Humans of UWW: Meet Samantha Fried
Thirty-eight-year-old UWW alumna Samantha Fried '21 is a learning support specialist, mother, and Michigan native. She earned her bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in applied psychology, with her daughter Ava by her side as "my number one cheerleader throughout my journey at UWW."
Every adult student has a story. What’s your story?
My story can be summed up in a few sentences. I was tragically disillusioned about my ability to attend Michigan State University 20 years ago. There were red flags everywhere, but no one stopped me. I could not focus, or follow through; anxiety and panic suffocated me to the point that I was eventually put on academic probation and then recessed from the university. I felt like a failure, and I felt ashamed that I wasted all that time with nothing to show for it. Those feelings lingered for a decade until I had my daughter and suffered from postpartum psychosis. That was the darkest period of my life, but also the beginning of a brand-new life. A life that I had always wanted, a version of myself that I knew existed. On the last day of my outpatient treatment program, five years ago, my social worker asked, "Sam, what is the one thing you are going to accomplish that you have yet to do?" I said, "go back to school, enjoy learning and get my degree." I scared myself when I uttered those words. Yet, I knew the feeling of "something missing" in my life was finishing my education.
How did finishing your degree through the University Without Walls at UMass Amherst change your life?
There are very few times in life when it is hard for me to describe my feelings about something. This is one of them. Finishing my degree through UWW was the most transformational time of my life. The time I spent as a student pushed me to open my eyes and realize my worth, my ability, and my passion for so many things. More importantly, UWW taught me the value of deep self-reflection, and helped show me that no matter what happens in life or what others may say, I can achieve anything. UWW changed my life because it taught me that no one can take my dreams away, and no one can bring me down because I learned how to rise above. Everything that went into getting that degree made me stronger, and it made me a better person, wife, friend, and most importantly a better mom. My education through UWW forced me to spend time focusing on myself and learn how to be an adult, what I need to take care of myself, and how to juggle responsibilities. I learned who I am, and what I am about. The degree is amazing, but what it means on a personal level is certainly far more profound than anything I see on paper. What has changed is that I trust myself and follow my own path fearlessly. No doubts, no fears … those days are over. I am different now and in the best way possible!
What advice do you have for other adults thinking about finishing their degrees?
Don’t be afraid to be non-traditional, and if you already are, wear it with pride. Trust yourself and follow your path fearlessly. Be proud because it is one of the few things in this world that truly belongs to you and you alone. Do what you want to do and do it well. Life’s too short to be traditional. Do not finish college just because you started it, or because you are pressured to, or even because you do not know what else to do. Finish because you love it. Finish because you are starved for knowledge. Finish because you want that next step so badly you would do anything for it. Utilize the resources that are offered to you and take full advantage of the services and guidance the school offers. Everything here is for your benefit. Spoiler alert: it is never going to be like that again anywhere. Take advantage of it, and if you are not ready, do not push yourself. Trust yourself. Trust me, the reality of graduating is far better than the dream.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the person being featured and do not necessarily reflect those of the University.