By: Connie Klimek
Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault
Reminiscing my growth at IU South Bend is quite emotional for me, as I came to IU South Bend feeling capable and confident in myself for the first time in my life.
However it took transferring from Saint Mary’s College where I honestly felt quite unfulfilled and studying abroad at L’Université Catholique de l’Ouest to build my confidence.
I tremendously struggled when I first arrived to study in France due to culture shock and homesickness. My dad reassured me I could come home if I needed to, and I desperately wanted to leave. However, I felt that if I took the “easy way out” I would be letting my character development down in the long run.
So, I decided to stay in France for 6 months, learning everyday what resilience meant. Yet, the trip granted me the “best days” of my life. I spent three days in Paris with my best friend, Briana, that I wouldn’t trade for the world. That weekend was the epitome of a French major’s dream, in my opinion.
After feeling out of place at two other academic institutions, I was determined to apply the newfound capability and confidence I fostered, to my experience at IU South Bend.
Transferring into IU South Bend as a junior was not ideal for campus involvement, as I was a bit late to navigating campus benefits.
- I immensely wanted to be a tour guide, and I was told there wasn’t demand for new ones at the time.
- In response, I told the designated office why I knew I’d make a great tour guide, and I asked them to train me every time I went in to work for them as a desk clerk. After two months, they trained me and I became a tour guide.
- I wanted to join the Honors Program, and I was told it wasn’t feasible, as I was quite limited on time to complete their requirements.
- In response, I met with Dr. Karakatsanis, Dr. K,director of the honors program, and told her why I knew I was capable of meeting their requirements, even within a short time frame. I was then accepted into the Honors Program, and have felt continuously supported by Dr. K.
- I wanted to be a Gateway Mentor, and there weren’t any openings.
- In response, everyday for about a month or two I checked in with my current boss to inquire if there was an opening. The first opening they had, I was hired.
- I wanted to be on the Tap and Kickline, and I did not make the team because I did not know how to tap.
- In response, I took Miss Karen’s tap class at IU South Bend and at The Conservatory of Dance to learn how to tap dance. Now, I’m on the Kickline.
My time in France taught me how to be resilient and being miserable at my former collegiate institution taught me how to seize every opportunity that IU South Bend offered. That being said, those within the IU community, such as Dr. K, Rick Dennie, director of student support, and Dr. Tami Martinez, assistant dean in the Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts, allowed me to spring into action due to their support.
I fondly remember June 2019 when I met with Dr. Tami Martinez to schedule my classes for the first time. Her warm and inviting presence comforted any fear I had from not having great experiences at my former schools.
Looking back at Dr. Martinez’s efforts that day, she gave me so much of her time that she did not have to share with me. She talked through numerous courses with a very confused me, and spoke with such kindness and encouragement. Often, I think back to how pivotal that day was for me: I was so scared and nervous thinking higher education just wasn’t for me, and after 5 minutes of speaking with her, I couldn’t wait to take classes at IU South Bend.
Before I even started classes, I felt that I had Dr. Martinez’s support, and I have continued to feel that way through the pandemic, and now leading up to my graduation. She is an outstanding advocate for IU South Bend students, a campus treasure.
Amidst discovering myself, making new friends, living in a new environment in River Crossing Housing, and challenging myself academically (repeatedly taking 18 credit hour semesters,) I felt at ease knowing of the support I had on campus. Whether it be going to Active Minds events until 9 p.m. or to 8:30 a.m. kickline practice, being on campus was always something I looked forward to.
I enjoyed my time at IU South Bend so much that when I completed my first Bachelor’s Degree in Communication in June 2021, I decided to turn my French minor into a new Bachelor’s Degree and added a minor in dance.
Although this additional degree came along with more general education requirements due to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences having more requirements than Ernestein Raclin School of the Arts, it was worth the extra work to me.
In homage to the platform I’m communicating via, The Preface grew from a fun campus activity to a tremendous solace for me.
In October 2020, I was sexually assaulted by a guy I was dating at the time. This was incredibly dehumanizing to me. In response to the trauma of the event: a terrifying amount of my hair fell out, I completely stopped working out, and it was challenging to leave my apartment in general.
I didn’t even begin mentally processing what happened to me until April 2021.This process shifted my personality from being extroverted and feeling beautiful and open to feeling introverted, devastated and closed off. While it is incredibly challenging to even realize what’s happening as you’re coping through this trauma, it is even more difficult to explain to others the sudden change, such as always dodging anything that I was not required to partake in.
I went from dressing up for even the smallest occasion to wearing sweatshirts all day everyday. My hair was missing in obvious patches to the point where I had to get my haircut up to my ears in July 2021. I cried so much and so often, as I had cherished my formerly long hair. Every time I went to the gym I cried, I just stopped going. With such drastic changes, I not only did not recognize myself mentally and emotionally; whenever I looked in the mirror, I did not recognize my own physical reflection.
From April 2021, I’ve been living in survival mode, since July 2021, I felt invisible (until recently).
With the help of professional therapy, resources on campus, and the support of Dr. Anne Magnan-Park, my French professor and mentor, I’m in a much better place.
Throughout my healing process, I kept working toward my French degree, kept working on campus, kept dancing, and kept writing for The Preface.
The Preface kept me involved with campus events when I wanted to stay home. It pushed me to talk to people for interviews and quotes, writing for The Preface became my outlet. No one saw my face, they just saw my words.
The Preface was there for me when I couldn’t even be there for myself, and I did not have to explain to anyone anything that I was experiencing.
Then for the first time, I made connections on campus not for my personality, but for my writing. This was incredibly moving for me, as it was completely unforeseen. Additionally, I feel that every young person can benefit from being recognized for their work. How empowering is that in a society that is quite focused on appearances?
Thank you Dr. Susan Elrod, Elizabeth Pace, Dr. Monica Porter, and Paige Risser for seeing me when I felt invisible.
Thank you I’Vory Woods, Lexi Goy, Hannah Freeto, Anna Rodriguez, Ashley Kasuri, Mwai Chuthi, and Jordan Holley amongst others for your continued support and friendship.
Thank you Lynne Davis, Dr. Neovi Karakatsanis, Dr. Anne Magnan-Park, Dr. Tami Martinez, James Mason, Scott McGirr, Kathy Miller, Melissa Pace, Miss Karen Pajor, Lori Schmatz, and Dr. A.J. Schmitz, for your mentorship and friendship on campus.
Thank you Rick Dennie, for being the best boss anyone could hope for.
Thank you to my little cheerleader, Louie, (pictured). Thank you to my mom, Marilyn Klimek, who earned her Masters from IU South Bend in 2021, for her encouragement.
Lastly, I would like to thank my dad, Ken Klimek, faculty advisor for The Preface, for introducing me to IU South Bend, welcoming me into the department he worked in throughout my entire lifespan and welcoming me into The Preface. He showed me all the resources to be successful, and continuously supported me in any way he could through my collegiate journey. I am so proud to walk in his footsteps as a writer for The Preface and soon to be IU South Bend graduate. Thanks Dad.
Photo // Emily Hinds (people)
Photo // Connie Klimek (cat)