Hi everyone, my name is Natalie and I just graduated from the University of Cincinnati (UC) this August with a degree in Environmental Studies and minors in Psychology and Biology. On my own time I am a health & environmental advocate and enjoy fighting for awareness & understanding of things people may not be educated on (like Crohn’s disease, which I also have).

Thanks to the UC journalism department, I was prompted to write a short piece for a video and article I was featured in for my school. It was about overcoming adversity and making it to graduation, and I wanted to share it with you.

As I was approaching my graduation, I found out I was nominated for the Triumph Cord for overcoming adversity. I was nominated by two women who have supported and inspired me through my education: my Environmental Studies Department Head and Environmental Studies Counselor. I was definitely surprised when I found out about the nomination and felt grateful I had professors and a school that took the time and care to notice me.

The adversities I have overcome include numerous health problems; mostly related to my Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD); an autoimmune disease where basically my bodily mistakenly attacks my GI system and creates inflammation that is extremely damaging to my intestines.

Throughout my UC career I was hospitalized at least four times, and was inpatient for multiple weeks each time; I had countless procedures, infusions, surgeries; I had to withdraw from classes, take incompletes, take time off and even commit to only one class a time. Essentially, I really struggled to complete my assignments and finish my classes. I thought I was never getting anywhere, going so slow to even make a dent in necessary credits, but one day they just added up.

I remember when my counselor told me I could graduate soon, and I just felt shocked like I never thought that day would come. I had flashbacks of all the times I thought about dropping out. I was so sick and I thought the stress, mentally and physically, just wasn’t worth it. Now coming out on the other side, it totally was. Who cares that I took five years and a semester to graduate... I still have my degree to show, not anything less because of how long I took or how hard I struggled.

School was a lot on me; it really weighed on my anxiety and depression and I had to learn to balance my health and classes to be successful in both. I tried to be as independent as possible, but I couldn’t have done it without communicating openly with my professors, who ended up being some really understanding and great people. My friends and family were always there to remind me why I was pursuing this degree and that they’d support me no matter what. So somehow, I just kept pushing myself to keep going, no matter how long it took. It started getting much easier to be motivated when I changed my major to Environmental Studies, something I feel incredibly passionate about, and got involved in that.

My health struggles definitely took a toll on me but in a way, they helped shape me into who I am, led me to find the right major, and therefore helped me find the faith I needed to get through. I definitely had more days than not where I hated school and what I was going through, where I was struggling to make it to class (if I even did) and not being able to do homework or do anything social because of exhaustion. I know plenty of friends who have felt similarly, who are even healthy, but everyone has their own struggles. I just wanted to share a bit of my story to hopefully give someone else hope who is struggling to overcome their adversity, whatever it may be in any degree.... I believe in you making it through to graduation!


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