Larissa Goalder

**Trigger Warning: This article contains sensitive material about sexual assault.**

Larissa “Rissa” Goalder, 19, is a sophomore advertising major at Virginia Commonwealth University from Waynesboro, Virginia. After graduating from high school a year early, she knew that VCU was the school for her. In the fall of 2016, Rissa abruptly took a semester off. She shares why she did this, what she thinks of taking a semester off and how hard the transition has been.

Why did you take a semester off? I was sexually assaulted at a frat party in August, so I decided to go home to take time off, go to therapy, work a little bit. It was really good because I didn’t know what major I wanted, so taking the time off helped me figure out what I wanted to do. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without time off; I just would have stuck with what I was doing.

How did you feel about taking a semester off? It was really nice. It was really good to have a break from VCU. It was really good, my therapist was super helpful. I worked a lot, so I saved up a lot of money, that was really nice. I bought a car, so that was cool. Overall, I feel like my mental health definitely improved from it. It really helped with the stress from not knowing what I wanted to do as well.

Would you say that taking a semester off positively or negatively affected you? It was good. I got closer with my family, I got a boyfriend, it was really nice.

How’d you feel once your semester off was over?

I was excited to come back. I was a little nervous because I knew all of my class would be gen-eds since I decided to change my major, and I don’t do well in gen-eds. That was kind of stressful.

Was the readjustment period hard for you? What was it like?

It’s still going on. This whole semester has been really rough. It’s just hard to go from being in school to being in school full-time. I should have (come back and) done part-time.

What would you say to someone who is considering taking a semester off? If you think that you couldn’t come back from (a vacation), if you think that it would be good for you, I would do it. You just have to be careful coming back; the readjustment is really hard.