Finding my place at Georgia Tech

Photo by Allie Ghisson

Students at Tech seem to have widely varying opinions on the Institute, but a common theme seems to be their struggle. Whether it’s a struggle that leads to triumph or failure it usually decides their outlook on Tech, but like anywhere, there are positive and negative aspects. My personal story at Tech started poorly and got worse.

In August 2014, I moved into a four person room at Harrison Residence Hall. I was cheerfully greeted by my peer leader Nagela who later went on to become president of SGA. I was surrounded by excited and spirited students, but as an only child living in a packed room I was overwhelmed. I was used to silence and my immune system was not prepared for communal living. 

I was sick within a week and later caught mono which made me tired constantly, but with my living situation it was difficult to sleep during the day. I made some friends freshman year but never felt like I found a group I fit in with. My difficulty with friends and my living situation continued for four years at Tech, which then combined with stressful classes to wear on my mental health. 

Late in my sophomore year at Tech I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression that gave me constant nausea and impacted my grades. For years I struggled in classes and my personal life trying to feel like I belonged at Tech. Everyone seemed smarter and more driven than I did. I had moved to University House which helped the housing situation because I liked my roommates, but they were much closer to each other than they were to me.

During the second semester of my third year I was hired as the photography editor of the Technique. While I’ve enjoyed my time with the paper, everyone knows that when you start getting paid for a hobby it becomes a chore. The majority of my job has been scheduling which ranges from tedious to frustrating, but I’ve also had the incredible opportunity to photograph Music Midtown, Tech athletics and events all over Atlanta. Being photography editor was rewarding, but after stepping down I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of me.

In my fourth year I got new roommates who I plainly did not get along with. They talked about me behind my back in the living room and I avoided the common areas of the apartment because I was intimidated. I was in a terrible place mentally and physically but I pushed on with classes and eventually entered my fifth and final year at Tech.

My fifth year in the chemical engineering program here has somehow proved to be my best. I’m not sure why this is but the best explanation I can come up with is that I found my place on the women’s water polo team. One of my only close friends at Tech convinced me to join and goes out of her way to drive me to practice. Not only have I made great and like-minded friends on the team; they also hold me accountable for my workouts which helps my mood. 

Another improvement this year has been my living situation. I moved into a two bedroom apartment with a random roommate who is incredibly nice and shares a cleanliness philosophy with me (I’ll clean it after my test). She has encouraged me to play sand volleyball with her, something I’ve wanted to do since I toured Tech, and she makes sure the apartment always smells like lavender. 

While reflecting on my time at Tech I have a lot of advice. Some of it is small and specific like buying rain boots and an umbrella before you need them and not skipping class — unless it’s really pointless — but I’d like to leave you with something more significant.                                                                                                           

Don’t get bogged down with negativity; you have enough stress from classes here, so don’t let anything else weigh on you. Do the things you’re passionate about unapologetically, which will hopefully lead you to great friends. To quote Dr. Seuss, find the people “whose weirdness is compatible with [yours]”. Finally, college is a time to develop your personality and mind, so be yourself and don’t stifle your personal growth for the sake of fitting in. 

It took years but I found my place at Tech and I hope you find yours.