Sarah (first on the left) at a Peer Mentor event for MRADS–hot cocoa and a movie!

Hi everyone! My name is Sarah Haddad, and I am a first-year student at MRADS. If you know me, you know that I’m an absolute caffeine enthusiast, constantly listening to music, and going outside. I’d say these things are part of my identity. According to a simple Google search, identity is just “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.” Not very specific. 

It can feel like you’re expected to have your entire future planned by the time you graduate high school–I know that’s how I felt. Before starting my first semester here, I thought I had myself figured out.. I imagined a life full of studying, joining clubs, graduating, attending medical school, becoming a doctor, and living the rest of my life working while occasionally having fun. I didn’t realize that college would drastically change how I viewed my identity until I got here.

Being in MRADS is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I have been exposed to such a unique group of people who honestly inspire me to better myself and take risks. For example, I never would’ve auditioned for the a cappella groups at the University of Michigan if my friends in MRADS hadn’t encouraged me to give it a shot, and I am so thankful that they did. I learned that my identity isn’t just the surface-level aspects of my personality or the goals I have for the future–it’s also my hobbies, my passions, and what gets me out of bed in the morning. 

Regarding research, your identity may be difficult to define at first. Starting as a first-year undergraduate student puts you at what seems like the bottom of the research ranks, but that doesn’t mean you’re limited in your ability to experiment and learn new things. Your first year research experience will teach you so much about your research identity. 

Currently, my research project entails creating and distributing a survey about people’s approach to their mental and physical wellbeing and designing a method of efficiently implementing positive approaches into people’s day-to-day lives. I am so thankful to have been part of this lab and truly enjoyed my experience, but I learned that survey work is not something I would like to continue in my research journey. Therefore, part of my research identity includes a more physical approach.  

In the abstract sense, identity is a tricky concept. Beyond surface-level things about a person, it may be challenging to explain their identity, considering interpretations of identity can be fluid. Navigating identity can be messy and hard or the exact opposite. I expect that I’ll be trying to find my identity for quite some time. However, there are things I’ve done in my life so far that have helped me understand my identity, like doing research and joining MRADS. 

Half of developing your identity is making mistakes and learning from them. And while that is terrifying, it is so rewarding to learn from your experiences. The most important lesson I’ve learned in college so far is that you don’t have to know who you are yet.