One Last Lap
Panel of College Senior Women (Grace, Aiden, Jackie, and Austyn)
A returning panel of women, now entering their senior year in college, discuss navigating their journey through college while also navigating academics, a pandemic, excessive alcohol and other drug use, relationships, and mental health issues. Grace, Aiden, Jackie, and Austyn talk about discovering who they are and where they want to go, made more challenging and complicated by issues around mental health, substance use, and maturity. Remember, every college has a student health center and access to counseling. If the assistance you receive is not adequate, please keep asking and looking. If you or a loved one needs help, it is available. You can find a directory of AA meetings here: https://www.aa.org/find-aa and NA meetings here: https://www.na.org/meetingsearch/. SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY 1-800-487-4889, is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
[Jaunty Guitar Music]
Mike: Welcome, everybody. This is Avoiding the Addiction Affliction, brought to you by Westwords Consulting and the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition. I'm Mike McGowan.
Mike: For the past three September's, we've spoken with a group of college women prior to the starts of their academic school year.
Mike: Well, we're going to do it again. We're pleased to have them all back as guests as they now enter their senior year of college. Ah, it seems like yesterday. Or at least hopefully they'll all be graduating within the next year or so. Grace, Jackie, and Aiden are all at different colleges in Wisconsin. And Austyn is at the University of Minnesota.
Mike: And as we record this is wearing a Minnesota Vikings sweatshirt. So being in Wisconsin I don't know if we should allow her on this or not, but I guess we will. Anyway, welcome back ladies. How are you?
Mike: I thought of the first question because honestly to me it seems like yesterday. It just does seem like yesterday.
Mike: So I thought I'd start it out by asking you a question about how fast has the last three some years gone heading into your last year of college? And secondly what's been the most surprising or unexpected thing that you've experienced? Jackie, let's start with you.
Jackie: It has gone very fast. But when I really think about it, like I've had a lot of experiences. And I feel like I've learned a lot. But it's crazy being a senior and thinking about next year. It's a completely different chapter. And then what was the most surprising thing?
Mike: Yeah, or unexpected thing about college.
Jackie: Let's see. Surprising thing. Can you come back to me on that? I have to think about it.
Mike: (laugh) Absolutely. Austyn, when, were you around When the freshmen unloaded their stuff this year.
Austyn: Yeah, I was, I was here.
Mike: Now, what did you think as the freshmen unloaded their stuff? Were you thinking they looked young or what?
Austyn: Yeah, it's kind of, it was like weird.
Austyn: I mean, we like would, we kind of wanted to see it all go down. So like me and my roommates like went for a walk to like, and we like went wide and walked past all the dorms to like, see all the freshmen moving in. But we were like, holy cow, like they do. I think they look young, like, you know what I mean?
Austyn: And then it's just like, it's so funny. Just, like seeing them all like on campus for the first time. And like, you can hear them like talking about their classes and stuff, but it's just like, Oh, like you can just tell her freshmen, but like, not in a bad way. It's just like, that's just how it is freshman year.
Mike: Did you feel like an old lady?
Austyn: A little bit? Yeah, a little bit. It's weird. It's weird to think about like being a senior. It just doesn't feel. Doesn't feel like I should be at that point yet, but here we are. So. (laugh)
Mike: Grace, what was the most unexpected thing that you've experienced?
Grace: Well, I think in general, like Jackie was saying, I think the most unexpected thing was just how much change you go through.
Grace: And I think the thing about college is it's so unpredictable. Like I, I would never have guessed that the last three years would have gone the way they did and like that things would have happened the way they did.
Grace: Like looking back from how I started freshman year, so I think just everything was unexpected, honestly.
Mike: Well, and both you and Aiden started at different colleges too, right? So you transferred?
Grace: Yeah, exactly.
Mike: Yeah. Aiden, I understand today is your birthday. Happy birthday.
Aiden: Thank you.
Jackie: Happy birthday!
Austyn: Happy birthday!
Mike: (laugh) Well, let's not sing yet. How fast has it gone for you, Aiden, and what have you experienced?
