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  • Writer's pictureTrinity Ngo

Shifting From the Classroom: The Other Side of SRC

Picking a UGS was daunting. It was the Summer of 2022, I was fresh out of high school, and suddenly, The University of Texas at Austin wanted me to know exactly what courses I would take when I had barely come to terms with my major. Scrolling through the Course Registrar for hours, I sat alongside other trepidatious almost-freshman in the Jester East Lobby at 2 A.M. My eyes landed on paradise.

UGS 303: Women & Madness.

The following day, my fingers shook as I copied the unique number to my first-choice class, waiting for registration to open. At the top of my list, Women & Madness waited. The clock ticked. Registration opened. I pasted the number. It was a success. I celebrated among the other nervous first-year students around me and called my mom later on, boasting about the course’s description and my excitement. All there was to do was wait.

After over a month of dorm shopping, last summer hang-outs with friends, and anxious new nights on campus, the first day of class was terrifying. I walked into the UTC with timid steps, my nerves suffocating all the excitement I had for my UGS when choosing it just weeks before.

What I did not know in those first moments of sitting down in the classroom was how enriching the class would be for me. The one-hour blocks spent every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in Women & Madness were a safe space. My seat neighbors, now friends, and I learned to gauge our stress like boats on the sea. We decorated rocks and treasured their tangibility in our palms. I found a close friend in deep breathing, inhaling slowly and purposefully as I worked my way through my first midterm season.

Farther down the line, I took the leap to participate as a research participant in the class. As an overworked, tired freshman stretched to what I thought was the end of my rope, the decision to complete AQRL’s initial survey was daunting. However, it gave me the opportunity to slow down—thirty minutes of introspection and multiple-choice questions. The journal I kept while in the class stood as a testament to our resiliency practices, slowly transforming how I coped with my stress. Suddenly, it was Spring. The two surveys I had taken, baseline and post-program, had faded into a wave of anxiety with the new semester, but an email appeared. I was soon on a Zoom call with Chidera. Their questions triggered my returning reflection on the resiliency practices and how much the small gestures had impacted my overburdened Freshman mind.

I soon realized I wanted to be a part of this initiative. I wanted to be on the other side of the screen, helping the students coming to UT with little space in their minds for anything other than the consuming nervousness of a new school. So, with help from Chidera and a few emails, I applied.

Now, writing this blog post, I am a completely different person from the student who walked onto the Forty Acres. I have over two months of research assistance under my belt, and I have learned so much about the other side of AQRL. The intentionality behind Dr. Gulbas and each research assistant’s actions is an affectionate reminder that Shifting Resiliency in the Classroom is cultivated to help every terrified student coming to campus for the first time.

Under Dr. Gulbas’ guidance, I am CITI-certified. My first bout of presentations to the new Women & Madness class was unfathomable, as I had been in the same discussion room, pondering my participation, just a year before. Friday mornings are brighter with our lab meetings as I hear about AQRL’s week and weekend plans. Three Good Things, a practice we learned in the classroom, now makes its way into my fond memories of the lab: a warm conclusion to our productivity.

All of this is to say that my adventure from research participant to research assistant has been a whirlwind of perseverance, adaptability, and fun. Shifting from the classroom, my work as a research assistant teaches me how my academic passions are making a difference in the next class of Longhorns’ lives. As we move into interviews and analysis, I truly cannot wait to see what else I learn through AQRL. The program that enabled me to make the best of my situation when I first arrived on campus and balance myself when I felt like a spinning top circling closer and closer to collision is now fostering my passion for research.

Working in mental health has placed me on a trajectory enlivened by a devotion to learning more about the resiliency practices that helped me so much in my first semester at UT. I excitedly await the opportunity to absorb the wisdom, guidance, and positivity of the Advanced Qualitative Research Lab as we move forward into the study.

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