Everyone has a story to tell, and each of those stories matters.
That’s the idea behind a new Mercer University student-led podcast, “Real Talk, Let’s Talk,” which premiered online April 21. The show features students sharing their stories of challenges and triumphs.
“Sharing something that is personal to us, whether it made us feel pain, sadness, helplessness, happiness or even love, is sacred and special,” said junior Shailey Shah, who co-hosts the show with junior Robyn Guru.
The podcast is an effort to make the annual “Real Talk: Student Edition” event, which Guru and Shah started with the help of the Office for Student Success, more accessible to all. “Real Talk: Student Edition” is modeled after Student Success’s original “Real Talk” monthly series featuring faculty members sharing their stories of overcoming obstacles.
Guru and Shah loved the faculty event so much — they might even have been “a little obsessed,” Guru said — that they wanted to give students a chance to hear about hardships from their peers.
“We wanted to create a space for students to share their stories,” said Shah, a biochemistry and molecular biology major from Chattanooga, Tennessee. “Mostly, we wanted to be a part of the bigger picture of normalizing conversations about mental health by spreading stories about challenge and growth, so students do not feel alone with their struggles.”
Guru and Shah work with Emily Halstead, director of Student Success, and Dr. Kelly Holloway, assistant vice president for Enrollment Management, on the podcast and live event.
Since on-campus classes moved online and most students returned home in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the podcast is “a way to — literally right now — meet students where they are,” Halstead said.
“‘Real Talk’ is all about diving into the tough stuff and shining a light on the challenges we face, and COVID-19 is certainly a challenge,” she said. “Many students are facing personal difficulties in this uncharted territory and in the sudden changes we faced this semester.
“The podcast is going to allow ‘Real Talk’ to do what ‘Real Talk’ does, by providing a supportive and uplifting community during a time when we all need it.”
The first episode, “When Life Gives You Lemons,” features senior Caroline Kittrell, who learned some devasting news over a phone call. A new episode will drop every Tuesday. You can find “Real Talk, Let’s Talk” on Anchor.fm or Spotify.
“We think it is incredibly important for students to feel comfortable sharing their stories with their peers because everyone’s story matters,” said Guru, a biomedical engineering major from Johns Creek. “This builds a sense of community between all students — those speaking and those listening — and we have found that after our live events, audience members and speakers have been able to relate to each other and feel comfortable sharing things with each other.
“We hope that our podcast has this same impact and makes it easier for people to connect.”
Photo: Mercer University juniors Robyn Guru, left, and Shailey Shah, pictured at a fall 2018 “Real Talk” event, host the “Real Talk, Let’s Talk” podcast.