Sarah Ann’s Story: Perfectionism and Cookies

Facing College: Diverse Student Voices from Michigan State University

As told to: Natalie Kallemeyn

I don’t really get homesick.  I mean, I did get sick, but it was pneumonia.

The health center told me I didn’t have pneumonia at first, and then they said, “Oh, you might have blood clots in your lungs,” and pulled me out of my Chem class and took me to the ER. That was the worst. I missed my first math exam because of it. He called me up in front of the entire class and said, “Why did you miss my exam?” and I told him I was trying to not die!

I was told by a lot of people back home that women don’t go into the sciences and stay in them. They told me girls don’t do that. Most people back home stayed in the same town and went to college in our town. They have kind of the mentality where girls go into English, or become teachers, or nurses. They value the whole nuclear family: women are supposed to stay home and have babies.

I didn’t want to do that. That’s boring! I want to go explore the world and do work with food and what I want to do. I don’t want to be tied down. Actually, even my mom wanted me to go into something else. She was scared of me going to MSU and wanted me to go to a smaller school like Central. She would say to me, “Go into Chemistry or nutrition, that would be a lot more fun for you,” but I didn’t really want to. I wanted to go into food science since around 8th grade, and I knew coming from an agricultural background that I needed to go to State.

That’s what influences me and makes me more driven to do what I want. I did dual enrollment and AP classes junior and senior year: sociology, Michigan history, gov- political science, econ, and general speech. I’m very self-motivated. When I was little, I really loved basketball and I would sit outside and shoot hoops until I finally made a bunch and that took a very, very, very, very long time, but I did it because that’s what I really wanted to do.

I definitely think I want to do all the things I want to do because I’m competitive.  I want to study abroad and do student research. I’m a floor rep for student government and I plan events for our hall and projects. I’m part of the food science club: we do Chopped competitions, and stuff like foodie tours. I think I do those because I’m really curious about those things and I’m just really, really competitive.

People on my floor, people I don’t even know, they’ll see me in the study room every other day and they say, “Wow! Good for you,” and I’m just trying to make sure I get it done and figure everything out. Or, I’m always early to classes, especially my food science classes, so I can talk to my professors and they can definitely tell I’m really driven since I’m always talking to them and asking questions.

If I get a bad grade, I kind of beat myself up about it. Last night I had an accounting exam and I don’t think I did so well and I walked out and I called my mom crying. I said, “I don’t feel good about this” and she just told me, “You need to stop, it’s not the end of the world.”

I need to remember that.

The hardest thing would be balancing the workload with the social life. At the end of last semester, we were getting ready for finals and my suitemates,  my roommate, and I all went to dinner on Grand River because we were just too stressed. So we bought two dozen Insomnia Cookies,  sat in our room and just studied, and ate Insomnia. It sounds super lame, but then we watched reruns of The Bachelor so it was good, really good. Also, I don’t party excessively. I think Fridays and Saturdays are my good days. That’s about it. And it’s not every weekend because I don’t have time for that, but I feel like you have to because you’re only in college once. So you have to find that balance between work and social life.

That’s the hardest thing for me. That and remembering that it’s okay to screw up. That sometimes that’s just how you have to learn. Pneumonia, missed exams, and all.

This story originally appeared in Facing College: Diverse Student Voices, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

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