I have always thought that asking for help was not a positive thing to do. Surely, I didn’t think it was a negative thing to do — it is good to request support when you need it — but it wasn’t a positive thing, either. As an individual with a physical disability, I require help with nearly all physical activities of daily living. Perhaps because of this, I viewed asking for help as putting a slight burden on someone else, as a sign of my lack of independence. Hence, I avoided asking for help with any non-physical aspect of my life, such as my intellectual capacity or my emotional capacity, as much as I could.
And quite frankly, I didn’t feel an urging need for help in these areas of my life before coming to college. Of course, I needed extra help on a few tough homework assignments in high school or emotional support from my friends when I had rough days. In general, though, I was smooth sailing — intellectually and emotionally. As the essay prompt on the Stanford application states, the immensely diverse students here have one thing in common: intellectual vitality. Mostly, the people coming into Stanford are the ones who “had it together” in high school, or those who struggled but overcame their challenges. That’s what makes this campus such a vibrant, intellectually invigorating place.
However, it didn’t take me long after getting here to realize that I was going to need a lot of help — both intellectually and emotionally. From figuring out how to schedule classes to solving difficult problem sets, I needed as much help as I could get, whether that was in the form of making study groups, spending extra time at office hours or voraciously reading course reviews on Carta. At my high school, nearly 400 students were assigned to one guidance counselor. Though the counselors did their best to guide us through academic life, there was only so much attention they could give to each individual student. For this reason, I have never been in the habit of thinking guidance counselors or advisers would be very useful.
I approached the advisers here at Stanford with the same mindset. I went into meetings with my Academic Advising Directors, Pre-Major Adviser and now Major Adviser with hesitancy, but I left pleasantly surprised. Each time I meet with an adviser, I leave feeling informed, relieved and greatly helped. Maybe I’ve gotten lucky with great advisers, but I now realize that I have been underestimating my need for help, and underestimating the help I’d receive.
This is also true of emotional and spiritual aspects of my life. College was the first time I was living away from home, which can be emotionally difficult in and of itself, but it was also the first time I was living caregivers who weren’t my parents — to help me with physical activities of daily living. It was the first time I had to make completely new friends, as I grew attended K-12th grade in the same school district. Facing these emotional challenges, I experienced an immense need for emotional and spiritual help, which I found in great friends, as well as in Reformed University Fellowship.
Dictionary.com defines to help as “to give or provide what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need” or “to cooperate effectively with.” What is necessary. To cooperate with. My recent experiences in reaching out for help, both physically and emotionally, have redefined the way I view asking for help. It is not a good thing or a bad thing. It is a necessity. It is not a burden on others. It is an act of cooperation. After realizing this, I have made a new goal for myself: to help and to be helped.
Contact Angie Lee at angielee ‘at’ stanford.edu.