this list is our faculty of color. There will come a time in every student of color’s career where you will be faced with an uncomfortable situation, an awkward dilemma, or a hard decision that you’ll want to talk to someone about. Faculty of color, or staff members you identify with, will become an indispensable resource to help give you guidance and advice. Faculty of color are people understand the unspoken assumptions and help you navigate your experiences in a professional manner. It’s important to remember they once were students and as professors here at SLU, they have a strong understanding of the community and environment that you are in. Faculty of color are great people to have in your corner and are always willing to help when you are unsure about what to do in a situation.
2. Counseling at the Torrey Health Center
Sometimes the stress of school can become overwhelming and trying to balance an academic and a social life gets to be difficult. Mix this with anxieties about future career plans, fear of failure, and the general struggles that come with being a student of color in a predominantly white institution, and it can all become very daunting. The Torrey Health Center is one of the resources on campus you can go to when you need talk to someone about the difficulties you may be having. Whether you go once to talk through a difficult period, or set up weekly sessions to help you throughout the semester, the counselors at the health center provide a safe and accepting environment for students to express themselves and their anxieties.
Four years of your life will be spent away from home and here at SLU. Building up a network of people that care about you and understand the different things that you may be experiencing will help make the journey a lot more fun. Surrounding yourself with a diverse group of people that represent different aspects of your identity will help you make meaningful connections and lasting memories. The groups of people that you surround yourself with will not only be your strength during tough times, but also some of the best friends you will ever make. From inviting you to crash at their place over Thanksgiving Break to midnight runs to Sergi's, your friends will be the most important resource you could ever have here at St. Lawrence.