Emmanuel Bravo poses with the Bruin statue at UCLA. / Photo courtesy of EMmanuel Bravo
As the days grew closer, my palms began to get sweaty. I was overwhelmed with feelings of excitement and nervousness. The day I was so anxiously anticipating had arrived; I was starting college at the University of California, Los Angeles!
I had the opportunity to attend college early through the Freshman Summer Program (FSP). During FSP, I took three classes as a full-time student for six rigorous weeks while becoming familiarized with the school, the community and the numerous opportunities that UCLA has to offer, such as resources, peer learning facilitators and programs on campus to improve my academics.
Although the FSP prepared me for my transition into college, the fall quarter was a challenging experience.
Having lived in Boyle Heights and South Los Angeles, my neighborhood consisted of mostly Latinos and African Americans. However, UCLA is made up only 17 percent Hispanic students, which at times, made me feel as if I didn’t belong there.
Although it was difficult to adjust to the culture shock, I found my own support system with the people I met during FSP as well as older Latino students who I met along the way. Their guidance and support gave me confidence and soon I developed a different perspective about my future in college.
Now that I’m back home for winter break, I feel and see the changes that have occurred not only within me but at home too. Living on campus and away from my family has made me appreciate them more each day. I am also smarter about spending money and I make sure that my priority is school before my social life.
Although I’m learning so much away from home, I do miss my community. Classes I’ve taken remind me of the great amount of history there is Boyle Heights””something I was rarely taught in high school. It is surprising how many people do not know that Boyle Heights has made a great impact in Latino culture and beyond.
That’s why every time someone asks me where I’m from, with great pride, I say, “I’m from Boyle Heights.”
I look forward to the rest of the school year and the experiences I have yet to see.
‘From Boyle Heights to College’ is an occasional series written by former Boyle Heights Beat youth reporters about the challenges and successes during their first college experience. Stay tuned for more!