To go home

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Probably the worst thing about being a kid is the feeling of not fitting in. Young people, regardless of their setting, try to do what they can to be like their peers. That can be hard on parents, too, as they feel the pressure of establishing some sort of comfort zone of inclusiveness for their children. And, it can be costly – the iPod becomes the ¡ayPod! And the iPhone, too? ¡Ay, Chihuahua!

Yes, they’ll need that, and a MacBook, as they prepare for college. And, they should get those, and other things, because that’s when the challenge of fitting in is of a different and more complex nature. The university experience, especially if outside of Arizona, can begin with culture shock. For many Latino students it’s also a realization that everyone there, for the most part, knows what they’re doing. They were prepped for this experience most of their lives. For students like me, it’s a battle royale just to survive.  

I remember riding my beach cruiser, a la Pee Wee Herman, around campus during my first few weeks at ASU. I was on a mission to find other Mexicans, or even Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Guatemalans, it didn’t matter; I needed some culture comfort.

One day I was beginning to crack, just like Pee Wee, when suddenly I saw three students walking ahead of me. The sun seemed to brighten and I swear I heard angels sing when I saw two females with long, beautiful hair and one male with short spiky hair just like mine walking ahead of me. Jackpot! 

I quickly caught up to them and, as I was about to say, “Hey there, brown people,” I realized that I had startled three Asian students. Disheartened, I said, “Hello,” and each one of them smiled at me enthusiastically and said “Hi! Hi! Hi!” I pedaled past them and looked back; we waved “bye” to each other. Maybe I wasn’t the only one feeling lonely that day. 

Eventually, I found my way to where the brown people were. I discovered lots of Latino student organizations and ended up having a great time in college. But the first couple of months were very hard on me. 

Sure, I struggled with difficult classes, but more than anything, it was the feeling that I didn’t belong that made me long for home. I would go home to Peoria nearly every weekend. On Sunday evenings, during the drive back when the sky would darken, so, too, would my spirit. 

As time passed, I started to make friends of all backgrounds, especially other Latinos, and I started to really enjoy my college experience, not just in the classroom, but during gaps between classes and in the evenings, too. 

Then, one Sunday, I noticed something different. As I left Peoria, I marveled at how beautiful the setting sun behind me was and how excited I was to see my friends on campus the next day. 

That’s when it dawned on me that I couldn’t wait to go home.

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