Photograph used via Creative Commons license, courtesy Tulane University.
This past Fall, I left the “safety” of the housing projects to go away to college. I am a freshman at California State University Northridge. I grew up in the Ramona Gardens housing projects in East Los Angeles and even though the projects can be a tough place to grow up, it’s a community where everybody knows each other and feels almost like family. So leaving the projects was kinda hard. Even though Cal State Northridge isn’t that far away from home, it’s 30 miles or two hours on the Metro bus, it’s a whole other world.
When I first got accepted and received my dorm assignment I was so excited because it was something I had been working hard towards for a really long time. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. At first I was really excited to leave. I was looking forward to having my own bed, meeting new people and making new friends. Going to college seemed like it would be all fun and games but when it came down to it, it was way more complicated than I had imagined. I left for college thinking that all I needed to do was go to my classes, do my work and have fun just like in high school. But, it was a little more complicated than that.
The campus where I am at is huge and it’s very easy for a freshman to get lost physically, academically, personally, and emotionally. I had mixed emotions when I arrived—I was excited, scared, happy and sad. Because I’m living on campus, I had to leave my family and friends behind and was afraid people at home would forget me. Even though my parents were happy for me to have the opportunity to go to college, they didn’t always know what to do to support me in this new part of my life. No one in my family ever went to college so I had no one to guide me through this process. I would get lost looking for my classes. After taking my first test, I realized I was gonna have to read and study a lot more than I did in high school or else I was gonna fail out of school. Luckily, my college offers a freshman seminar class where they guide and inform you about events and programs being offered plus I get support from my mentor and professor. And there a lot of other types of support on campus when you need it, too.
I thought that getting away from my family was going to be a big bonus but it turned out to feel different. I missed them so much every day, it made me appreciate all the little things about home, like fighting with my four brothers. I felt real lonely but I knew I had to be strong for my mom and all my brothers because they will need my help to make it to college, too.
I also try to remember that I moved away for a better future. I’m still not sure what I want to major in but I know I want to get a degree that will allow me to go back and help my community. So, in addition to the general education classes, I’m taking classes that are interesting to me and I’m hoping to figure out my major by sophomore year.
And of course, college brings some fun experiences, too. Like the fact that there is a swimming pool in our dorm complex and a party I am looking forward to this Friday. I also made some new friends. I have three roommates who are all super cool and I made two friends in my English class and we are already planning to study together. Oh, and I decorated my dorm room, too.
At first, being completely on my own for the first time took a toll on my happiness and my inner self but I kept reminding myself that this is good for me and it’ll help me grow as a person to be able to succeed in what I want to do with my life. Now I know that difficulties are part of the process and I just have to face them one day at a time because the next day will bring many positive things.