I hate asking for help.
I, like many Northwestern students, have always prided myself on my independence, for better or worse. I taught myself how to ride a bike, sans training wheels, and refused Band-Aids for the numerous cuts or scrapes incurred from my less-than-coordinated riding. I survived without any help and thus, my adolescent mantra was born.
When I began as a freshman at Northwestern in September 2012, I expected things to be much the same. But, of course, they weren’t. Almost immediately I was overwhelmed with the breadth of opportunities available, the rigorous coursework, and, most overwhelmingly, how accomplished my fellow students seemed to be. And, because I hated asking for help, I felt alone through all of it, even though help is something I could have desperately used. There was nobody I felt comfortable enough with to burden with my problems, so I kept on plugging along day after day, hiding my anxiety with the smile I memorized how to manufacture.
As February rolled around and I had worn in my Northwestern training wheels, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to apply to be a Peer Adviser. I knew it would be a time commitment, but if I could be the hand to reach out to students who had had a rough time transitioning much like I did, then the entire experience would be worth it.
My first year as a Peer Adviser was charmed to say the least; I had the opportunity to usher in eight new theatre students to Northwestern, meet inspiring Northwestern students from the incredible Wildcat Welcome community, and feel more connected to the university than I could have ever imagined. You can read about my first year here in a blogpost I wrote soon after WW '13, where I gush about the people, community, and experiences that made my first year so wonderful. It was so good, in fact, that I questioned whether or not I wanted to reapply; what if my second year paled in comparison?
Could a second year ever come close?
This somewhat illogical reasoning is something I hear often from past Peer Advisers, but the reason I decided to reapply is what sets PAs apart from the rest of the university and is something we often talk about in the New Student and Family Programs office--that Peer Advisers are all united under a desire to help others. I couldn't guarantee my second time around would be the blissful experience it had been the first time, but I could be sure that by being a Peer Adviser again I could make a difference in the first year of at least one new student and that alone compelled me to apply once more.
Of course, my second year as a Peer Adviser absolutely did measure up to my first year; in spring training, returners are encouraged to share their past experiences with new Peer Advisers, allowing the new PAs to learn from both my mistakes and triumphs. In training, I met an entirely new set of NU students than I had met my first year around, while also maintaining the close relationships I had established one year prior. And from the first year to the second I had become an impeccably better Peer Adviser, having had more life experience to color my mentorship and more focus on my students than myself.
By the end of Wildcat Welcome, I was tired beyond belief, but also so proud of both my PA group--nine new students I genuinely cannot imagine Northwestern without--as well as the remarkable Peer Adviser community I stood in. Applying to the Wildcat Welcome Board of Directors is something I had thought about since I had first been chosen to be a Peer Adviser; the Board is instrumental in creating the spirit that I had so appreciated in my two years as a Peer Adviser. That pursuit felt like the ultimate way to give back to a community that had given me so much and an incredible opportunity to become even more connected to Northwestern as a whole; it's easy as a junior to reach a point of staleness, but Wildcat Welcome with all its energy, positivity, and laughter has continually revitalized my appreciation and adoration for this university every year.
Applying to be a Peer Adviser has come to be a defining decision for me and is something I truly can't imagine my Northwestern experience without. I encourage anyone who has even briefly thought of applying to attend a Call-Out and submit an application. Thanks to my time as a Peer Adviser, I am no longer afraid to ask for help; in fact, I asked for help with writing this very post. Because, to me, asking for help no longer means giving up--it means connecting, caring, and maturing. I am no longer the little girl on her bike alone; now, I ride proudly with help from others to balance.