It’s amazing how fast time flies. I cannot believe that almost two years ago, I wrote my first blog and was about to begin the life-altering experience that is college. Especially a place as different from my own experiences as Harvard. It’s amazing because, as a junior, there are things that have meant so much to me that I wouldn’t have really understood until now, and there are other things of importance that I won’t fully grasp until probably 20 years from now.
One of those things is friendship. Sure, we all have friends. But one thing I really realized, is how diverse and different and insane and amazing and crazy having friends from completely different backgrounds, regions, worldviews help you grow in so many different ways. I value my friendships back home, I value my friendships in college. But I think college is where you truly learn how friendships differ, how each friendship has something new and wonderful to offer. My close friends back home are my friends because we went through the same programs, connected in our mutual love for all things nerdy, and shared an inexplicable love for Pokemon, hot fries, In N’ Out, and Novelas. My friendships, oddly but understandably, really blossomed in college, even as some faded away. But being away helped me realize how to think about my friendships and how they reflected on who I was and wanted to become.
Having friends in college, especially if you are from a non-traditional background like we are, really forces you to think about your friendships because the people you’ll be friends with are so different from your own understandings in ways it’s hard to see with your friends from back home. They will share experiences and understandings with you in unexpected ways, and be different from you in unexpected ways. It’s really interesting for me, a first generation college student who grew up in the inner city, to oddly find so much in common with my wealthy, white friend with a highly educated family background. It’s crazy to know how different I am from my friend who comes from a similar background to me, and how similar and different our approaches to the world are. It’s different when you’re making friends in college vs at home because at home, you grew up with them and share a mutual understanding that surpasses any sort of analysis, it’s just comfortable to be together. With my friends in college, I had to think more about who I was and what I wanted out of a friendship, and I learned so much about myself from my friends.
Another thing is experiences. What makes students from our background “disadvantaged” is our understanding of parts of the world, which are different than (but not inferior to) the ways that are valued in this society. I have friends who are wealthy and have tons of intellectual learning, but not much experiential learning like you and I have. Going to college has allowed me to understand the importance of both. I’ve learned so much about the world talking to my friends and conversing with professors, reading books, and the like. But my experience and the learning that comes from it has allowed me to fully appreciate other experiences I had, such as my trip to South Africa (more at a later post). A lot of times, it seems all I hear as a low income student is how “disadvantaged” I am, how “lacking” I am as a nontraditional student. But going to college has helped me understand how my own background has given me the ability to appreciate experiences and situations at an experiential and an intellectual level.
Studying hard for college and understanding how to get there is important. But it’s also important to understand how much college allows you to change and grow, how it molds you into the person you would love to become. College isn’t all about studying! Go abroad! Go to parties. Meet new people who you never could see yourself befriending. Have all those experiences. Because you know what, college goes by so fast! It’s very difficult to have so much time to completely explore yourself, your environment, your relationships, all in an environment designed to stimulate you. College is difficult. You’ve seen it in my posts and the posts of the other bloggers. But would we all say that college is a unique experience that can’t be had anywhere else or anywhere else in time? Definitely!