Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Choose to make fellow students family

Last week, Augustana hosted transgender educator Stephanie Skora for, among other things, an open lecture titled “Help! Help! Get Me Out of Queer!” in which she shared her story of finding her identity, losing her biological family, and finding a new, chosen family. Regardless of our individual identities, I think these themes are something every Augustana student should learn from.
It has pained me since the first year that college (and not just at Augie!) is arranged around the idea that you have a loving, engaged, and able family. It’s apparent in everything from the FAFSA to the charge for staying on holiday breaks to casual conversation when we get back to class. And there are definitely many students privileged to have a lot of financial support, a healthy home to go back to, and good experiences to share.
But then there are students who are traveling so far from home they don’t get to go back when they want to; students whose family can’t or won’t support them; students who have families that are emotionally distant or abusive, or that have disowned them.
For these students, college can be extra stressful (especially around holidays) because the one thing that is expected to support you and keep you happy—family—is not serving that purpose anymore. For a long time, I felt like I didn’t fit in at college at all because of this and constantly wondered if I was supposed to be here.
But now I’ve seen that there are a lot of students whose experiences don’t fit the stereotypical narrative of how a college student gets here and stays here. I think that many probably deviate in some way, and we just don’t talk about it.
And that’s fine, we don’t have to talk about things that we don’t want to. But we should be aware, especially with the upcoming Christmas break, of how some students are in need of more support. More than that, we should act on it.
Be compassionate. Be loving with your friends and welcoming to strangers. Compliment that stranger’s outfit and then exchange names. Put on a holiday potluck and invite some acquaintance you don’t know well yet. If you’re in a privileged position, invite a friend to your family’s holiday celebrations. Be conscious of your assumptions about people’s backgrounds or support networks. And don’t be afraid of finding close friendships and family where you don’t expect them.
We already recognize strangers we see Brew; why not get to know each other even better and welcome each other even more? We talk about there being an “Augustana family”—let’s take a page from Stephanie’s book and make that literally true. Choose to make your fellow students part of your family.

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Choose to make fellow students family