Almost there: the stresses of a soon to be graduate

The life of a non-traditional college student may seem more hectic then most business professionals’.

It’s Thursday morning. You get up at 8 a.m. and go to class. After a short lunch break you go to another class, and then another. At 3:15 p.m. you get out and run to your car in order to have time to get ready for work and be there by 4:30 p.m. From there you work until 11 that night. You come home and try to do homework, but sometimes you are just too exhausted from everything. You try to rest and go to bed at around 3 in the morning. Friday morning. You wake up again at 8, get dressed, and then go to your internship. There you sit at a computer until 3:30. From here it’s straight to work until midnight. After work you come home, shower and attempt homework again. Bed at 3 in the morning and a double at work the next day, and the next day. This is just your weekend.

For Western Carolina student Lorena Yanez, this crazy schedule has been a part of her life for years. “I’ve been supporting myself since I was 14 and paying for everything I wanted,” Yanez said.

WCU student Lorena Yanez

WCU student Lorena Yanez. Photo courtesy of Yanez.

“I’ve always worked and I’ve always done stuff because my mom always told us that if you want something you go for it. I come from a very hard working family. So I guess that’s why I’m like that. Welcome to Lorena’s life!”

Lorena is balancing being a full time student, employee, intern, and paying her own bills.

“I’m 22 about to turn 23. I’ve been working at Harrah’s casino in Cherokee, NC as a waitress for five years, since I was 17. My mom provided a roof over my head until I was 20 and then I moved out on my own.” She takes her education seriously as she recognizes that to get where she wants to be in life she needs to have a degree.

“I was at Southwestern Community College from August 2012 to December 2014 when I graduated. I started at Western Carolina University January 2015 and am about to graduate with my bachelor’s in December 2016.”

To be able to pay for her education she has had to apply for assistance as well as work to pay out of major debt. “Yes I do get financial aid but I have paid hundreds of dollars out of pocket too,” Lorena mentioned about her financial situation. She is not alone among the Western Carolina student body that has had to resort to financial aid. According to Western Carolina’s tuition and fees section of the page Fast Facts, “approximately 81 percent of WCU students receive some form of financial aid, which includes grants, loans, scholarships, and student employment.

On top of classes, to fulfill the requirements within Lorena’s degree program she also had to find an internship. This meant adding another commitment to her life while also continuing to work at the casino.

Fellow Southwestern alumni and friend Sylvia King was there to help in Lorena’s time of need. “Lorena sought out my guidance and asked if I had any suggestions or ideas for an internship. So I asked her, “Why don’t you come work with me?”” King is a media assistant at New Kituwah Academy in Cherokee, NC.

Lorena obtained the internship and according to her co-worker puts forth her best efforts. “Lorena, from the time she wakes up until the time she goes to bed, if she gets to bed, is constantly on the move and striving to meet that deadline, take care of that customer at her job, achieving her personal goals of the day and making sure she’s meeting them to her fullest ability,” King praised.

Aside from the time that Lorena spends in class, at work, or at her internship, comes the time to do the schoolwork that she has been assigned. Thankfully, this semester she was fortunate enough to purchase a laptop of her own. Before this, Lorena would find herself in the library until closing on the nights she did not work.

“Before I had my computer, oh my gosh it was awful! I didn’t get anything done. I never had time. I don’t even know how I managed. I remember for a while there I was leaving the tech commons at like 2 in the morning, because that’s when they close, but I was constantly leaving then.”

I believe I am a hard-working student unfortunately the expectations a teacher may qualify as a hard working student is rather different. So when a teacher tells me I’m lazy, that really hurts me. Like, you don’t know what I have going on in my life.” 

Through all of the obstacles she has faced, Lorena has managed to surpass them all.

“I couldn’t be more fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work along side such a respectable person. I know she will go far in life and progress and thrive in any position or career path she decides to take in her journey to self-discovery,” commented King.

Lorena is graduating in few weeks but she is not concerned about the future, the present is what worries her.

“Graduation is so close yet so far. Sometimes I’m scared that I’m not going to graduate. I just have the fear that something is going to happen. That can’t be an option. Just keep fighting through.”

Due to all the pressure that Lorena has put on her self the past couple of years, she now deals with periodic heart pain. When your body is constantly pushed to the limit with sleep deprivation and stress, it is no wonder that it will eventually show signs of wear and tear.

Lorena preparing to graduate
Photo By: Calvin Inman

The National Sleep Foundation claims that an average college student (an adult of or above eighteen years old) should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. A study by Michael T. Clevenger, Jr. of the Department of Psychology at Spartanburg Methodist College, found that that less than half of college students get this amount. In humans, it has been demonstrated that the metabolic activity of the brain decreases significantly after 24 hours of sustained wakefulness. At this point, is it all worth it?

“It’s hard. This semester has been rough. The toughest semester I have ever had. Thankfully I’m almost there. I’m almost there.”

The end of the semester is swiftly approaching and Lorena, through all of the hard work and determination, will be walking across the stage to her future.