Humans of Drake: Helen Trisko
Highlighting the stories of Drake students and faculty.
Junior Helen Trisko—daughter of an American father and a German immigrant mother—has always struggled to define herself. Her life, as she describes it, has been a continual navigation of multiple identities, and her understanding of herself is still in flux.
She grew up with German culture intentionally instilled into her, whether through speaking the language at home, being sent to German camp, eating the food or replicating her mother’s sheltered upbringing. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV, but when she did, it was in German.
At around eight years old, she began to feel the pressure to fit in from her peers, and her home life didn’t make “fitting in” very easy.
“I always thought both of (my parents) were weird,” Trisko said. “They’re old. I’m an only child. I feel like that’s generally not how other people grew up.”
As she moved through adolescence and into her teenage years, she grew bored of her parents’ insistence on crafts over watching television and reading books over playing video games. She began to resist.
“I kind of rebelled against what they were trying to get me to do,” Trisko said. “But now that I’m in college, I’ve come back to it a little more.”
Much to her younger self’s disdain, Trisko now loves to read just like her mother, a German literature major.
Although she doesn’t speak much German anymore, there’s one skill she developed that has stuck with her: cooking.
“That’s one place where I’m finding myself returning to German culture, through the food,” Trisko said.
Now, as a sociology and English double major with a psychology minor and women’s and gender studies concentration, she’s had the chance to sift through the facets of her German-American identity in her curriculum.
“I feel like I’ve had a great connection with all my teachers and I’ve really been able to learn from them,” Trisko said. “Discussion-based classes are so enjoyable.”
Perhaps due to a lack of exposure throughout her childhood, Trisko loves television now, especially sci-fi programs like “Star Trek.” If she could have any profession, she’d write for television.
“That’s where the stories intersect with life itself,” Trisko said. “That’s what really interests me. I don’t think I necessarily have the skills to tell stories; I’m more interested in hearing other people’s stories.”
Apart from cooking and watching television, Trisko likes to run, talk with friends and read theory from writers like bell hooks. She also loves social media and pop culture.
Another major touchstone of Trisko’s identity—as one would probably guess by looking at her—is fashion. An avid thrift shopper, it took a while for her to become confident in her individual style.
“At a certain point, I stopped caring that I looked different,” Trisko said. “There are people here who dress like me, and that helps, to see other people around you who are like you. Clothing isn’t that ostracizing of a thing; I don’t want to make it seem like it’s the most important aspect of life and of fitting in.
“But, I don’t want to fit in.”