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HDFS student shares the importance of mental health and finding community

In discovering her major, human development and family sciences student Jeanette Chen discovered herself.

Jeanette Chen

By Alexis Croisdale

Finding the perfect college major as an incoming freshman can be daunting. Students often have particular interests and ideas about what careers sound intriguing, but figuring out which degrees support those interests isn’t always clear. 

Human development and family sciences (HDFS) student Jeanette Chen enrolled at Oregon State University in 2018 as a biology major, thinking she would eventually become a psychiatrist. However, within her first year, something didn’t feel right. She then transferred into the university’s exploratory studies program, which led her to HDFS.  

“Being able to learn how humans develop, from early childhood to old age, really makes a difference when I think about going into different careers,” she says. “I can help many different people all at once.”  

Aside from feeling like she didn’t belong in biology, Jeanette also struggled with her mental health and finding community. Then, soon after switching majors, the COVID-19 pandemic took effect and her college experience transitioned online.  

“The adjustment was super huge, just like it was for everyone else. But I think that it actually made me more involved with the community,” she says. “During my first few years, I was really struggling with OCD, mental health and just finding that community. So, when the pandemic hit, I was able to sit down with myself. I had more time to focus on myself.” 

She ended up joining the Cambodian Student Association and other clubs, became an OSU Wellness Agent and a CPHHS Peer Advisor, and got more involved in the Honors College. She was also selected as a 2021 Homecoming Court Ambassador by the OSU Alumni Association.  

“The pandemic has been a little bit of a blessing for me in some ways,” she says. “My favorite memory from my time here is being able to be more connected with my community and always learning more.” 

Currently in her fourth year, Jeanette plans to extend her time at OSU and possibly add another major to explore more of her interests. She eventually wants to work in the government sector, helping under-served communities. 

“Mental health is so rooted in the human experience. I think everyone struggles with one thing or another, especially because it was not talked about before,” she says. “By having a background in HDFS, I have a more open mind to see the context and situation and be able to help others based on that. Because everyone is different, they have their own story. Just like with me.” 

 For other students struggling, Jeanette says to remember that you are your biggest advocate.  

“No matter where you are in life, the one thing that you’ll always have is yourself,” she says. “If you don’t help yourself, help won’t be there. So be willing to want to get better, no matter what format that might be in, like going to therapy or connecting more with the community. Once you are there for yourself and put yourself first, you’ll be able to find the support system that you need and live the life you envision for yourself.”