No matter your walk of life, you can relate to wanting belonging and craving connection with others. Most of us want to connect with people that are similar to ourselves. From my experience and the experiences of those around me, making connections is one of the first things most college students struggle with. Prior to writing this article, I asked many of my friends that haven’t experienced basic need insecurity what kinds of topics they would be interested in seeing discussed in this newsletter. An overwhelming number of my friends responded by saying they wanted to understand the perspective of those who do struggle to meet their basic needs. They wanted to learn how to connect with those who have different backgrounds and experiences than theirs. With this new insight, I have chosen to write about the experiences of two students at Boise State. One student came from a stable, supportive home and the other from a home struggling to make ends meet. After interviewing both individuals, I have had some beautiful realizations about people and their ability to connect, regardless of their home life and struggles with basic need insecurity.
Those who come from a supportive home may relate to the first student I interviewed. Josh, a 22-year-old Information Technology Management major, has accomplished a lot in his life. Josh comes from a supportive household of two sisters and two amazing parents that have worked for as long as Josh can remember. Josh says, “I get great support from my family and it helps me in everything I do. Even when things don’t look good, they help me continue.” After high school, the next “natural next step” for Josh was to attend college. With the support of his family, Josh decided to attend Boise State University. Thanks to his grandparents, Josh’s tuition was mostly paid for. To help keep up on tuition Josh became a Resident Assistant and has held one or more jobs for the entirety of his college career.
When asked what some of his stressors and worries were before entering college and after, Josh stated he had the “basic fears of a new college student”. He was nervous about making friends and building connections with people so far away from home. He says, “[the] biggest stressor and threat to his basic needs was semi-annual grief.” Throughout his college career, Josh experienced more death in his life than most people of his age. Since 2018, Josh has lost a family member almost every two years with the most recent being the passing of his father. This has been really hard. It is clear that Josh has dealt with struggles in his life, but has confronted them head-on and stayed strong throughout. When asked if he has ever had to worry about meeting his basic needs, Josh reports that he hasn’t really struggled in this way due to his position as a Resident Assistant and the great food services on campus. Josh laughed and said, “Shout out to the Boise River Café”.
As a final question, I asked Josh if he felt safe on campus. Josh replied, “Yes, however, I would like to acknowledge my privilege of being a man and not experiencing the fear of going out at night”. Overall, even though Josh has not struggled with basic need insecurity, he has stressors in his life that have impacted him and his everyday life. Josh is a wonderful example of how everyone experiences hard circumstances but can learn from them in order to become the best version of themselves.
The other student I interviewed was Ivar, a 21-year-old Gaming, Interactive Media and Mobile major. Ivar is minoring in Information Technology Management as well. The similarities between Josh and Ivar are striking. Both have kind, charismatic personalities and love technology and computers. Nevertheless, their past is vastly different. Ivar grew up in Arizona with a family that struggled to put food on the table. After finding themselves in overwhelming debt, Ivar’s parents were at a loss for what to do. Ivar recounts times he had to eat moldy bread for dinner and how bread was extremely important to his diet “because of how it expands in your stomach”. His parents would seldom spend money on food that an 8-year-old could easily figure out how to cook. This remains important because at times Ivar often had to make his own food so when he didn’t know how to prepare the food he had access to, he would go hungry.
Many years of living like this resulted in a tense and strained home life. Ivar, at age 12, felt the pressure of possibly being kicked out of his home due to religious conflict with his father. Eventually, Ivar did what he had to do to stay in his home. After many years of his basic needs not being met, however, Ivar entered high school at 5 ’10 and 99 pounds. He states that he was, “definitely malnourished” at the time. Ivar also developed a drinking problem that ended up shaping his life in many new and difficult ways. Struggling for many years, Ivar was able to graduate high school. Ivar knew he wanted to go to college, although it was not for typical reasons. Ivar wanted to escape his situation, so he chose to move out of state and attend college at Boise State University. This move also assisted Ivar in being able to deal with his alcohol addiction and he can now confidently state that he has been sober for 4 and a half years.
Ivar states that some of his stressors are very similar to Josh’s. With the addition of housing and food insecurity, Ivar was also nervous about making friends and finding a community at Boise State. Like Josh. Ivar does say that he loves the Campus Food Pantry and that it has helped him a lot after he no longer had a job as a Resident Assistant. It is now a regular occurrence for Ivar to visit the Campus Food Pantry. Throughout Ivar’s college career, his parents have shown little to no support. They assisted in paying for his college tuition, but Ivar could not count on them for any other kinds of help; whether it be emotional, financial, or even assistance in signing a lease to rent a room in a house. Ivar has learned the tips and tricks to being a successful student while also struggling with basic needs insecurity. He admits how much he has grown from being on campus. As a final question, I asked Ivar if he felt safe on campus, and Ivar stated, “Yes, absurdly so. Campus itself is a pretty safe place. Resident Assistants and Resident Directors do a great job”. Ivar is a shining example of someone pushing through adversity to create a better life for themselves.
These young men are good friends and have built a special connection despite the differences in their upbringings. Both have learned how to utilize Boise State resources such as the Campus Food Pantry in order to ensure their needs are being met. Student Financial Services is also a great resource on campus as they are always willing to help students navigate their unique financial circumstances. All in all, the connections we build with the people around us are crucial to our ability to become strong and empathetic humans. You may not be able to directly relate to Josh our Ivar’s story, but as these two wonderful people have realized… It doesn’t matter. What matters is how we learn, grow, and become the best versions of ourselves. No matter if you come from a home struggling to meet the basic needs of their family, a home with extensive familial support, or a home struggling with grief, we are all connected.