Rejection@Brown

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On Sunday afternoon, a student in the Brown Computer Science Facebook group posted about their experiences with rejection and imposter syndrome at Brown and in the CS field. The thread quickly took off, garnering over 500 likes, and many commented to share their experiences and provide a supportive space for dialogue.

The original poster, Alex St Laurent, wanted to share his experiences publicly in order “to be an example of someone unafraid to be open about his struggles.” Being rejected from jobs and internships is a topic that’s not often discussed; the success stories of landing positions are the only ones that you hear about. This can make rejection an isolating experience. St Laurent said, “I was a bit surprised hearing about some of the experiences of people I had looked up to for so long and had always assumed were much more capable than me.”

Many students wrote about experiences struggling with an obstacle, and then the pain of having other people minimize their struggles. Difficulties with coursework can be isolating, especially with the strict collaboration policies of some of the CS courses. The Math 9/10 courses were also a particular point of struggle for many.

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The majority of the experiences shared were specific to the CS department, especially with respect to the UTA program and the application process for internships and jobs in the tech industry.

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Professors also added their voices to the conversation. They wrote about the rejections that they faced on the path through academia, as well as time they struggled with coursework as undergrads.
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Many students talked about how their experiences of imposter syndrome were tied to the identities that they hold. They shared the fear that they were just “diversity hires” and didn’t deserve the TA position or job they had gotten.

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Low-income and first-generation students discussed how their background complicates the pressure of finding a summer internship or job, and the time commitment of working during the semester puts a burden on coursework.

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Students discussed the role of mental health in their experiences with the department. Commenters wrote about their experiences with ADHD, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues that have impacted their work at Brown.

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The thread also spurred an outpouring of support. Some commenters gave advice, and another suggested saving the thread to look back at during stressful times.

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One poster acknowledged all of the readers who are currently experiencing these feelings of rejection and imposter syndrome, and may still feel unable to be open about them.

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While the conversation in the Facebook thread is mainly focused on experiences in the CS department and field, the feelings of rejection and imposter syndrome resonate across Brown. Many people who participated in the conversation expressed gratitude at the creation of a space in which to share these experiences.

We at Blog want to open a space for all Brown community members to share their experiences. Rejection and related struggles that stem from background, identity and mental health continue to be stigmatized, and we think that sharing these experiences can be very productive in counteracting the illusion that these struggles are isolated.

If you would like to share your experiences, we invite you to comment on this post, or on our Facebook page.

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