Aiden: So, obviously, just that I transferred. I never expected to have transferred. I thought La Crosse was where I was going to be and it really is interesting comparing, like, myself now to myself freshman year did go by really fast, but I feel like I went through a lot on a mental health journey, which is cool to kind of compare to see how far I've come with that. And again, like just being unexpected with transferring and all that.
Mike: Well, we'll get to the mental health stuff because I did want to ask you girls that. Jackie, did you come up with something yet?
Jackie: Oh my god, I just lost my train of thought.
Mike: It's probably looking at Austyn in a Viking jersey.
Jackie: There's something off of what Grace had to say. Oh, I know what it is. Honestly, which I've heard people say this before, but I really did feel like I knew everything going into college, and I was so confident.
Jackie: And the older I've gotten, the less I feel like I know about life.
Mike: Oh, wow. Wow. Yeah. Well geez, ask your folks and the rest of us. I bet, I bet we'd all give the same answer to that, right? Well, when you first started college ladies we talked in the last few years, the point of this the first year was to talk about the expectations around alcohol and drugs.
Mike: So we'll get to that. But all the drinking that went on was illegal, right, in the first couple of years, if it went on. And now, of course, you're all of age. So how has the drinking culture changed now that you're of age? Is there more of an emphasis on bars and less on parties? Is it increased, decreased?
Mike: Austyn, what's it like at U of M?
Austyn: I think here, I don't know if it's everybody, but I would say it's a pretty even mix for us of like bars and parties. But also like as I get older not that, I mean, I know I'm not like old, but it's like as I get older, like, honestly, I, a lot of times, I want to like just stay in just because I feel like it's one of those things where it's like, it's kind of like an event if we're going out, you know what I mean?
Austyn: Like you have to like get ready and like all that kind of stuff but yeah, here I'd say it's a pretty even mix of bars and parties. I know at a lot of schools, I feel like there's a lot more, like I know Madison has, they just have more bars like we have to go... There's a couple bars on campus, but like, most of the bars are like, downtown, so it's kind of like, an excursion to get there. But, yeah.
Mike: And Jackie, you're at UW Madison, which fairly or unfairly has quite the reputation, and I went there and I've heard about it since I was a student there. So, how have you experienced a change in the drinking culture or drug using culture since your freshman year?
Jackie: I would definitely say, I feel like it's consistent, like, If anything, I like going out more now just because it's like for sure you're getting into these places...
Jackie: and it's like the better bars because Madison has, which I didn't know like not everybody, every school has like the freshman bars, the sophomore bars, the junior bars, the senior bars, and obviously the senior bars are the best and I live like super downtown so it's like a block from me like a literal like a minute or two walk.
Jackie: So, I think going out is like, easier now, and also for game days, it's more popular as a senior to go to bars. But bars and parties are all like, super consistent all four years, I feel like.
Mike: Yeah, Grace, I remember you talked about that your freshman year, that you had a bar restaurant right across from your dorm that was known for just looking the other way and letting freshmen in.
Grace: Oh, yeah.
Mike: And and so you too Aiden you and Grace are at a good university, but it's known as a "Suitcase University", right? So people go home on the weekend. So how does that affect the drinking culture?
Grace: Well, let me tell you, the bars are still packed. If people are going home, the people that are staying here are going out. And well Whitewater too.
Grace: It's not like Madison where it's so big and there are so many bars. In Whitewater there is one bar that everyone ends the night at, like everyone is at the same bar.
Mike: So you see the same people over and over again?
Aiden: There's still always a new, new faces all the time.
Mike: (laugh) So, Austyn talked about a little bit and I get this response a lot when I talk to people that it's more frequent when you're younger and it's illegal, that that's the center of the activity. And then as you're older, you pick and choose when you go out. Would you agree with that, Aiden?
Aiden: I mean, I still like going out. I don't think I'm tired yet. I'm trying to kind of (chuckle) enjoy senior year and I love getting ready (chuckle).
Aiden: But I mean, Whitewater, there's not much to do. You did call it a suitcase school. You're either staying in with your roommates or you're going to the bars and there's a schedule I've learned like you think going, you go out Friday, Saturday, no, it's Thursday, Saturday, Fridays are rest days.
