Surviving the Struggle: Finding your Support System

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Take a step back, and think about why you’re here. Look at the big picture, rather than where you are at this moment. There’s always going to be ups and downs, but when you’re following your goals, the hard days are worth it. When I was recently experiencing a particularly difficult time, I went to my professor and mentor for advice, and this was what she told me.


After having this conversation, it confirmed my recognition of the importance of mentors and other supportive individuals in the academic process. She was able to give me validation and encouragement that I didn’t realize I needed at the time.


Throughout my academic career I have often had moments of self-doubt and uncertainty that we all experience. Especially being a minority, it is often hard to find someone who looks like me in a position where I want to be, whether it is within my institution or industry as a whole. This is one of the various reasons why mentors are so important. Speaking with someone who has faced similar struggles, or who is able to give you advice and guidance on achieving your goals is essential to making it through school and advancing within your career.


When I first started college, I sought advice solely from my assigned academic advisor, who I was unable to make a genuine connection with. Eventually, I learned the importance of broadening my network.


Although academic advisors can be very helpful, I later learned to seek advice from other individuals, whether it was faculty, administrators, or professionals, who could not only help guide me in achieving my goals, but who I could also relate to on a deeper level.


These are people who were willing to share their hardships and lessons they learned, while listening to mine and offering advice. Using and broadening my network has been the most important concept I have learned.


Speaking with various faculty members, connecting with people at conferences, speaking with recent graduates, finding individuals on LinkedIn, or even just googling and reaching out to people who are successful in my field have led to invaluable insight and connections.


Do not limit yourself, and be open to conversations even if you believe they may not be beneficial. My peers have also been a fundamental support system. We all have different backgrounds and experiences that have brought us to where we are, and we are facing similar struggles academically. wisdom, advice, and encouragement can be the sustenance needed to endure the relentless grind of grad school.



Evan A. Mitchell graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Spanish and Public Health. Currently, she is an MPH student at Columbia University in the Department of Health Policy and Management. Evan hopes that sharing her experiences and advice will help guide others on this journey just tryna' graduate.

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