My name is Lauren Werner and I am a senior at a California state university. My educational aspirations consist of acquiring a bachelor’s degree in international studies with a concentration in global culture, and a double minor in political science and French. For my career, I would like to work alongside people from different backgrounds and cultures and help unify communities so they may communicate effectively and peacefully. My options are to become an author, foreign service specialist, as well as working for NGOs, Peace Corps or all of the above. I find great enjoyment in helping others and making them feel important, and I think that pursuing such careers will provide me the opportunity to help improve my community’s health and success, on both a local and global scale.
This semester I have experienced what I would classify as a paradigm shift of lifestyle, self-awareness and functionality. I began my experience with the coronavirus in denial. I didn’t want to believe that such a force could coerce the entire nation and world into a sudden standstill. I began noticing flaws in my own character, particularly the inclination of escapism, and that was embarrassing for me to realize. I often fill my days with many tasks and check marks in order to feel accomplished. I like to stay busy and efficient. My health and sense of accomplishment was deteriorated by the lack of these completed tasks, and I had a hard time accepting my character was so tightly built upon personal expectation. I had subconsciously been planning to distract myself from the negative parts of my life, and found out it was more difficult than ever to distract myself from them.
My university has been completely closed; any remaining services are at a bare minimum and often inefficient or faulty. My off-campus neighborhood is a ghost town, most stores are closed, my doctors appointments have been canceled and rescheduled. My roommate has been stressed and wants me to not return after my medical appointments in fear I will bring the virus into the home. But I must not allow her to force me out of our living arrangement, as I have nowhere else to go. Everywhere I go people chat about the virus, and a sense of stress constantly hangs in the air. Having my daily and long-term goals change, my work feels wasted in both school and volunteer work. Having few future plans reminds me of the time of my life in foster care, a place I worked very hard to grow away from.
I have a learning disability and transferring my university accommodations into the online-world requirements has been very difficult for me. I have attempted to rent two different computers from my university’s library for students who do not have resources, and they were both broken and unable to work off-site. I have applied to multiple programs to help me to stay on my feet. I am no longer employed, and now have little options in ways to make money. I do not speak often with my biological family, but do worry for them as well.
Most of the past fall and spring semesters I have been preparing and looking forward to a study abroad faculty-led program in Nantes, France, that was supposed to take place over the summer of 2020. A semester abroad is a requirement for my international studies degree, and not being able to attend this summer as a senior, has significantly pushed back my graduation date. I have lost many scholarship opportunities as well due to this. Not being able to go on and fulfill my timeline is heartbreaking, as I have been working hard to be successful “on-time,” another result of being in college since 2013 and my frustrated expectations for my educational journey.
I am also a CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocate, in a California county. I am an in-court advocate for youth currently experiencing life in foster care. When I was in care I had a negative experience with my appointed CASA, but decided I did not want that incident to continue to deter me from an opportunity where I could genuinely help my demographic. I was able to complete the training and learn much more about myself and the court process, adopting many new and positive outlooks about the other side of the courtroom. Unfortunately, the whole program location and even upcoming court dates have been postponed due to this pandemic. I feel it is highly unreasonable to put already precarious lives on hold for longer than is absolutely necessary, especially those of children who have experienced high volumes of abuse. It saddens me to have progress prevented in my caseload, and to feel unable to communicate or coordinate situations where everyone feels comfortable meeting. These children being held in limbo are some of the many who do not have the time to wait for the world to get better.
Even though this adjustment has been difficult, it has made me realize many of my motivations and intentions, and how anxious and distracted of a lifestyle I have come to lead. This is beginning a process of bettering my motivations and inviting more artistic, calm energy into my daily life. I look forward to achieving many more alternative goals for the rest of my educational and recreational year, and plan to try my very best to persistently work hard spiritually. Being able to set a higher standard for myself and re-evaluating what is important in my life has held me accountable to be better organized. It feels good to continue to check off little accomplishments, and I use this feeling as a deterrent to depression and fuel for additional accomplishments in the future.
Lauren Werner entered California’s foster care system at age 5 and then again at age 14, ultimately aging out and participating in several after care services until age 23. Werner is currently a full-time student and is hoping to graduate in summer 2021.