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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

I just turned 20, and my birthday gift from the universe was getting diagnosed with another chronic illness. There should be a medal for reaching five chronic illnesses before what some people consider adulthood. You would think that having chronic illnesses would make me want to choose a bit of an easier major for my college career, but you’d be wrong. I’m an integrative biology major.  As I reach the end of my sophomore year of college, I wanted to give some advice to others as to how I have survived college as a chronically ill STEM student. If you are interested in how I deal with fatigue, severe migraines, insomnia, stomach issues, and other things along the lines of overall ickiness, look no further!

  1. Don’t overwhelm yourself!

Now if you’re already a STEM student it’s kind of hard to do this, but as much as possible try to not take on too much! While having lots of experience may be a good thing when going into a STEM career, it can also be very taxing on both the mind and body when you do too much at once. Having a chronic illness (at least in my experience) makes it way easier to get fatigued than the average person. One big thing I have had to learn about college is quality over  quantity when it comes to responsibility. I would rather be able to dedicate all I can into a few things rather than less than 15% of my energy on many things at one time. For me I had to do this by taking only about 12 credits per semester and then take summer classes to make up for the other few credits I could not take. This has worked so well on so many levels for me because it has given me time to focus on my health as well as my studies, while also keeping up with extracurriculars!

  1. Try to get lots of rest

I have got stuck with the combination of severe fatigue and insomnia. I used to always be exhausted and my grades were suffering. It wasn’t until I started to have a sleep goal as well as scheduled naps that I started to feel a bit better physically and mentally.

  1. Listen to your body

If you need to eat, go eat; if you need to take a nap, take a nap; and if you don’t feel well, contact your doctor! Our bodies are trying to communicate with us when we get signals such as hunger, exhaustion, and overall malaise, and it’s our job to listen. If I had not listened to my body I would’ve ended up going untreated for my most recent condition until the point where I could have become infertile. Going to the doctor does not mean you’re giving up, rather admitting you need help. It is okay to ask for help! That’s what doctors are there for!

  1. Make friends in your classes

If you have chronic illnesses that can take you out from anywhere from hours to days to weeks at a time, catching up on what you missed can be a struggle. By making friends in your class you immediately can have one more person who can help you if you fall behind. Don’t be afraid to ask them if you had any homework or important things happen the day you missed, most of the time they don’t care if you ask! By making friends you can have a study buddy to work on schoolwork with as well as someone to talk to (or complain to) about the class!

  1. Communicate with your teachers

Last but most certainly not least, the most important part of this list is communicating with your teachers. It may be a little nerve wracking to talk to them about what you’re struggling with, but if they truly want to help you learn, they will be open to listen to whatever you have to say. Trust me a good teacher will appreciate when you communicate with them even over the little things, like not understanding an assignment or being absent from a class. There are resources out there to help you succeed but you have to advocate for yourself!

Whether you suffer from chronic illness or not, college is hard, especially in a STEM field. Hopefully these tricks and tips I found can help you succeed as college students! Remember you are not defined by your struggles, but rather by your response to them! You are never alone, and if you are ever struggling with your health in any way, there are resources there to help you along the way! 

Anna is a sophomore studying preveterinary medicine at Michigan State University and is so excited to be a part of Her Campus at MSU! Although her major is not anything writing related she has a big interest in journalism and any sort of creative writing as a whole. Anna hopes that her articles bring joy to anyone who reads them! In her free time Anna enjoys kayaking, paddle boarding, reading, and painting! Anna has pretty low expectations and is happy pretty much anywhere close to nature. If she's not on the beach, you can find Anna at a coffee house because despite having a heart condition Anna has a crippling caffeine addiction. Anna believes that she single handedly could keep Starbucks in business with the amount of times she goes a week! Anna’s one saving grace from being a woman in STEM is her dorm cat Poppy, who keeps her sane and is often featured on Anna’s social media (although some may say the amount of times Poppy is “featured” Anna’s accounts are just as much Poppy’s as they are Anna’s). You can find Anna on snapchat and instagram at “awiezperson” (a pun Anna thinks is hilarious but in all reality is not).