What is a support network?
Support networks, as defined by the University of Washington, are “the people in your life that help you achieve your personal and professional goals.” Every student needs support networks. College is a stressful time for every person who goes through it. Networking can be career-focused, but it can also be via social support!
As a student with a disability, I find that community engagement and social networks are the best form of help I can get. Accommodations are important; however, without a support network, you can feel lonely and unheard. This support network can be a range of people, from friends and family to professors and advisors. Everyone who wishes the best for you and intends to help you succeed with your goals, including being accessible towards your particular disability, is part of your support system.
An example for me would be my best friends. Although both of my best friends are no longer UConn students, they both provide me with the most support out of anyone in my educational and professional goals. They support me through relapses and flares, taking careful time to listen and comfort. I find that without these people, I would not be doing as well, physically and academically.
Now, how do you build a support network?
Feeling alone is a very common thing to feel as a first-year student. Additionally, since the beginning of the pandemic, most students I’ve talked to have been feeling lonely. It can be daunting to think of all the people to try and talk to, especially to find those who accept and accommodate your disability. I personally found my support network by joining clubs and organizations centered around things related to my disability. Reaching out to professors about accommodations and talking to the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) is a great way to get more professional help toward your goals. If you’re confused about your career goals, talk to a career coach at the Center for Career Development; they can also be a support system. Acknowledge the professors and advisors who are the most accessible and helpful and create relationships with them that can be important when in need of any sort of support.
Get out there and find those people. You will not regret it!