One of the biggest things I struggled with during my high school career was figuring out when to keep pushing myself on assignments and when to realize I was absolutely drained and needed to give myself a break. In my specific academic environment, it seemed that if you weren’t getting A’s, you weren’t working hard enough. Anything less was unacceptable and embarrassing. With the attitude I was surrounded by, I always did my best to push myself academically while staying involved in plenty of extracurricular activities. However, there came a point during my senior year where I realized I had to give myself a break. Though my grades were achieved fairly easily and my involvement in clubs and sports had not been faltering, my body and mind were hurting. During that year I went home sick more times than the previous three years combined, and looking back, most of those instances were a result of wearing my body down from stress and fatigue. Even after resting until I was “better,” I would jump right back into the same pattern of work, work, work. It wasn’t until I came to K that I learned how vital your physical and mental health are.
The summer before my first quarter at K, so many people told me, “Don’t worry if you feel like you’re drowning. The stress culture at K is very real.” Although I heard these words from many people, I didn’t know what they meant until my second quarter here at K. Fortunately, my Fall Quarter was pretty calm. I loved the classes I was taking and worked hard in them, but I never felt overwhelmed. Yet, I didn’t know Winter Quarter would have an entirely different atmosphere. The classes I decided to take all required more from me, both inside and outside of the classroom. Along with a different course load, I was involved in more student organizations and started to work on the weekends. It all seemed so familiar that I thought nothing of it. It was exactly what I did in high school. But I didn’t last long. The overwhelming feeling soon settled in and it hit me, “This is the stress culture everyone talks about.” It was almost a scary feeling because I realized that it was hard and I wasn’t necessarily used to hard, but the professors at K knew that.
The thing I appreciate most about K is that professors understand that the stress culture is real on campus and that it is draining. Most professors encourage you to make sure your mental health is intact and that you are at a healthy place to learn and work. I have been lucky enough to have professors, especially during my Winter Quarter, that encourage my classmates and I to make sure our minds and bodies are well because if they’re not, we will not be at our full potential and will not focus as best as we can on the material and participate in the discussions. Looking back now, if I could give myself one crucial piece of advice before coming to K, I would say, “Health is wealth. Your academic performance is important, but the state of your mind and body outrank it.” I strongly encourage everyone to remind themselves that their minds, bodies, and souls come first, always.
-Karina Pantoja ’20