Zack is a Sophomore from Miami, FL. We reached out tot talk with him about his Zumba classes, the Human Library, the challenges of being a diabetic student, and much more.
Your Zumba classes have been a huge success at Swarthmore, with even faculty members showing up to participate. What skills do you think people learn through Zumba that they take with them once the class is over?
The biggest takeaway from Zumba is confidence. Looking at me now, most people wouldn’t guess that I was shy, awkward, and overweight when I was growing up as I struggled with self-confidence and body-image issues. When I would sit, I would cross my legs, bend into myself, and just try to take up as little space as possible. But starting Zumba honestly changed my life. Aside from losing weight and making health and fitness a regular part of my routine, Zumba made me happy, and this translated into confidence. I learned how to dance and control my body. I learned how to perform well in front of other people. I learned how to let go of any embarrassment I felt dancing in front of others and just have fun. So I think Zumba makes you more confident, and I that makes you feel and do better in every aspect of your life.
You’re also one of the co-founders for the Human Library at Swarthmore, which debuted this fall. What were your takeaways from that experience?
For me, creating a human library here at Swarthmore was about empathy and appreciation. As students, many of us often get overwhelmed by our workload and worries, hyperfocus on our classes, and forget to take a moment to appreciate the abundance of knowledge and experience that exist within our peers. We have a campus filled with bright individuals, each with their own set of interests, talents, opinions, challenges, and experiences, and I think a lot of Swatties, myself included, hurry through their days focusing solely on their assignments without taking the time to really learn about the wonderful people around them. Swarthmore’s Human Library gives us a time and space to tell those stories about ourselves we find most compelling to share and listen to the experiences of friends and strangers that we didn’t know before. What I remember most from the Human Library event was listening to one of my best friends share a story about their life that I had never heard about before and that they had never really shared before that event. I felt like I understood and I could empathize with them a lot better, and I think that’s what most people who came felt upon leaving the event.
As a Peace and Conflict special major, you deal a lot with conflict resolution. What tips would you give Swatties to be better at conflict resolution in their own lives?
I think avoidance is one of the most common obstacles to resolving contention both in our personal lives and on a larger scale. When there’s conflict, it’s oftentimes easier to define the conflict as something that it is not or just ignore the existence of a conflict altogether so we don’t hold ourselves responsible for the consequences. Avoiding the conflict means we avoid taking on the responsibility of solving it and this is how conflicts get prolonged or exacerbated. Keeping this in mind for our personal lives, my advice would be to be honest with yourself about what the conflict is and take responsibility for confronting it directly through dialogue. Most of my friends are probably tired of hearing me say “just ask them” or “just talk to them about it directly.”
What has your hardest challenge been at Swarthmore and how did you overcome it?
The hardest challenge I’ve had to face at Swarthmore has probably been managing my diabetes away from home. For those who don’t know, I have type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that’s made my body incapable of producing it’s own insulin. This means I have to manage my sugar levels by covering the carbs I consume with artificial insulin and monitoring how sugar levels respond to avoid both high and low sugar levels. At home, I always had snacks stocked up and people around me who worried about my sugar as much as I did (if not more) making sure I never ran out of any medical or food supplies. Being alone on campus makes it difficult to get something not-super-bad-for-you to eat at 4am if my sugar drops and makes keeping up with ordering medical supplies more difficult. But frequent snack stock-up trips to Target, a calendar, and a bit of growing up has been enough to get me by.