Some day in September of 2014, I ventured out to Redlands for Orientation Day. It was perfect; it was beautiful; it looked like Linda Evangelista; I was eating it up! But seriously, the campus was picture perfect, the energy was great, and I got to pet the mascot, Thurber, and his wrinkles. Prior to spending the day at campus, my family and I were already attracted by Redlands’ small class sizes, very helpful financial aid package, and the promise of an individualized learning experience. So I went into my freshman year like any other freshman: excited, nervous, and optimistic for the next four years.
During my freshman and sophomore years, I underwent huge waves of change after meeting upperclassmen who were very involved with activism, taking some pretty challenging and interesting International Relations courses, and realizing more and more about commonsense “liberal” ideas. I was very receptive to what some would label as “radical” leftist politics, but I disagree that it is “radical.” This was the place I learned about the true meaning of living in America as a minority, whether it was about LGBTQ+, Black, Native American, or low-income community issues. However with this realization, I also became aware of hostile pushback from the wider university campus when progressive students and staff, belittled as being hyper-sensitive and causing trouble over nonexistent or invisible issues, were trying to create a better university environment.
For example in 2015, the school hosted a campus-wide race and diversity forum which welcomed all faculty, staff, and students, following the event of the Theatre Arts Department selling sombreros with items of costume. Student leader Jonathan Garcia condemned it online, purchased the remaining sombreros, and stapled to them pieces of paper saying “Sold on Campus,” “This is not a f*cking costume.” This sparked a huge debate about cultural appropriation, especially since the school has an extremely prominent Greek Life. While the event was taking place, other students on Yik Yak called for an “all-white meeting” outside of the building. These types of responses are not unique to my former university but the school certainly lacked the level of diversity and diversity support that it loved to boast.
Due to a combination of circumstances such as academic match, lack of financial aid, and rising ideological tensions at school, I made the decision to take advantage of Redlands’ no-extra-costs semester abroad before transferring to a different university. So I hopped on a plane at LAX, buckled my seatbelt, and was on my to Taipei, Taiwan! I am choosing to skip out on the details about my time abroad because my explanation cannot and will not do justice to the experience. All I can say is… if you can, DO IT, especially if it’s a place that you have doubts about.
When I came back on the second week of January this year, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I missed my family and friends so much, and the nation was in a completely different situation than when I had left. I was getting ready to settle into Long Beach, where I would start at the CSU. Transferring was not extremely difficult; there was no personal essay. But CSU Long Beach was my first choice, and I had been anticipating it all semester. To be frank, it didn’t turn out how I expected at all. While my former school had its many flaws, at least it had a very strong sense of community, especially in the diversity center. CSULB’s larger, commuter school feeling was totally different. For weeks, I found myself just driving to school, going to class, and going home. If you want that sense of community, you would have to go out of your way to find it. So, I tried out some clubs. Some were intimidating and clique-y, some had low attendance and were not time-efficient, and I stopped going altogether. I slowly fell into a wave of depression. I never wanted to go to school and I would wake up wondering why I should even get up since the days felt like they were morphing together into a blob of discontentment and fatigue. I kept this from my parents because I didn’t want them to worry and the only person who really knew was my partner, who has been an extremely strong support system.
But to deal with my depression, I looked for some more help. I got into therapy and at school, I came across my new favorite club, Circle K International. Circle K fed my soul the memes I didn’t know I needed and gave me a group to do community service with. Also, therapy is great! I strongly believe that it should be more accessible, financially and culturally, to everyone who needs it. I met my CSULB best friend while buying a snack and he said my backpack “goes hard.” My roommates are great people, and we have a cute little cat named Luna, who is a Gemini. Most importantly, I’ll be graduating in 2019 with a B.A. in International Studies.
While this journey was unpredictable and the total opposite of my expectations, I am extremely grateful that I have the support from my family, friends, and partner to navigate through the struggles I’ve shared with you. I hope my story can help someone to take that leap of faith and make moves towards their goals, wherever they may be in their journey in higher education. To conclude, I would like to thank CAP for giving students like me a voice and supporting us during a time when our national education system is being attacked by the current federal administration. Even though the next fours years will get grimmer and more difficult, I’m thankful that CAP is right next to us to keep us afloat.