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How I Am Coping With Graduating “Late”

For as long as I can remember, I have always tried my very best in school. Is it because of my natural urge to be the best at school or is it because of my immigrant Desi parents that would disown me if I got anything lower than a C on any assignment? Maybe a mix of both. During my last two years of high school, I was staying up past midnight working on homework assignments and pulling all-nighters because it became the trend in college. With my workload from AP classes in high school and also my part-time job, I was somehow able to handle it all and my mental state was very healthy. I felt confident in myself and never doubted my intelligence. I had never hit my limit until I came to college.

I knew that being in a very rigorous and intense department in college was going to be somewhat of a culture shock, especially since it was in the art and design world. But, being a fashion design major was so much more than I initially thought. Not only was the workload making my high school work look like coloring pages, but the lack of support from the professors and faculty in the department was a true blow to my self-esteem. With the exception of one of my professors, I knew the rest didn’t care about me or my work. The constant belittling of my work and me as a person caused my confidence and mental health to plummet. During the spring semester of 2022, I had reached my limit and I did not know how to deal with it so I just mentally shut down.

After the semester was over and I went back home for the summer, I knew I could not continue like this, or else I might end up failing out of fashion design and college altogether. This was a conversation I wanted to have with my parents before anyone else—but I was afraid. My mom came to the US when she was 19 years old and my dad settled in Canada when he was 20 years old so neither of them had the opportunity to go to college. They were very apprehensive of letting me major in fashion design and tried to make me pursue business since it was a more “stable” job field than fashion. What were they going to think when I told them about finishing college later? I had already been calling my mom on FaceTime in tears multiple times during the semester and my dad knew I wasn’t sleeping or eating properly so they were aware of my struggles. I did hide a lot of it from them because, in a way, I wanted to shield them and make them think that I was okay and just going through a rough patch in the semester.

When I did sit down with them and spilled everything, I was fairly surprised by their reaction. They weren’t mad or upset. Neither my mom nor dad yelled at me or threatened to make me move back in with them. They saw the pain and tiredness on my face through my excessive sobbing and my dad said “You are still graduating, right?” I said yes and he replied “Then that is all that matters. You have a plan and you are going to graduate. It doesn’t matter that it will take an extra semester.” My mom told me later that neither she nor my dad had realized how difficult my major would be and that they are so proud of me for everything I had already accomplished in my life. I cried for a second time that day, but for a different reason.

My personal journey with acceptance took much longer and was more difficult than having a conversation. For the longest time, I was angry at myself because I had felt that I failed myself. What had happened to the student I was in the past 10+ years? Why was this happening to me? Why did I allow this to happen? I was struggling with finding the answers to those questions, and to this day, I still don’t have them. As the days went on, I thought about it less and less. I moved to New York for the summer and had an incredible internship. Over the summer, I also met with my academic advisor and worked out a plan that worked best for me and my mental state. I also met with the head of the department and had an honest, heart-to-heart conversation with her that made me feel a lot better. The fall semester had started and I was again occupied with classes. However, I started sleeping and eating like a normal person again and I felt more at peace. As of right now, I am still a little upset that I won’t be graduating this spring with the rest of my class. But, I am extremely lucky for the support system I have in my life because, without the people in my life, I don’t know what I would have done.

Arba Choudhury is currently a senior at VCU, majoring in Fashion Design. In addition to being a writer for HerCampus at VCU, she is also the Social Media Director and runs the Instagram for the chapter. Choudhury loves watching YouTube videos, browsing on Pinterest, and hanging out with her friends in her free time. She loves reading about style and beauty while also keeping up with pop culture and current events.