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Learn: My kind of cool

As we discussed in the previous part of this activity, feeling like you don't belong is very normal.
Let’s hear from two very successful people who have struggled with belonging academically and with their school peers and how they conquered those challenges. As you listen, think about how they exercised a growth mindset attitude and discovered ways in which they could grow and feel at home among their peers and learning environments. Learning is not only academics!

Brian's story

Brian was going through something that we all have or will go through: transition. Whether the transition is from middle school to high school or high school to college, it’s natural to run into struggles when learning a new subject or learning at a more advanced level.
Khan Academy video wrapper
LearnStorm Growth Mindset: Khan Academy's humanities content creator on academic belongingSee video transcript
Brian had two options: He could see the amount he had to learn as too much, be intimidated, and quit. Or, he could choose to keep going.
Brian chose to keep going, become humble, face his struggles head on, and build a support system.
Thankfully, transitional stages are temporary, and Brian stuck it out long enough to work through it successfully.

Q&A with Brian

In a conversation with Brian, he shared more about his experience:
When did you finally feel like you belonged?
In that class? After about a month or two. I spent a lot of long nights in the library and listened to history audio lectures during my morning runs. By the end of the course, I actually got the highest grade in the course!
What did that feel like?
Incredible! Look at the message the teacher—who became my advisor, and then wrote my letter of recommendation for the Rhodes Scholarship and graduate school—wrote at the end of my final paper for that course:
Did you face struggles with your academics after that?
Absolutely, in every single class I took after that! I finished my undergrad, went on to do three masters degrees, and then did my PhD at Stanford. And along the way, at the beginning of every class and every degree, I’ve always felt the shock of “Oh wow, this is going to be so hard for me to learn!” But I did the same thing: work hard, attend every class, revise my papers at least five times before turning them in, and take advantage of every resource and support network available.

Kim's story

Kim had an experience similar to Brian's. She felt that everyone else in her class was much more knowledgeable about history than she was. Because she felt like she did not belong, she stopped contributing in class.
Khan Academy video wrapper
LearnStorm Growth Mindset: Khan Academy's humanities content creator on social belongingSee video transcript
Kim eventually was able to find her group of friends in college after a semester. She's still close to them today. These friends have gotten her through really hard times.

Q&A with Kim

In a conversation with Kim, she shared more about her experience:
What caused the shift in mindset that led you to go out and seek support?
A friend of mine at school was going through a tough breakup, and she needed some support. Being there for her helped break down some of the walls that made me feel isolated, and that in turn led her to help me seek some support for how I was feeling. As my mom would say, "You have to be a friend to have a friend."
How long did it take for it to get better?
About a semester. Once I got back for the spring semester of my first year, I had an established group of friends and felt like the university was my home.
How did you or your college experience change once you became socially more connected and felt like you belonged?
Having a support network and feeling like I wasn't going through all the ups and downs of college alone helped me feel a lot less stressed. Once I got to know my classmates, I could see they were all working just as hard as me, and dealing with their own issues—some similar to mine, others completely different. But when you can see that all the other ducks are paddling to stay afloat, and not just magically gliding along, your own struggles feel more manageable.

Finding support

Both Brian and Kim were able to conquer their sense of not belonging by seeking out resources, working hard, and establishing support systems.
Brian named a few support systems: audio lectures, the school librarian for extra resources, and the writing center.
Kim also named her support system: a mentor—in this case her teacher—and her network of friends who helped her both academically and socially.
You have completed part 2 of 3 for this activity: Learn!

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