How to ask for help

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Muhlenberg has given me many things– paychecks, a subscription to The New York Times, wifi that sometimes works, the opportunity to travel internationally for the first time, and most importantly, the ability to advocate for myself. People would always ask me, “How did you hear about Muhlenberg?” to which my answer was always, “I’m Jewish and from New Jersey, I know someone who knows someone who went here that told me about it.” This led to me being a somewhat ambitious little sophomore and coming on a tour. It was love at first visit. I told my parents, “I love it here, send me some clothes and come pick me up in four years.” Being more sane, my parents made sure I still loved it and brought me back junior year to the same response. This led to me applying for early decision two (I had to ensure that I would get financial aid before committing, one of my friends in high school applied for early decision one to Boston College and got literally no aid) and getting a call from the then Dean of Admissions Melissa Falk calling me to let me know that I had been accepted to Muhlenberg. Being the dramatic theater kid I am, I fell down crying. This led to me being obnoxious in classes, whenever a question relating to college came up I would always answer, “Well, at Muhlenberg we do it this way,” or something to that effect. Even when COVID came crashing down and changed everything,  we somehow managed to find our way to Allentown.

Starting college during a pandemic was not ideal in any way. I remember the weekly COVID tests, the limited hours that the dining hall and GQ  would be open, having to sign up for a time slot if you wanted to go to the gym (even if I only did it twice), moving across campus between the fall and spring semesters, those huge plexiglass dividers in the dining hall that made it impossible to talk to someone sitting diagonally across from you.  This time brought me friends who, although temporary,  taught me a very important lesson: You only have so much time in your life, so worrying about people who aren’t valuing you for who you are is not where you should be spending your time. 

One of the reasons that I initially chose Muhlenberg was because of the ODS (Office of Disability Services) and how it would be able to help me navigate college. This was important to both me and my parents because I had struggled in high school to get the accommodations and help that I needed for my ADHD and anxiety.  This meant that we had reached out to the department ahead of the start of my freshman year over the summer to meet with the people in charge to assuage our fears.  We were able to meet with some people on the staff and set up some preliminary accommodations for me including, but not limited to having weekly meetings with a counselor. These meetings were crucial for me, as one of the things that I struggled with was accountability and being able to break down big assignments into smaller, more manageable sections. We would meet once a week and talk about the assignments that I had coming up and how I planned on getting them done, as well as talk out problems that I was having with assignments and encourage me to reach out to professors for help. This worked great until the end of my sophomore year when my counselor unfortunately had to leave the College. Although I would then start seeing another staff member who knew what kind of help I needed to succeed, they had limited opportunities to meet, and I had to navigate a lot of new issues on my own. 

 It was at this time that my stress had never been higher—I was president of BergVotes (during the Midterm Elections), had a work-study job where I worked eight hours a week, and was a first-time RA in Benfer, on top of four classes.  Without the structure of the weekly meetings being set up, I got lost. I kept telling myself that I needed to reach out to the department to schedule an appointment, but if you have ADHD, you know how hard it can be to reach out for help (executive functioning turns into disfunction) and I became trapped in this cycle of stress and wanting to reach out for help but telling myself that I could figure it out on my own. 

You might be thinking what does this have to do with advocating for myself because clearly I didn’t or otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to allow the situation to get as bad as it did. Well, it showed me what happens when I don’t ask for the help that I need. It also showed me that my actions very much have consequences as I am now paying for it by taking five classes (including my CUE). So my advice is that it can never hurt to ask for help, it can only hurt to not ask. 

Rebecca Salkin is so excited to join the Weekly staff as the social media manager. She is a member of the class of 2024 and is majoring in political science with a minor in women and gender studies.

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