I remember when I arrived at Stonehill College four semesters ago. I was so overwhelmed with all the different emotions I was experiencing. I am the first in my family to go away for college and although my family tried to be as supportive as possible they didn’t fully agree with my decision to come here because they couldn’t understand why I would willingly move 3.5 hours. It was hard to explain to them that this is what I wanted. It was even harder to try to convince them with confidence that this was the right decision for me, when I wasn’t even sure myself. I was afraid- afraid of being alone, afraid of disappointing myself and my family, afraid that I had taken a risk that I wasn’t going to be able to handle and afraid that I was causing my family too much pain. But I stuck with my decision to come here and although it was one of the hardest decisions I had to make I knew that I had to do it. When I got here it didn’t get any easier. I was the only student of color in most of my classes causing me to feel like I stood out all the times. I was surrounded by people who had a very different upbringing from mine and who often assumed things about me just because of where I come from and how I look. I discovered that I had a very noticeable Dominican accent. At that moment I couldn’t see beyond what I was feeling and I did not have the slightest idea that this was just the beginning to an amazing college experience.

Now, a year and a half later it is hard to believe that I ever felt that way. I am so confident with every part of whom I am and where I come from: I embrace that I am an immigrant and that I was raised in the Bronx, I’m happy to have beautiful curly hair and tanned skin, I am more than proud to say I raised by a hardworking single mother, who has sacrificed everything for her kids. All these different parts of who I am have contributed to making me the ambitious person that I am and have given me to courage needed to be able to make hard decisions.

Coming to Stonehill is the best decision of could have made. Although at the time it felt like I was making a selfish decision by coming here to make myself happy, while my family was dwelling in pain, I now understand that I did this for my family. I did it to show me that it is possible. As my brothers grow up and start thinking about what they want to do with their lives they will think of going away as an option because they witnessed me be able to do it. My mom can move outside of the South Bronx and leave her comfort zone because she witnessed her daughter leave and get through it. My family now knows that attaining a private education, while coming from a working class family is possible.

I feel extremely privileged to be here and to be able to have this experience.  I am now an RA and I love it. While being an RA, having two work studies and being involved in many clubs on campus I have also been able make Deans List every semester. I have built healthy and lasting relationships with students and professors. I have two homes, Stonehill and my home in the Bronx. I get to experience life in a suburban area and life in the city. I am now planning to go abroad my junior year and to spend a semester in Washington DC. I feel whole and fulfilled and that is because I had the courage to follow my heart and do what I thought was right.

It’s hard, but it gets better, a lot better.