Interview with Lillian Nowak, spring 2022

Lillian Nowak

Interview with Lillian Nowak, freshman, undecided, she/her
by Amanda Viola, Freshman, undecided, she/her

What personal experience or journey brought you into your current role at SUNY New Paltz?  

My mom and aunt introduced me to SUNY New Paltz while I was in my junior year of high school. This was when COVID was causing schools to shut down, so I couldn’t get an official tour. Since I only live an hour and 15 minutes north of here, I was able to just drive down with my mom and we walked around campus just to try to get the overall vibe of the school. I ended up really liking it so my senior year I came back down for an official tour and I decided that I wanted this school to be my first choice. I then applied and got accepted. It was also the closest school from where I live and I didn’t really want to go to a school that was super far away because I just wasn’t ready for that yet. It was also the cheapest school that I applied to, so financially it was the best option for me. 

What issues or challenges are you confronted with?  

Coming to college not knowing anybody was really hard for me because I am a shy person. I’ve been working on my social anxiety for many years and luckily it has gotten better. I still find myself having a hard time putting myself out there. It’s very stressful for me and I would rather just stay in my room, watch Game of Thrones and do my school work. That’s where I find comfort. I don’t find comfort meeting new people so that has set me back socially, but besides that I have been doing pretty well. 

Why do these challenges exist?  

I’ve always been a shy person. I’ve been shy since I was very young and I didn’t like meeting new people. At a young age, I was very scared of people, especially those who were bigger than me. Any child my own age made me very uncomfortable to be in their presence. I never really liked socializing. My mom is also a very shy person which may be the reason I feel this way. 

What challenges exist in the larger system? 

In reference to the school system, the cost of being a student is ridiculous. I am going to a SUNY school and I am spending thousands of dollars a year. I don’t think that financial toll should exist. I think anybody that wants a higher education is entitled to it for free. You shouldn’t have to pay for it. I have this constant stress and pressure from myself and my family that have to get the most out of my education. I am 18 years old and I am not sure what I wanna do with my college education. I hope to figure it out within the next year but I don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life. I don’t want to spend thousands of dollars and not use that education in the real world. 

What are the blockages?  

I’m not exactly sure about the root of the problem for SUNY schools in terms of education price, but I can assume it’s the lack of state funding or lack of wanting to put more money into public education. On a personal level, the blockages that I struggle with, within the school system besides the financial toll that is placed on me, is just not having my life figured out and not knowing what I want to do yet. A lot of people know what they want and others don’t, but it’s better to know then not, and I am still figuring that out. 

What are your most important sources of success and change?  

My family is for sure my most important source. I find it extremely helpful that they fund most of my tuition. I’ve been thinking whether or not SUNY New Paltz is the right place for me but I know that they will completely support me if I want to eventually switch schools. They will do whatever they can to help me and will never try to hold me back from anything that I want to do which gives me the confidence to be able to come to college and spend the money I can on my education. 

What would a better (university or community) system look like for you?  

Lower costs of tuition would definitely be involved in a better university system. As for the community, I haven’t really immersed myself in the community of New Paltz. I’m not sure of the common behavior of most of its locals or anybody that goes to this school. My main focus would definitely be changing the tuition prices if I could. 

If you could change just a few elements of the system, what would you change?  

I would change the tuition cost and be able to provide everyone that wants a higher education that opportunity. If I had to choose something to change about the community, I would like it if I didn’t have to put myself out there as much, and people were more willing to reach out to me instead of having to go outside of my comfort zone in order to meet new friends. 

What initiative, if implemented, would have the greatest impact for you? For the system as a whole?  

 Everybody having access to a higher education would have a great impact on me so that way I wouldn’t have to pay as much to attend college here. I feel like I would have so many other options on my list of schools to attend, if I could take out the cost of tuition. It would definitely allow me to visit more schools that I could potentially be interested in. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a choice for me so SUNY New Paltz was the best college for my parents and myself financially.  

Interview Debrief:

What was most surprising or unexpected?  

It was surprising to me to hear some of the similarities that we shared between our answers and how we both face some of the same struggles and challenges. We both have some of the same feelings towards the school system in terms of cost and we are also similar in the way that we can be more on the introverted side. 

What touched me? What connected with me personally?  

It touched me to hear about the support that comes from Lilian’s parents which really connected with me as I am very supported by my family as well. It was nice to hear how her family is always there for her through every decision she makes. \

Moving in and out of your interviewee’s field, what did you notice about yourself?  

 I noticed that I got a bit more tense and vulnerable when answering the questions as opposed to asking them. I found it a little difficult at times to come up with an answer for a few questions ,but when asking them, they didn’t seem as difficult to answer.  

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