Mike: You know, that's even, I think every older person listening to this is nodding their head right now. Because that was the case when I was in college. In fact, people would schedule their classes so they didn't have classes on Friday.
Mike: So they could stay out late and you're all nodding to that. What about the other drugs? Nationwide we're experiencing you can get anything that you want, whatever. And of course we have, you know, opiates. that are killing people. What have you experienced around other drugs? Also, I'm going to save you for last since Minnesota just changed their law.
Mike: But Grace, let's start with you. What have you noticed around other drugs?
Grace: I mean, in college, I think even though it's technically illegal, weed is like, a huge thing. Like, I think almost everyone I know like, has done it before, has experience with it. It's very common. Like, you would not think that it's illegal because it's so, like, you see it everywhere.
Grace: And then even like drugs other than that, obviously, I don't really surround myself with people that do those, but even so, like, I have been offered it before, like, I had someone literally make a comment to me saying, you know, oh, I can get you anything, like, I promise there's no fentanyl in it, things like that but I'm, I'm not really involved in that, so I wouldn't know.
Mike: That would be great, you know, it's as long as the person can promise there's no fentanyl I guess you're safe, right? [sarcastic]
Grace: Yeah. [sarcastic]
Mike: I mean Jackie, what do you notice it at Madison?
Jackie: I also feel like it is. It's like the groups you're in, but I would say like the main like people going to bars and doing, like, the regular college stuff, like, I've never seen it out in public before, and I don't, like, associate with people that do anything other than smoke weed, and, like, Grace said, you would think it was legal here, cause, like, the streets smell like it, and a lot of people have it, but, yeah. I don't associate with anybody or know anybody, like, I heard, like, frats and sororities, like, apparently they have stuff, but I don't know anything for sure.
Mike: And Austyn, for those who are unfamiliar, Minnesota changed their law August 1st, right? So that you, recreational use of cannabis is now legal. Have you, as the year starts, are you, is it different? Do you notice it? Or is it, were they just legalizing something that was already abundant?
Austyn: I think they were just basically legalizing something that was already abundant.
Austyn: It's kind of weird because it's like more of like a, I mean, people, you can just do it in public now, which I feel like is the only thing that's different. Like, I feel like it used to be just like a little more hidden, but I wouldn't say that it's happening more. It's just like legal and it's more out in the open.
Austyn: Yeah, I mean, I don't know. That's pretty much like my take on it. That's what I've noticed about it. Like I wouldn't say it's more I would just say it's the same it's just legal, you know.
Mike: You're in nursing, right?
Austyn: Mm hmm.
Mike: Are you have you had classes already? Are you doing rotations or anything?
Austyn: It was kind of interesting when it was legalized. I actually I had a nursing internship this summer, so I, like, followed a nurse around, so I was there the, like, I was at my job the day that it was legalized, and it was, like, interesting to hear the nurses take on it, because they were, like, "Oh, great, like, now we're just gonna have a bunch of people, like, coming in, like, totally, like, greening out, like, freaking out, because they, like, tried weed for the first time, because it's, like, legal now". Which, after that, my internship kind of, like, ended, so I'm not really sure if that actually was the case.
Austyn: Like, I don't know if there's a lot more people being hospitalized because of it or not which would be something kind of interesting to look into, like, if that has any... If that's been an issue at all since they legalized.
Mike: Have drugs have drugs and drug usage been mentioned in your classes?
Austyn: Definitely a little bit, yeah.
Austyn: Just a lot about like a lot about like opioids like you said and like Narcan and stuff like that just because that's such a big topic right now and a lot of people are that is like a big issue. So primarily it's about that, I would say.
Mike: Jackie, you spent a semester abroad, right? Was it a semester?
Mike: How long were you, where were you?
Jackie: Paris. January till May.
Mike: Oh, what, what is it like in January in Paris?
Jackie: It's a more moderate winter. Like it didn't snow at all. And it's very fun. Like it felt like I was living the city life.
Mike: Wait, wait, were you there during the protests?
Mike: Talk about that for a minute. What was that like?
