Horizons student reclaims academic struggles as critical milestones on path to success

Last updated: February 24th, 2022

Purdue junior Savanah Gonzalez began her time at the university as a pharmacy major, and she knew almost immediately that it wasn’t a good fit. Still, as the first in her family to attend college, Gonzalez’ mindset at the time was that quitting would be letting herself and her family down. She struggled through her first two semesters of classes and ended up on academic probation.

“I absolutely hated it, but I was telling myself, ‘You chose this life, and you cannot quit. You cannot quit,’” Gonzalez recalls. “But I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have the motivation to put in even the bare minimum. I was failing most of my classes. I was totally giving up.”

Gonzalez says professional staff in the Horizons Student Support Services office noticed that something was wrong. She confided to them that she felt like she had dug herself into a hole and wasn’t sure how to get out.

“The people in Horizons helped me understand that it wasn’t my fault for landing in the wrong major, and they helped me realize that changing direction didn’t make me a failure,” Gonzalez said. “Now, I’m a psychological science major in the College of Health and Human Sciences, and I’ve never been happier. Each person in the Horizons office has played a role in me becoming the best version of me right now.”

Purdue junior Savanah Gonzalez in the Horizons office space, located on the 3rd floor of Krach Leadership Center

Gonzalez wanted to share her story in hopes it might help others like her who are facing similar struggles.

“Every time you hear a good story, it’s like you’re hearing it after there’s already a happy ending, but the hard part in the middle is what no one talks about,” Gonzalez says. “I wanted to talk about the part where I was struggling and didn’t know how to navigate it. The point is to talk about the hardships, because they were a vital part of me becoming my top-tier self.”

Gonzalez says that in addition to helping her through her major change, the Horizons office provided her with a sense of community she has been unable to replicate elsewhere on campus. It’s that deeper level of connection that she says makes her feel so invested in the Horizons program.

“As first-generation students, we’re all proud of each other and ourselves for taking this step in our education, because it’s a huge moment. It’s more than a learning experience for us,” she said. “I feel like so many of us are starting from nothing, without any tips or tricks, and we’re doing great.”

Gonzalez says she experienced imposter syndrome when she first got to Purdue, but she now takes pride in her journey and realizes she deserves to be at Purdue as much as anyone else.

“I didn’t have the same background as other students, but that didn’t make me any worse of a student,” she says. “I had to figure it out in different ways. There’s no family legacy here for me. I’m here to start that legacy. But Horizons has provided me with community, so I never feel like I’m alone.”

Writer: Andrea Mattingly, Communications Director for Student Success Programs, andrea@purdue.edu

Source: Savanah Gonzalez, Purdue junior in the College of Health and Human Sciences

Last updated: Feb. 24, 2022

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