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Campus Support Helps Nicole Walker Overcome Anorexia

Nicole Walker’s experience at the University of St. Thomas was one that changed her life. And in a way, you might even say it saved her life.

Growing up, she was a successful student, involved in a number of extracurricular activities and making good grades at her high school in Brownsville, Texas. But at age 14, she developed anorexia nervosa as a way to cope with the personal pressures she faced.

When she entered her freshman year at UST, Walker admits she was very much in the midst of fighting the eating disorder. She kept to herself during her first two years at UST, mostly because she felt more comfortable living in her own world.

But soon her outlook changed for the better, and Walker said she owes much of that change to her appointment as a resident assistant on campus during her junior and senior years. Walker graduated with a joint major in English and psychology on May 15.

“In a big way, I used the disorder as a way to isolate myself from the world, and to build my own world I felt safe in,” Walker said. “But being an RA forced me to not jump to isolation at the sign of any danger. As an RA, it’s my job to interact with my residents. The Residence Life staff at UST is so supportive, and they’ve helped mold me into the person I am today—someone who is not as terrified of failure or connecting with others. It’s such a positive environment that praises you not only on your accomplishments but also on the kind of person you are when you wake up in the morning.”

After taking a stand against anorexia and changing her habits for the better, Walker regained a sense of energy that allowed her to focus on her passion for writing. Her involvement with the Laurels the student literary magazine, served as an outlet for what she describes as her “confessional poetry,” with some topics addressing her battle with anorexia. The English department even recognized her work by giving her two Creative Writing awards for a small collection of her poetry.

Looking back on her career at UST, Walker said she is glad to have been surrounded by such a supportive and positive community because it helped her get through a very difficult time in her life.

“My time spent at UST was a transforming experience,” she said. “When I became a part of Residence Life, suddenly my world exploded and I was thrust into a very normal lifestyle with no room for my own rituals or tendencies. This was very good for me. It seemed as if a lot happened in a very short period of time. But the entire time I received nothing but support from everyone around me.”

She plans on attending the University of Houston’s MFA Creative Writing program in the fall. There, she will continue pursuing her passion of poetry and further developing her voice as a writer.
“I think it will be interesting to see what direction my poetry takes as I get older,” Walker said. I’m still coming to know who I am apart from the anorexia nervosa every day. But I have never felt as invigorated as I do when I read and write poetry. I want to continue along that path.”

Read a selection of Walker's poems.