Jackie: Yeah. So we would have classes canceled a lot. Like, especially in the beginning because the, we took like the equivalent to a subway, which they call like the Metro there and they would shut the Metros down, like striking and then trash built up on the streets, like terribly. Then the rats were running around like towards the end, like Ratatouille and actually when my parents visited, and that was in like March, end of March, that was like the worst protesting night.
Jackie: We were walking through the city to go to this like nice dinner place that I found, and there was like tear gas and fires in the middle of the street. Like, I was like, this is not real right now.
Mike: Wow. What is the atmosphere there like around alcohol? How is it different than it is here around drug and alcohol usage?
Jackie: Yeah. So it's like, that's actually a big culture, cultural difference is the way that Europeans like view drinking. It's a lot more casual and you would be walking to class at like 11am and people are sitting at the cafes just like drinking a beer, smoking a cigarette. And drinking is just a lot more casual.
Jackie: It's less like rowdy, like, I don't know, Europeans are kind of stereotyped to be a little bit like classier. And weed is not legal there, but it's like the similar thing is. Here, where you see it everywhere still.
Mike: Aiden before you talked a little while you started the talk about mental health and I wanted to get there.
Mike: You can talk about this as much as you like, but I, I think is the pressure for you ladies ramping up? Does it seem like everything is easier? Do you still see people feeling isolated? How do people cope with their mental health? Aiden, why don't you kick it off?
Aiden: I would say with senior year, it does feel like the pressure is kind of on to like some people, at least I see on social media, like 22, 23 can sometimes be like the most scary years because it's your first year is kind of out of school post grad.
Aiden: If you don't go to graduate school, it's very different having to now adjust after going to school since you were five years old. And so I think that pressure is scary, but with my mental health journey, I had a lot of anxiety surrounded with just dating life and classes and stuff like that. And I use antidepressants, which helps me cope.
Aiden: I know some of my roommates and friends, they go to therapy as they're kind of navigating their final years in college. Some kids, unfortunately, with it being, some people don't really believe in the therapy or the antidepressants and feel like some people may utilize drinking as like a form of like alcoholism.
Aiden: Like people think it's college. You don't think anyone's an alcoholic. But. You definitely do see some people who are kind of like, drinking towards the weekend. Like, they are just looking forward to the weekend, and like, repeatedly getting drunk each week. And, so it is kind of sad to see, almost, that some people don't really know that they necessarily need help with their mental health.
Aiden: They just... Just kind of stamp it off as I'm a college student, you know?
Mike: Rationalize it. I'm sure all of you know people struggling with their mental health or even using therapy, right? Do people go back home for their therapy? Do they use teletherapy? Do they use university student health services?
Aiden: I tried using the health services at La Crosse once. It just wasn't super accessible because, again, they didn't have as much staff and there are so many students, so it was like only meeting once every three or four weeks, which I feel like if you're starting out therapy, consistency will be more helpful.
Mike: What have you found, Austyn?
Austyn: I found a lot, I think like telehealth is like a pretty big one I would say here and it's like less people finding resources from the school specifically and more like looking outwards. But that's not to say that they don't like, I know the school sends a lot of like, emails about like mental health services and things like that.
Austyn: Which I, I don't really know. Like how helpful they are.
Mike: Do you read 'em?
Austyn: I actually do usually read them. Yeah. 'cause I kind of like to see what, like they have.
Austyn: But yeah, I mean, I've never, like, actually really looked super hard into it, and I probably could, but I, I don't know, I've just never looked super far into it, but I know that they offer, like, I'm pretty sure it's, like, 10 free sessions, like, with the health center or whatever like, before, I don't know, then you might have to start paying, but I know that that's, like, something that they've kind of pushed and, like, told us, so, yeah.
Mike: Is it accessible in Madison too, Jackie?
Jackie: No that's been an issue since freshman year and a lot of people have talked about it like publicly is that UHS does not, there's like no opportunities for help, like getting in for an appointment because of the amount of students that want help versus the staff available.
Jackie: And unfortunately, I think I know more people on antidepressants, including myself versus like not. Which is crazy. And I've done therapy before, which was like not connected to school and all my friends I know on therapy. It's also like not with the school.
