Do you remember back when you were proudly telling all of your friends and family about how you were going away to college? Did they give you a long speech about how you would come out from college a different person? Do you feel different from the way you felt coming in to school? How do we deal with our constantly changing identities as we navigate college? Read on to hear Peer Educator, Becky’s personal story about her own changes, and how she dealt with them.
A CHANGING IDENTITY
by Rebeca Najarro
They always tell you college will change you. They tell you that college is the place to find yourself. By they, of course I mean, exactly those people that you are thinking about: your friends, your parents, your older siblings, and maybe even your high school teachers. When they first told me, I didn’t believe them. They all said I was going to become a crazy, radical, liberal with green hair and a septum piercing. They all said I would probably become vegan and go to protests “on the daily.” I remember laughing at them. Little did I know, they were…a little right.
College did change me. I became “woke” (this new slang word for becoming aware of the issues within society). I became more involved in my community and for the first time, I felt like I was LEARNING. I was learning from my books (that UCSC courses require me to buy, of course), but I was also learning from interactions with other individuals who were learning about themselves and their community. I went to my first protest during spring quarter of Freshman year and I immediately felt an overwhelming sense of belonging. I was advocating for the rights of a small predominantly Latinx low-income community, Beach Flats, in protecting their precious garden from being torn down by a large corporation, who simply wanted the land for consumerism benefits. This experience was one that I will never forget. Every person that attended was so passionate and for once, my heart and mind felt like they became one….I was not only learning about the outside world, I was participating in it and making a difference.
Freshman year I also joined USEU (Unión Salvadoreña de Estudiantes Universitarios) solely with the intention of finding a safe space, the Salvadoran community I had always longed to be a part of. By joining, I received so much more than the close-knit community I had dreamt of…I also received the ability to learn from and engage in historical, political, and cultural discussions with my peers. Since my involvement with USEU, I have gained the courage to voice my thoughts as well as listen to and learn from others. This year, as the co-chair of USEU, I have become passionate about creating the same space for the new incoming freshmen that my older peers had created for me.
In the end, college did change me. I am now a more culturally, politically, socially, and environmentally aware individual. From my experiences, I have gained a newfound passion for social justice among other areas of study. No, I didn’t become vegan. Yes, I did get a nose piercing, shaved the bottom half of my head, and attended every protest I could, but that’s the least of what matters. What actually matters, is the fact that I have become a part of the community here at UCSC. I didn’t become COLLEGE and COLLEGE didn’t become me. I am just slowly on the way to becoming who I am supposed to be.