Updated: Aug 5, 2020
Transitioning to college life is always said to be an exciting moment in a student's life. It marks a point in which one has more independence and responsibility. However, everyone's experience differs. People experience different obstacles as they commence their college journey, which can end up affecting their mental, physical, and emotional health. Personally, I think that the culture shock that Latinos experience sprouts behaviors that lead to introverted tendencies. Observing the campus, in general, can be overwhelming because there are few Latinos sprinkled here and there. At home, we would escape an uncomfortable atmosphere through a delicious home-cooked meal, by speaking to a relative, or by simply enjoying the fact that we were home. At the University of Illinois, most of us are separated from the factors that helped us cope with our problems. Many Latinos feel as if they have no guidance and must confront these problems on their own, which creates fear within ourselves that we want to escape. Some of us may just think and debate to ourselves, while others may end up escaping this situation.
In the end, whatever decision you take is right for you. Trying to satisfy other people's desires and aspirations could end up harming your health in various ways. College should be an enriching experience that helps reinforce any interests and connect them to potential employment opportunities. I believe the typical education path that is imposed upon us in high school is not meant for everyone. Pursuing other goals and aspirations can help enrich you as well. I feel like there is an underlying pressure for Latinos to go to college immediately to exceed the low expectations that others have for us. However, I feel like we can shape our future in whatever way makes us feel comfortable.
The University of Illinois has "hidden" gems that can help Latinos feel part of a community. One of the most popular resources is La Casa Cultural Latina, which is said to be a “home away from home” by many Latinx students. La Casa provides volunteering and internship opportunities, as well as a cozy environment where you can complete assignments or simply socialize with others. Registered student organizations (RSOs) also help with connectivity. For example, Nuestra Verdad provides an intimate space to support our opinions by making our voices heard through various forms of expression. I have slowly but surely begun to feel like an integral part of the organization, and I hope that I continue to build bonds with the other members. The Latino Student Association serves a similar purpose in the sense that they focus on the display of Latinx culture and history. Plus, they help promote a comfortable atmosphere by promoting socialization and discussion. Many Latinx organizations on campus also help individuals work toward their professional or cultural interests. The Association of Latino Professionals for America aids members in finding business opportunities to prepare them for life outside of college. UIUC's Island Touch, on the other hand, introduces students to choreographies that focus on Latinx styles. I deeply appreciate the effort that students make to maintain these organizations since they play an integral part in making Latinx students feel more comfortable in college. Regularly attending meetings and events has helped me meet new people and socialize more. I recommend reaching out to any organizations that interest you because staying occupied helps distract you from negative emotions.
Entering a predominantly white institution can be difficult for many Latinx students. Many upperclassmen emphasize how difficult adjustment was, but most claim that they eventually meet other students that they feel comfortable around. I feel like the main factor behind the Latinx community’s persistence is the pride of standing out and battling against the odds. Proving ourselves successful and capable motivates us to give our best while at the University of Illinois, and abandoning our mission would most likely trigger a sense of failure. Regardless, I believe that our commitment to our goals makes us successful. Define your own future and ensure that you consider your emotional wellbeing while chasing your dreams.