Mike: Grace what about relationships? How they changed in the three years?
Grace: Like romantic relationships or friendships?
Mike: Both actually, you can take it any way you want. Or talk about or talk about both.
Grace: Oh gosh, I think dating in college, I think that's one of the things that honestly was like a big unexpected change for me because I went to college going in with my high school boyfriend.
Grace: So when we broke up and I got back into dating, I quickly realized that dating in college was a lot different because of hookup culture nowadays. And also alcohol and drugs does have a huge effect on relationships because everyone, especially guys are going out and drinking and doing drugs every weekend.
Grace: So it's kind of like if you're going to be in a relationship you just have to accept that and wait and see because it's interesting. You don't know when college ends if that behavior of theirs is going to come to a close and slow down or if they're going to continue to do that every weekend after graduation.
Grace: And then in regards to friendships, I really only have like a few close friends, but I do know other people that have a lot more friends and like will categorize them as like, oh, this is a "going out friend". Because all they like to do is go out and they're fun to hang out with but you can't really like connect with them too much on a personal level.
Grace: I think for me and like my close friends at school I think we do a really good job of balancing going out together sometimes but also like having nights in and having more personal conversations and things like that.
Mike: Austyn do you think that the relationships will change regarding alcohol and drugs after college is over?
Austyn: It's hard to say. I think it really varies person to person. I think like, I don't know, I think there are definitely people who you kind of like know and you're like, that's going to be probably how they live their life, which is like unfortunate, but that's just like, it is like normalized to like, I think that that's like a normalized lifestyle.
Austyn: So I think there are people where it's like, yeah, I can tell that like, oh, it's just like college, whatever. But then it's like, there's definitely people who are also, I think, going to make that a habit outside of college too. So.
Mike: Jackie, is that a little scary thinking if you get involved in a relationship that it might progress in a negative way?
Jackie: I don't, I don't know. I don't think I feel like dating in college. It's such a interesting process that you kind of figure out a lot about a person. (laugh) Like, it's so weird and you figure out a lot about a person like I feel like before you get like involved in something. And like there's so many opportunities to see them in different environments.
Jackie: That, I don't know, I'm not like scared of it, but I definitely like, I think we're at the age I'm starting to realize where I feel like girls are really maturing and it's becoming obvious like what they say about guys and their brains like not developing to like 25. Like that's starting to happen being a senior.
Jackie: I definitely think girls were like that like, but now that we're seniors it's like okay we got to get like our things together now and guys are so not there.
Mike: Yeah, we're all chuckling because that was such a diplomatic way to start that answer actually, you got down to it. Aiden, what do you, what do you, what do you think about it?
Aiden: Well, kind of bouncing off of Jackie, it is interesting. I feel like girls have, like, Grace and I are in the same friend group. We have such like close knit connections with our friends. And it's always interesting to see like. Either with our guy friends or even some of our friends boyfriends, like, how little guys kind of talk to each other about things, like, emotions or feelings.
Aiden: Like, they don't talk, like, some guys don't even tell their friends that they broke up with their girlfriend until weeks later. They're just like, oh, okay, or, "Yeah, guys, I just got a girlfriend" and that's that. And it's so interesting and also a little scary because... In a relationship, I feel like the guys are, that's like their first, like, actual opening up into a deeper connection other than just talking about sports and alcohol and playing Pong.
Grace: Men genuinely scare me and I think, and I think like Jackie was saying about the maturity thing. I think a big part is emotional intelligence. I feel so much more emotionally intelligent than any man on this campus. And it's really terrifying. It really is. (chuckle)
Mike: There's got to be, I'm the only guy in the room, there's got to be a few who have something going for them.
Grace: None that I've found!
Mike: Well, let me throw you a softball as we go. As graduation looms, right, Jackie, let's start with you. What are the plans?
Mike: Where am I going to find you next year after graduation?
Jackie: So that's like what I'm working on right now is figuring that out. Because I have like one class to take in the spring. So I technically don't have to even be in Madison. So I don't plan to be in Wisconsin, but I plan to move to a bigger city.
