Cassandra really valued her peer support role and loved being able to support students who were struggling.
She had been meeting up with her peer, Taylor, for several months. They discovered that they both enjoyed cycling, so today they had gone for a bike ride in between classes and stopped to grab a treat from the local cafe.
Taylor had moved to Canada for university; this big move was her first time living away from home. She was really struggling with feelings of isolation, homesickness and adjusting to a new culture. Besides her peer, she hadn’t met many new people, and tended to avoid social situations.
“What have you been up to this week?” asked Cassandra.
“Nothing much. Just been doing a bit of cycling and studying in my room.”
“Have you tried joining any of those clubs we talked about?” asked Cassandra.
“No, not yet,” replied Taylor. “The thought of going alone really stresses me out, and I’m already behind on my coursework anyway.”
“What about a study group? Two birds with one stone!”
“It might be hard to show up for the first session, but it will get easier. Joining clubs was how I met most of my friends in Uni.”
Cassandra would never say this out loud, but she didn’t feel Taylor was really putting much effort into being social and making connections. It seemed like Taylor never did anything but hang out at residence, and every week it was the same story. She kept encouraging Taylor to join groups, volunteer, or try some new hobbies, since that’s how Cassandra made new friends and nurtured her own wellbeing when life was stressful.
After all of Cassandra’s pushing, Taylor joined a club but didn’t fit in and found the experience quite negative. After taking a few more months to feel more grounded and comfortable with her new life and the stress of school, she went to a club with a friend she met in one of her classes and they had a great time. She had taken the time she needed and was much better equipped to manage a social life and the pressure of deadlines.
Cassandra realized that everyone moves at their own pace, and that pushing yourself when you’re not ready isn’t always the best way forward for everyone. She reflected on her own upbringing, and how pushing yourself through discomfort was valued above things like health and wellbeing. She also recognized she hadn’t had to navigate the challenges of moving to a different country where she didn’t know anyone and wasn’t familiar with the culture, having stayed in the same city for her undergrad. While being social and constantly meeting new people was important to Cassandra, she gained an awareness that these were her own values and shouldn’t be forced on anyone else. While she had judged Taylor for not trying hard enough to make new friends, she reflected on how brave it was to move to a new country where she didn’t know anyone. The next time they met, Cassandra shared her with Taylor how she admired her strength.