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#HerStory: Coming Back to Life with Shreya Bhoopathi

Moving to a different state is difficult. Leaving all of your family and friends, no matter the distance, is heartbreaking. In August 2020, amidst the pandemic, I packed my belongings and moved to Toledo to start my freshman year at the University of Toledo. Bright-eyed and excited to start a new chapter in my life, I was quickly brought to reality when I saw the small number of students on campus. Unfortunately, I responded by shutting down and isolating myself in my room. I am not proud of this era in my life.

I did not attempt to improve my situation which resulted in continued isolation and furthered my downward spiraling. The high excitement and anticipation for the ‘best years of my life led to a larger disappointment when my circumstances did not align with said expectations.

After leaving my first year at UT disappointed with myself for not taking advantage of the opportunities that were provided, I decided to make a change the following year. I started slowly, by signing up for an Intro to Women and Gender Studies. Since I grew up in a predominantly white area, I had an inherent curiosity about feminism and the intersections of race and gender. The first day of class instantly blew me away. The positive and uplifting environment that addressed the difficulties, both large and small, in the lives of women and gender minorities while making sure to note the unique issues for multiply-burdened individuals captivated me.

As I continued through the class, I slowly started coming back to life.

Each morning was an opportunity to continue to learn about a fascinating subject that impacted many different industries. My professor for this class recognized my passion for the subject and encouraged me to get involved in the feminist community in Toledo, recommending a feminist internship opportunity. I decided to apply my passion for feminism to the real world and quickly got paired to work with Women of Toledo over the summer. Despite my best intentions, I started to feel a slowly growing dark cloud of thoughts when I thought of the upcoming internship. What if I am unable to do my job well? What if I mess up my assignments? What if the other employees do not like me? It seemed as if I might be reverting back to my isolated state from the previous year. These thoughts scared me more than I was willing to admit, but I tried to remember the positive feelings I associated with advocacy.

The first day of the internship arrived. My nerves were tangled with fear. I took a deep breath and stepped into the building. I was immediately greeted with a warm smile and welcome from the Founding and Directing Manager of Women of Toledo, Nina Corder. She immediately made me feel valued for working with Women of Toledo and was interested in catering the internship to my interests in order to create an engaging work experience.

As I met additional Women of Toledo Task Team, I grew at ease with the work environment and culture present. The women focused on creating projects that aligned with each person’s strengths while pushing them to grow into their potential. I began to work on projects focusing on immigrants and providing resources to those who need them. I became inspired by the countless stories of hard work and perseverance despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Throughout my summer with Women of Toledo, I grew both professionally and personally. Professionally, I connected with various important figures in Toledo, grew comfortable organizing community events, and began to understand the impact of feminism in creating an equitable workplace. Personally, I started to push aside the booming voice of doubt that echoed my insecurities. I began to take pride in my work. I started to recognize that I am worthy of forgiveness. I grew more comfortable in my marginalized identities through the surrounding environment of women wholeheartedly embracing their ‘other-ness’. I am proud of the woman I have become, and it is due to the encouragement and support from the Women of Toledo's team, leadership, and network support.

While I would like to say I no longer doubt myself, that is not true. However, I have learned how to properly deal with these feelings. I remind myself of my strength. I think of the powerful women in Toledo who have confessed their own feelings of doubt. The uplifting community of women at Women of Toledo has changed my perception of myself to allow forgiveness.

Shreya Bhoopathi is a Biology Pre Med student at the University of Toledo. She was introduced to Women of Toledo through a program, Community Impact Feminist Fellowship offered by the Eberly Center for Women at the university. For 10-weeks, Shreya joined our Apprentices Young Women and worked closely with our task team at devoping, planning and executing mutiple program intiatives listed below:

  • Advocacy DEI - Immigrant Heritage

  • Young Women Mentoring - Girls Hub

  • Updating Resource Guide for 2022 and resources corner at our office.

We are simply grateful for Shreya support duing her fellowship of summer 2022 and looking forward to continue working with her this Fall.

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