By Leslie Luqueno, ’20
Coming from a 99% Hispanic high school, the transition from high school to college will be drastic because instead of being the majority, I will be part of the minority. While it is frightening to be a small fish swimming into a big pond, I feel like I am ready to take this next big step in my life. While many of my high school classmates decided to stay close to home in fear of the unknown, I embrace the fact that my life will be different. The thing is, we, students of color, cannot continue being afraid of being in the minority group because if we let that impede us from our success, then we will always be part of the minority group.
Being part of the majority in high school had its good times and bad times. We all dressed, ate, and talked in a similar manner and our ideas, for the most part, were the same because we grew up in the same culture. Nobody pointed out our accents, nobody was particularly wealthy, nobody was ever drastically different. But when I experienced my first “culture shock” during camp a couple of summers ago, I realized that my community trapped me in a bubble that had to be popped. My accent got in the way of my conversations as some of my classmates could not understand what I was saying. Most of my classmates were not on financial aid like I was; they could not understand why I could not go eat frozen yogurt every Sunday because things back home were not looking very good financially. I met people from all kinds of backgrounds, too many backgrounds for me to take in all at once. Twelve-year-old me would cry myself to sleep for the first week that summer because I could not find anyone that had a similar background to mine.
However, I quickly learned that in order to connect with people, I did not have to be replicas of them. Sure, that was what I was accustomed to, but I began to comprehend that the world was not like the bubble back home. Since I took a political science course that summer, I learned that the world is full of different races, ethnicities, and other cultures that make us unique. I began to value my culture more because it was what made me different and when you are “different”, you need to learn to embrace it. Soon, I began opening up about my background to my classmates and even though they could not relate with me on everything, they were interested in my culture. And I was interested in theirs. Though I learned a lot during my summer in the classroom, I learned much more in the brief exposure to diversity.
Despite Haverford College being a campus that values diversity, truthfully, it continues to be a predominantly white institution (PWI). For some people of color, this can be alarming since we are scared of not being accepted into the community. There are many horror stories about students of color being discriminated against on their campuses and this drives the general desire to not venture too much into the unknown. There have been occasions where others’ prejudices against Latinos have prevented me from enjoying an experience, but I have learned that I cannot continue being afraid of this happening in college. College is the first step to the “real” world; if I let my fears overcome me, then I will never meet the world.
Meeting the world ultimately means accepting that the world will throw hurdles at everyone, but it extends to not being afraid and accepting what the world has to offer. Meeting the world is frightening, especially for a young Latina woman like me, but what’s scarier is living a life without ever truly doing it. I need to pop the bubble I have lived in for seventeen years; I need to embrace diversity just like I learned to do so 5 years ago. And Haverford is the place for me to do so; it is the place I know my background will contribute to the community as much as the community contributes to the building of my character. I am confident that this risk I took in leaving my hometown will be worth it because when you find your niche, you just need to go for it. Ultimately, being a person of color is not easy and neither is meeting the world, but if you embrace both challenges, then the rewards will be worthwhile.