Tell us about yourself.
My name is Hilda A. I’m 32 and I was born in Iceland. I lived in Wisconsin for 7 years, then moved back to Iceland when I was 12. I spent a year in Mexico; that’s where I want to move in the future. My major is Spanish and my minor is Medieval Studies; I’m not really sure what I want to do with that degree yet, I’m just taking classes I like and seeing what happens.
Do you have any plans for after graduation?
Not yet, but I have an idea of where in the world I want to live. Mexico is my first choice, and Italy is my second choice. It’s important to me to live somewhere where I feel like I belong. In Mexico, I really felt like I belonged, even though it didn’t look like it. I fell in love with Mexico when I was there. I love the culture. I also love Italy; it’s my favorite vacation spot. I’ve been there a couple times.
What do you like so much about the culture?
They’re the opposite of Icelanders in a lot of ways. I just never fit in in Iceland. They’re all laid back. I’m not very punctual, and they’re all laid back with time and stuff. Their food is freakin’ great. They’re big on family, they’re very passionate. When I was in Mexico, it was just very easy for me to love life and love the little moments; it’s hard to describe. I felt like it was a lot easier for me to be myself when I went there. Before this I completely had no social life, hated myself, no self esteem; but in Mexico it was just so much easier to be the way I wanted to be. I feel like they’re a lot more accepting
What brought you to Augsburg?
StepUP. I’d never heard of Augsburg or StepUP until I came to Minnesota for treatment, and ended up going to Fellowship Club. They told me about StepUP, and I came in for a tour. Originally my goal was to stay in the area. I realized I could do that if I got a student visa, and that meant I had to go to school. When I came to Minnesota, I had no idea what I was going to do. All I knew was I was going to treatment, but after that I had no idea. I never really made plans for the future, because I didn’t think I would have one. Choosing Augsburg was a way to stay in Minnesota and also get a college degree, while having a supportive recovery community – it was a future.
What is your passion?
I have a lot of hobbies, but family and friends are the most important thing to me; and my dog. I’m obsessed with my dog. I like animals in general, though, too. I’m a ball freak; basketball, soccer, snowboarding, pretty much any sport that involves a ball. I was a total tomboy growing up. I also love reading and traveling.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Going to Mexico was a really big deal for me because I was so socially phobic. Going to another country by myself, for a year, not knowing anyone, not knowing the language; that was completely out of character for me. It was one of the best things I’ve done, besides going to treatment and getting sober. I try to challenge myself everyday to do something that is kind of scary; it’s been the only way to improve my social phobia. You would not have recognized me 15 years ago; now I just talk and talk! I still get anxious, but for the most part it doesn’t stop me from functioning like it did before. I did not have a life, I couldn’t do what I needed to do. I’m proud of the little things I’ve done, like going back to school even though it was difficult, or rapping at an Indian engagement party; I still can’t believe I did that! Also, I was in the school spelling bee, which was very out of character for me. I’m proud that I do things even when they scare me, because otherwise I wouldn’t be here.
Why do you stay in StepUP?
In order to be in Minnesota, I have to go to school, because I need a student visa. And in order to be in school, I need to be in StepUP. It’s not a choice; I have to be in StepUP or I can’t be here. It’s all connected. I don’t think I’d be able to get through school if I didn’t have StepUP; I’ve spent 10 years in and out of school trying over and over again and it just doesn’t work when I’m drinking. I need to be sober, otherwise I would probably be dead now. The community I have here help keeps me sober. Minnesota has such a strong, supportive sober community; whether you do AA or not. Being away from Iceland helps a lot, but also I’ve never been intoxicated in Minnesota, which helps, too. This is the only place I can imagine being right now. I would love to live in Mexico, but if I lived there right now, I don’t think I would do well.
Has anyone in StepUP positively influenced you?
Yes, a lot of people, and the community as a whole. You can’t necessarily be best friends with everyone but I care about each person here, and everyone has positively influenced me in some way. My roommates especially, Collins and Sarah; they help me a lot.
What advice would you give an incoming student?
Talk to a variety of different people, don’t just get caught in a clique. Try to get to know everyone. Be open to new people and new things. Ask for support when you need it; don’t keep it to yourself. I’ve gotten so much support here. The one time I kept everything to myself and didn’t ask for help, I ended up relapsing. Participate as much as you can. Embrace the community and use it for support.
Would you like to add anything else?
StepUP literally gave me a second chance at life. If I had gone back to Iceland after treatment, I would be drinking again. If I hadn’t had something to get up in the morning for, I might be drinking again, too. I’m really grateful StepUP accepted me, even though I’m older than most students. StepUP isn’t perfect, but nothings perfect. I’m just really,really grateful for StepUP, Augsburg and everyone here. Most importantly, I’m grateful for having a second chance at life. It’s corny, but I’m just really, really grateful to be here.