My name is Mary, I’m 20 years old, and I’m from Washington DC. I have attended CIP for 2 years. I have high-functioning Autism and anxiety.
From age 6 until high school graduation, I went to Kingsbury Day School, a special education school. Although I was teased by some of my peers during adolescence and had low self-esteem, I had a good experience overall and did well academically.
After high school, I went to George Mason University for one year, but the adjustment from a small special education school to a big university imposed major challenges. Having never attended public school, I didn’t know what to expect. My anxiety and stress from interacting with peers, being in crowded classrooms, increasing academic challenge, failure, embarrassment, my first relationship breaking up, and the general future wore me out. I was lonely and struggled to make friends. I feared that my rigidity would prevent me from getting a degree, getting my desired job, and achieving my dreams. All I could envision was living a miserable life. Everything looked hopeless, and I was just lost, feeling that my life was completely pointless. I was relieved when the school year ended but still worn out. Just weeks before I came to CIP, the tragic passing away of my Kingsbury psychologist left me angry and depressed, and completely shattered my inner peace. I clearly perceived my life as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
When I came to CIP, my life completely changed for the better. The day I arrived, I was mentally weak and very desperate. I felt as if I was on a ship that had been destroyed, leaving me stranded in rough waters, panicking for help. I was also very anxious about leaving home, but I felt very secure with the CIP staff. I took refuge in them, as I knew that they were there to support me. Just days after I came to CIP, I came out of my shell, made several new friends, and was so much happier. I developed a very good relationship with my roommate. Gradually, my hopes came back to life. I now believe that I can achieve my goals and envision a bright future ahead of me.
Some of the hardest obstacles I’ve faced at CIP were the departures of friends. I was scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen to our friendships or what my life at CIP would be like without them. These times were difficult, but I eventually pulled through. I learned through these experiences that if a friend leaves CIP, it does not mean the friendship is over. My friendships with all my friends who left CIP, including two friends who relocated overseas, remained intact through electronic communication and occasional visits.
I have thrived so much since I started CIP. I was offered my first job as a teaching assistant, I became actively involved in volunteering in the community, I was awarded Student of the Year in 2018, I gave a public speech at a conference, I traveled to Asia and South America, and now I have an Associate degree. In fall 2019, I will transition into the Graduate Living Community.
CIP completely changed me from being a rigid, weak, sick, closed-minded girl who felt that life was pointless, into a strong, adventurous, determined, tough, open-minded confident young lady with a bright, hopeful future ahead. CIP’s international trips revived my passions of traveling to exotic places and exploring foreign cultures. Meeting CIP students from different cultures diversified my circle of friends. I have learned so many valuable lessons at CIP. I learned that it is okay to fail. You learn from each failure, and trial and error will eventually lead to success. I learned to set boundaries, prioritize, and use my own judgment to make decisions. I learned to take things one step at a time and not set fixed timelines. I also learned that what matters the most is not how many friends you have, but the quality of friendships. Most importantly, I learned that belief in oneself is crucial to being successful.