I remember the day I graduated high school like it was yesterday””in fact it only happened about six months ago.
I walked across the stage with pride as my name was called. I was handed my diploma, which I had worked so hard for. I had spent the last four years of my life to get to that point and I felt proud to say I graduated in the top of my class.
In the months that followed, however, I felt strange and misplaced. What was I going to do? I already accepted the University of San Francisco’s offer and I was squared away on my classes and housing””but it hadn’t really hit me. I was going to a university, which to my surprise, was nothing like the school I was leaving behind.
I spent my summer preparing for dorm life, mostly having a nonchalant attitude about the whole ordeal since I still had my own room and my own space. I didn’t spend time preparing for school because I thought I was, and always would be, a good student. I wasn’t afraid.
Suddenly summer came to an end, and it was my final night at home. My bags were packed. My room now bare of anything that made it resemble mine. My little brothers and sisters were kept asking where I was going. The youngest, Sarah, asked, “Why do you need to go to school?” “So I can learn, mija,” I answered. They went to bed and I did the same””but I didn’t spend much time sleeping.
My dad was honking the horn around 7 a.m. and I was ready to leave home. The oldest of my younger brothers, Frankie, woke up and came down downstairs to hug me. He cried a lot, and so did I. I was going to miss all of them.
I was starting a new life. I arrived at the University of San Francisco, checked into my dorm, and met my roommate Patrick. I was in college. This is where I begin as a freshman all over again.
I can summarize my first semester in college in a short, simple word: hard. I wasn’t in Boyle Heights anymore. College is demanding, and the classes are challenging. My classes require that I read lots of books, often causing me to cry of boredom. I know, however, it all will be worthwhile when I see those “A’s” on my report card.
I can also describe college as fun. Classes are so much more dynamic, interesting, and in depth, and being a university student is liberating! I got to go out whenever I desired and I had no one to answer to but myself. Being from Boyle Heights, I love how San Francisco is so diverse and interesting and how there is always something to do. The City has really helped make my first university experience a good one and I feel like a local now.
All in all, university this first semester was a challenge. I had to adapt to a whole new system, full of its own stresses. But it was also liberating. I felt I was able to be my own person, and I learned to be responsible.
Now that I am home, I feel a special sense of gratitude for my family. I missed them, but I didn’t feel homesick. I didn’t feel like I was falling apart without them. My family is all I have known; gaining independence feels like a natural step in my life and it feels right.
At the same time, it’s great to come home. I love every minute I have to be with my family and my small community of Boyle Heights.
‘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!