Thursday, July 28, 2011

Elizabeth Gonzalez

As per usual, I apologize for the delay in response. As I embark on my last year at Brown, I find myself busier than ever trying to make the most out of my time as an undergraduate student. This summer has been nonstop work—I am currently interning/volunteering with UC Berkeley’s Early Academic Outreach Program. This is the very same outreach program I was a part of from 7th grade onward. I owe a great amount of my college-readiness to this program and felt it was crucial to pay my dues this summer. With that said, I will try to address the crucial need for programs, like the ILC, that grant students the opportunity to learn about higher education.

Although I was not a participant of the Ivy League Connection, I believe that the program is very necessary and relevant to the students of the WCCUSD. Acquainting students with universities that may seem unfamiliar (or even unreachable) is not only helpful, but a duty. The more informed our students are, the more opportunities there will be for them. Their scope of the world expands, and that is a must for students from our district. Teaching them and encouraging them to reach for the stars, even if it seems like an impossible feat (at the time), is what we should be instilling in students daily. As a district we need to help students feel entitled and worthy of the hundreds of opportunities out there. This is our social responsibility.

As for my time at Brown, I will not sugar coat my experience. It has been extremely challenging. Not just academically, but emotionally, mentally, and physically. I have never doubted myself so much and yet I have never felt more active growth and maturity. I was forced to adjust to a culture (elite academia) that was completely foreign to me. I didn’t feel prepared for the rigorous work, and I felt guilty for being at Brown. It was as if I thought that the Admissions Officers had made some kind of mistake in admitting me. I found myself surrounded by peers who seemed so much smarter and better prepared. I felt unworthy. This feeling continued on into my sophomore year. I never felt more stressed and, admittedly, depressed. I would get sick very often in part due to stress and even had to end a semester early due to illness, but my pride would not let me ask for help. I wanted to leave. Quit. I wanted to hide myself from this shame. There I was: a first-generation college student, daughter of Mexican immigrants, Mexican-American Woman, and a resident of Richmond. And I felt like I was letting all of these proudly-held identities down. I felt like I was letting people down--My family, my community, and myself. There was always that fear of wasting a blessing.

I decided I would take time off. I decided to study abroad in Brazil. I needed to get away and gather my thoughts and really remember why it was important that I NOT give up on this opportunity. Quitting was really not in my character, after all. Before Brown, I was focused on going to college and would stop at nothing to get there. I finally achieved that goal, but felt incomplete or...worse, incompetent. So I studied abroad. And it was just what I needed. After my time away and having the opportunity to experience a different culture—a privilege that many people like myself do not often encounter—I felt so grateful and felt like many of my experiences were put into focus. My perspectives on life and myself changed entirely (as cliché as that may sound, it is true). In being away from school, I was allowed the space to think. Luckily, I was able to relax and just think in a beautiful place like Rio de Janeiro. All I needed was time to reflect and time to be a different person. Studying abroad came at the right time. I got to be on my own in a different country--away from the stress of being at Brown. I found myself missing Brown and wanting to take full advantage of the opportunity. Since I was beginning my junior year abroad, I realized my time was quickly passing, and I couldn't allow it to end without feeling like I conquered Brown (and not vice versa).

I stopped blaming myself for not adjusting as fast as other students. It wasn’t my fault, or anyone’s fault for that matter. It is just the cards I was dealt. It was not worth it to dwell on how unprivileged I was. I had to reclaim myself from the doubt that controlled my life for almost two years. I was unhappy and completely disconnected from the dreams that got me into Brown in the first place. I felt refreshed after studying abroad and channelled the same drive I had in high school. All I needed was a chance to slow down and re-evaluate what I wanted out of life. I found my strength and felt like I finally found my place at Brown. The following is all advice I have given myself (with MUCH needed help from the beautiful people around me):

It is not bad to feel beaten—the hard times are what make you grow and learn about yourself. How you confront the challenges is what helps define who you are. You worked to be there, it’s going to take work to get what you want out of that experience. You have to take pride in who you are, where you come from, and what you offer others. I found that the key to not letting the feelings of incompetence get to you is truly appreciating the gifts that you do have and asserting that you ARE an asset to that university. You ARE worthy of that university’s name. It may be intimidating to be at this place, however you worked your hardest and put in countless hours to be there. (If anything, you are more worthy than others who were handed these opportunities). Ask for help when you need it. That is what the resources are there for. Demand the most out of your education. You were admitted for a reason.

Good luck to you all! I am here if any of you have questions or would like to hear more about the past three years at Brown. Please feel free to contact me.

You can do it!!

Elizabeth Gonzalez
B.A. Sociology
Brown '12
Box # 6979

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