I write this as I ready myself to end my undergraduate journey at Case Western Reserve University. It is quite a bittersweet feeling as I consider CWRU my true home and where I emerged as a young adult.
First, I’d like to start with a personal narrative. I have learned a great deal about myself and how best to approach certain life challenges while at CWRU. I came first as a nursing major, then decided to transfer after my first year. I had based the decision solely on financial concerns, which was, in hindsight, impulsive. By leaving the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, I forfeited my merit scholarship and had to pay the full sticker price of tuition at CWRU.
My second year, I transferred to a state university near my home, mostly due to financial concerns. During this time, I experienced a great deal of challenges. I had become more independent during my first year at CWRU, learning how to cope with stress and how to reach out to people and support systems when I needed them while “fending for myself.” My parents raised me right, but to say I grew up sheltered in certain respects before CWRU would be accurate. In contrast, my year back in New Jersey took a substantial toll on me.
I definitely felt like more of a number than a person while at the state school. Many campus resources, such as the university’s health services, eventually outsourced certain health issues I was dealing with. I ultimately had limited access to campus support systems. As a result, my grades drastically dropped. I had left CWRU with a 3.72; I left the state university with a 2.69. Needless to say, I returned to CWRU for my junior and senior years.
I was initially very hesitant to do so, feeling in many ways embarrassed about all the transitions I had been through. However I must admit that from all this moving around, I learned a great deal about myself, became much more self-aware and adopted a much more positive mindset. I felt welcomed back with open arms, and I tapped into many more of the resources on campus. It’s not that I didn’t deal with the same struggles as most other students here, but it is how I found solutions and seeked help when needed, whether that be from the administration, offices, etc.
I share this with you with the hope that you take and learn from my experiences. First, when you have heavy doubts about your time here at CWRU, really think about everything, and deliberate with your parents, friends and various resources on campus before considering transferring. Then, appreciate what we have here: So many caring staff and faculty who go above and beyond to make sure we enjoy both our student experience and academic success here at CWRU.
I don’t mean to sound pompous, but I pride myself in knowing almost every director of every office within the Division of Student Affairs and most of the staff there, too. I have at least 10 or so faculty and staff members that I consider mentors and who were greatly influential in my time at CWRU. It is because of these resources and the size of the undergraduate student body here that I really believe that any student, when willing to take the initiative, can make a meaningful impact on our campus community. My column from the onset has been titled “Case Western Reserve United.” And, after all the pieces I’ve written and the situations I’ve encountered, I feel that this is the best summary of my undergraduate career here.
My last piece of advice: push for change, appreciate, be willing to lead, collaborate, love one another, learn from experience—academics, personally, through extracurricular activities—and you’ll realize the progress that can be accomplished within all realms of the college experience. As I prepare for commencement and moving on to my next stage in life, I look back with great fondness and definitely consider my college years as adults have always told us it would be: “the greatest years of my life.”
Josh Lehrer will be a corpsman in City Year, serving in San Antonio, Texas next year after graduation.