Newby: How I made this school year the best it could be

The conclusion of this chapter offers a certain solace as I begin considering and recounting how I grew this last year.

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Lily Smith

The Old Capitol is seen on Nov. 25, 2018.

Taylor Newby , Opinions Columnist

With final projects wrapping up and the ever-present onset of exam week, it’s easy to forget what the end of the school year means for me. I’m lugging suitcases out of storage, accounting for rented textbooks, and finalizing ICON assignment submissions.

But more than that, I’m preparing to bid a heart-filled farewell to the city that serves as the home to my university and my community.

It’s a whirlwind feeling — watching the remaining days of this semester and this season in Iowa City dwindle. And I know that it can’t be that solemn of a circumstance, because we’ll arrive right back on this campus in a matter of months.

But still, the conclusion of this chapter offers a certain solace as I begin considering my growth this last year.

In August, I arrived back in Iowa City for my sophomore year. I anticipated a year filled with weighty course loads and countless lunch dates with friends during the gaps in our overbooked schedules.

Instead, what I encountered this school year was growth, courage, and hope in ways I could have never otherwise comprehended.

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At the beginning of the fall semester, I was bogged down with a depression that felt more unbearable and big than it felt manageable and understood.

And so, during syllabus week, as I checked out textbooks and unpacked boxes, I called the University of Iowa Counseling Service and asked for help. I received a response immediately.

Meeting with a counselor each week offered me the freedom to sit and ask the hard questions in the middle of a wild, overwhelming season. It allowed me a safe space to unload and talk through circumstances while being incomparably encouraged throughout it all.

Meeting with a counselor each week offered me the freedom to sit and ask the hard questions in the middle of a wild, overwhelming season.”

Through those 30-minute meetings in my counselor’s warmly lit room, I realized it’s OK to ask for help when you’re hurting. And even before that, it’s OK to hurt.

It’s OK to wake up one day and realize something about your mental health is a little bit off — and perhaps you want to do something about it.

Along with all of that, I realized there is freedom in asking for help — and the UI works diligently to stand alongside its students in their need.

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While I make the trek each week to Westlawn for the UI Counseling Service, I also sat with advisers and UI staff and faculty members — talking through future plans and current dreams.

Additionally, I actively served in a student ministry — working to play a part in one of the many student organizations on campus. The community of students that overwhelms organizations and offers a place for people to go with their passions and pursuits is unparalleled.

For me, I found my home in Salt Company, an organization in which more than 500 students gather together each week to share in the hope of something greater. Through being part of an organization, I have found an army of people chasing after the same thing.

And so, the most surprising thing out of this stressful season of planning had less to do with the fact that my life is quickly changing and more to do with the way staff, faculty, and my community out of Salt Company fought alongside me in my pursuit of what’s next.

That is what Iowa City and the UI have exemplified time and time again: community.

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