College has not been easy for Josh Horner, who was diagnosed with attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder as a child.
“People with ADHD often have low self-esteem because they think they’re stupid,” he says. “You have to fight it constantly. There are nights when you’re in tears because you can’t even read for an assignment.”
Despite struggling to keep his mind from wandering during class, Horner has excelled. When he receives his dual degree in Spanish and International Studies this month, it will cap off a college career in which he traveled to both Argentina and Japan. The stimulation of being in a new place and speaking a different language keeps his mind from producing the “noise” that distracts him.
“When I stay in one place too long, that’s when the noise and my hyperactive brain are at their worst,” he says. “New stimuli drown out the ones that were bothering me.”
“Noise” is the name of his capstone project, which he plans to turn into a book. It’s about his travels and his former addiction to online gaming, which helped him “escape the annoying way my brain works,” he says.
“It is deeply personal and beautifully written, and his recent presentation of it moved everyone in the class,” says Assistant Professor Andrea Williams, who taught Horner’s capstone seminar. “He is a great student despite these challenges, and his ebullient personality — bright, funny and positive — enriched the class.”
Horner hopes to return to Japan in 2017 to teach English, and has other varied pursuits: He wants to create a video game with his own hand-drawn animal characters. He took theater in high school and taught himself to play bass, drums and guitar. He’s served as tenor section leader in the University Chorus the past two years.
Horner is graduating with a 3.6 GPA, despite the fact that the sound of a heater turning on in a classroom can send him on a mental voyage to figure out which musical note best complements the hum.
When he studied in Japan, Horner knew full well his studies would not transfer for his major.
“I just thought it would be an opportunity I’d never have again,” he said. “I don’t want to say someday, ‘I wish I’d done this or that.’ You have to get in over your head and just learn to swim. ADHD made me crave these exciting opportunities and take advantage of them.”