Laura Mendez-Carvajal

Written By: Jada Miles

Imagine feeling like you were somewhere you didn’t belong. You are not a native speaker. You are surrounded by creative, intelligent people. How do you know you are in the right place? These are some symptoms of imposter syndrome, feeling inadequate despite obvious successes.

And Laura Mendez-Carvajal suffered from it early in her career and studies soon after leaving her home country, Colombia.

Laura is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in political science at Kent State University, but her journey started at New Mexico State University.

In New Mexico, Laura experienced culture shock while she earned her MPA. After completing her MPA she entered the economic development doctoral program at New Mexico State University, but after a year in the program, she came to the conclusion that she was not fulfilled. The decision to attend Kent State and pursue a Ph.D. in political science came shortly after a colleague started working there and encouraged her to apply.

“It was a matter of me following the path that I was meant to be on,” Laura said.

Laura not only had to adjust to the new environment at Kent State, but she developed new personal and academic struggles which led her to some of the most challenging times of her life.

“My philosophy of life is: no matter what I do, it has to be done with care and the highest standards.” Laura said.

At this time, Laura began suffering from depression and imposter syndrome. When she first came to Kent she had confidence and felt like she was ready. After her first semester here, she started to lose confidence in herself as she continued to struggle with the ways her epistemology class challenged her worldviews and prompted her to dig deeper into the meaning of her existence. She started to question if academia was the path she was meant to follow, for which she considered dropping out.

“It broke me apart, it challenged my status quo and the ways I perceived the world.” Laura said.

Laura was committed and had a strong support system. She had her parents, friends from home, and her boyfriend to lean on. She also had three female professors that motivated her and helped her seek counseling and psychotherapy.

“That started the process of me getting to know myself better,” Laura said. “I’m still in the search, but I know my triggers.”

When Laura has stressful moments and gets upset she is now able to take a step back to discern what is happening.

“I try to dig deeper and figure out what was the trigger or where is the fear coming from,” Laura said.

From all the challenges she has faced in her life. Laura values self improvement the most. She credits daily activities like conscious breathing, meditation and yoga to help her keep a stable mindset during hectic times.

“We miss a lot of things in our life by living in our heads,” Laura said.

Laura feels empowered from her experience at Kent State and has found a new passion in teaching and finds fulfillment in academics. She anticipates graduating in 2023 and doing a postdoc somewhere in a developing country.

”I like to get to know different cultures and see how people see the world in different places,” Laura said.

Laura said she will remember all the resources that were available to her while she was at Kent State.

“There’s a very good network that’s there for you as a student that I have not found at previous places where I’ve studied.” Laura said.