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Life of a Lonely Black Grad Student

Praying for Better Days Ahead

By: Deidre Montague

Person in a red BU shirt standing outside of a building
Photo By: Andrew Burke Stevenson

When I arrived at Boston University this September, I tried to imagine that things would be different here.

It’s been eight years since I was formally diagnosed with depression and anxiety and seven years since I graduated from my previous graduate school program.

After a tumultuous first grad school experience, a heartbreaking decision to leave my former career, transitioning into a dream career coupled with years of prayer and therapy - it seemed time to listen to God’s nudges and promptings to apply to graduate school again.

This was a new major step, as I had not been away from home, church, and community in seven years. All of my support systems were lined up at my disposal - Pastor, Church family, mom, best friend, therapist - the works were all in order by now.

I knew who I could turn to when things got bad mentally. I had my safety nets in place. However, coming to Boston University has been nothing like I expected.

The loneliness I battled with at home only seemed to worsen here. Being one of three Black people in my program cohort, there is no support group for us - especially those of us who live on campus.

Although it has only been a couple of months, I feel even more isolated - often going from class to my apartment most of the time.

I feel more unsure of what I want to do career-wise when I am here, especially when I am in classes.

The voices of doubt and fear know when exactly to flood my mind with questions like, am I going to get all the skills I need to be successful in a year and a half? Do I belong here? I don’t know what I am doing. I keep failing here, etc.

The list goes on and on. Being Black and a first-generation student comes with its own trials, too - no one seems to understand the pressure you place on yourself. The pressure to represent your community, to make your family proud, and as a Christian - to make God proud.

I tried to join an affinity group on campus that caters to Black students - however, after attending a few events, I realized how out of place I am still. I feel like I’m intruding on their sacred space as an older person.

So, I have been a small fish in a big pond - looking for some friends and not finding any as of yet. My classmates are nice and have seemed to find their own connections with one another - but I just haven’t felt that quite yet.

There have been times that I have walked into class on the verge of tears because I’m behind on reading assignments.

I’ve missed church for the last few Sundays, as I would rather live in a fantasy world than face my real one of sadness and despair.

I feel scared sometimes of my future. I feel scared sometimes about whether I will always be alone or if my tribe will ever form?

I had a mini panic attack when I finally picked my classes for the next semester - am I picking the best ones, should I choose other classes? Am I going to gain the right skills needed for my career?

While it can be lonely and scary here, I am grateful I have God here. Sometimes, I feel like I disappoint Him too. I know I do, but I am grateful that He remains with me through the transition of adjusting to this big university.

Everyone else around me seems so connected. When I walk to grab a bite to eat, I see friends laughing, couples holding hands, and groups of friends having discussions with each other. I hope and pray that it will be me by next semester.


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