Jackie: And either do an internship in the Spring or go into a job, but it's very, I have I'm very open minded about it right now.
Mike: I'm sure you'll find... what what big city are you looking at?
Jackie: Well in New York, if I did an internship. And then otherwise like Charleston, or I don't know, that's what's stressing me out is figuring out where I want to live.
Jackie: But one of those like up and coming bigger cities like Nashville. I love Seattle, honestly.
Mike: Mm hmm.
Mike: Austyn, what about you?
Austyn: For me, it's kind of like trying to decide. I mean, in the summer, I'll probably just take, I mean, I have like an exam, like I have to take the NCLEX and then I'm basically like and then I'll have my RN so I can start working.
Austyn: So kind of like same thing. It's just kind of trying to decide like where I'm gonna really like try to find a job. I think there's a lot of hospitals here and I do really like it in the cities. So I've thought about staying here. I've thought about kind of like going back home for a year or something, maybe like saving some money, working like more in the Milwaukee area.
Austyn: I really like Duluth. I've just always really liked it there, so it would be fun to live there for a little bit. But it's just like, I, I don't really know exactly where I want to be, but I feel like at the same time, I don't really think there's like a wrong choice, so, that's kind of where I am.
Mike: No, maybe you could be one of those traveling nurses and bring in the big bucks, right?
Austyn: I know, I know. I'd like to get a little bit of experience before I try, if I try to do that.
Mike: That's true.
Austyn: Work on my skills and stuff first, but that is something that I've thought about. Because then you get to experience a lot of places. So.
Mike: See there's just another good example of intelligence right there.
Mike: Aiden where will we find you next year?
Aiden: I'd like to think that I won't be in Wisconsin, but I know I literally transferred to Whitewater to be closer to home. I'm a big homebody and like Austyn said potentially saving money. But since I know that I don't necessarily want to stay in Wisconsin post grad whether it's, I really love the idea of Nashville.
Aiden: But I feel like if I stay at home after I graduate, it's kind of tough because you don't want to be a job hopper right away. You know? It's a short term job, so I'm definitely trying to navigate that this year and really figure out if... I do plan to leave Wisconsin, or, I do love the Milwaukee area, southeastern Wisconsin is great.
Aiden: I won't be working in the city, the traffic is horrible, but you'll find me in southeastern Wisconsin if you don't find me in Nashville.
Mike: And Grace, I'll let you close it out.
Grace: Yeah, well, I'm graduating in December, super soon, and I actually do, like, already have a job lined up, and for now, like, I do plan to stay in Wisconsin, same as Aiden, I'm a homebody, and I really like it here but honestly, on a closing note, being 21 and graduating, I feel like in general, you, like, nothing can prepare you enough for graduating, like, I don't think colleges prepare you enough.
Grace: It's really scary. The fact that I'm going to be 21 years old and like living my adult life already. So, and I know that there's going to be like, I mean, I have nine years until I hit 30, you know, which is probably when I would like start a family and stuff. So who knows where those years will take me.
Grace: You don't know.
Mike: Do you have the whole thing mapped out?
Grace: Like my life?
Mike: (laugh) You got till 30 mapped out, sounds like.
Grace: No, I'm saying I don't know what's gonna happen till 30 But 30, like around your 30s is usually when you start like settling down. So for the next nine years I think everyone takes a different path and goes their different ways.
Grace: You don't know what's gonna happen.
Mike: Well, I will try once again to connect up with you post graduation and just see how the adult life is is different or, or how you think you might find it. It would be interesting to know. I really appreciate you ladies spending the last three years with us because it has been quick, but it has also been interesting. Because you went through a pandemic, lockdowns, all of the academic changes, right? The reopening of our culture and society, an opium crisis, you know, of sorts, opiates crisis. As well as managing to all stay on track and graduate. Congratulations.
Austyn: Thank you.
Mike: And for those of you listening, I'm sure this has been as big a treat for you as it has for me.
Mike: We appreciate you listening and we invite you in to listen in the next time when we'll talk about more issues of interest. Until then, we invite you to stay safe and develop some emotional intelligence.
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