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Meet Koen

Koen is a first-year UNC-Chapel Hill student from Charlotte, North Carolina. He is double majoring in English and political science. He enjoys reading and writing poetry as well as playing a variety of musical instruments, including the piano and the drums.

Koen’s First Semester Challenges

Ever since the beginning of high school, Koen planned to attend college as a biology major. He focused on becoming successful and earning a high income, and he believed biology was the best way to achieve this goal. However, he struggled through his first biology class at UNC-CH due to a lack of interest and difficulty connecting with other students who genuinely enjoyed the subject.

More About Koen’s Biology Experience

Koen experienced a sense of isolation that is common in many first-year students. Koen shared that unlike during high school, where he had a safe place to retreat after an intense day of school to his home and family, he found that living in a dorm made it difficult to find any time to recharge. This led to feelings of hopelessness, unintentional distancing of himself from others and a drop in his grades.

Unfortunately these feelings are not uncommon for college students.

“Especially for guys, it just felt more like a weakness to talk about my problems.”

– Koen

Asking for Help

Koen initially found it challenging to reach out to others for help with these problems. This is the case for many men in the United States due to the stigma surrounding therapy. However, after Koen received his grades for his first semester and knew he could’ve done better, he decided to go to Counseling and Psychological Services. After several sessions, he found it much more helpful than expected.

The Benefits of Therapy

Koen said he greatly benefitted from therapy. One of his main takeaways was realizing he didn’t need to major in biology to be successful. He is now majoring in two subjects that he greatly enjoys, and instead of dreading going to class, he looks forward to learning.

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Why this story is important

I chose this story for my final project because many college students can relate to Koen’s experiences of feeling isolated and unmotivated in a unfamiliar environment. Many also feel hesitant to ask for help due to the stigma surrounding mental health, often spiraling downward before reaching out. It is important that students know they are not alone and have many resources exist to help them work through their feelings.

Mental Health Resources

Mental Health America – Information on mental health

National Empowerment Center

World Health Organization

Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988

UNC-Specific Mental Health Resources

Counseling and Psychological Services: https://caps.unc.edu/

Heels Care Network: https://care.unc.edu/resources/

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