Transitioning to college life as a POC

Wednesday, August 12, 2020 - 8:06pm

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Graphic by Hibah Chugtai

In exactly two weeks, I will have finished moving into my dorm room in Bursley Residence Hall, and my parents will have just given me a final goodbye hug. 

As each day passes and the beginning of my college life draws closer my anxiety-ridden thoughts are met with the realization that for the first time, I will have to function independently. I’ll no longer have to speed home with angst to meet curfew. Instead of sitting around the kitchen table in anticipation for my mom’s homemade tabouli and hummus, I’ll be using my meal swipes at the dining hall. 

I’ll no longer have to begrudgingly change my outfit before I leave the house. Soon, it will be completely up to me to make the decisions that ultimately represent who I am, and in turn, it will be up to me to uphold the values and standards that were taught to me in my ethnic household. 

In high school, I often struggled to find a cultural balance between my ethnic home life and my school life, and even then, I got to return home every afternoon. In two short weeks, I’ll no longer have this privilege, and I am still trying to grapple with my contradicting feelings of unease and eagerness. Despite being physically distanced from my family, I am hopeful that I’ll still be able to recall their moral guidance while simultaneously developing my character and finding myself in an overwhelmingly new environment. 

Initially, I perceived my family’s Middle Eastern values as a sort of setback when thinking about beginning college. I felt as though I had a reputation to uphold and the pressure to behave in whichever way would make my parents the happiest. However, further rumination revealed that my nuanced ethnic background actually has the potential to serve as a blessing and I can use this cultural lens to approach situations in a multifaceted manner that will allow me to truly uncover my convictions as a coming-of-age student.