“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
– Soren Kierkegaard, philosopher
My Undergrad Experience
When I started my higher education journey at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (UmassD) in the Fall of 2017, my grandmother had just passed away. She was the anchor in my family, the woman who seamlessly brought us all together- and we have a BIG family. I remember having all my things packed in the trunk of my mom’s car and having to make a detour to St Elizabeth’s Emergency Center. There wasn’t a dry eye in sight that early morning. Needless to say, leaving home during a time of grief and healing was a hard transition. I remember thinking; my family needs me. And yet, even with tears in her eyes, my mother urged me to move in and begin my college experience. After all, I was the only one of my siblings who had the opportunity to live on a 4-year college campus. I would be charting new territory and I knew my mom needed for me to go, she needed something good. So right then, I decided that I had to make something of myself. I had to find success in a world of uncertainty and make my mother and my grandmother proud.
Despite such a harsh beginning, the road before me seemed bright. I was enrolled as an English Communications major and had dreams of being a writer. At UmassD, I was able to explore my passions of writing, poetry, and journalism. Throughout my time there, I had even discovered new passions such as public relations, environmentalism, feminist research, and history. I was so moved by what I was learning that by the end of my sophomore year I added a double-major: Women’s Gender Studies. It felt good to soak in all this new information about the world and the people in it. I was becoming a part of something bigger, something substantial and worthwhile. And when the sun showed through the cloudy sky, I pictured my grandmother smiling over me.
I am grateful for quite a few experiences at UmassD. The first is the small circle of friends I constantly find myself gravitating towards. We all come from different backgrounds. Some are us are adopted, or were raised in a single-parent home like I was but with different customs and traditions. All of us were first-generation students. I believe that’s what bonded us together the most. The fact that we were doing what was yet to be done in our families. We were rewriting the narrative, changing the direction of our stride. I will never forget the all-nighters we pulled in the library, the late-night walks to Birch, or last-minute runs to Target. I created my own little family at UmassD. Without my friends, I would have felt so alone. Because of them, I felt empowered to be on my own.
Another experience I am grateful for is the work-study programs. I held three positions throughout my undergrad career: I worked with AmericaReads, The Torch, and a student-run nonprofit called MassPirg. Working with AmericaReads was an effortless decision. I already had experience working with kids. My first job was at the local boys and girls club of Allston, MA. It was there where I learned leadership and community-building skills. With the AmericaReads program, I was able to travel to schools across New Bedford and meet the sweetest children. Some came from broken, low-income families. Giving back to the community by exercising my passions of reading and writing was anything but taxing. It sparked my interest in teaching and nurturing the youth. I stayed with AmericaReads for four consecutive semesters. During my third semester, I became a contributing writer for the campus newspaper, The Torch. I was also employed as the Distribution manager which was my first management role. I had to make sure the student couriers were delivering the newspaper all across campus. It was a new and welcoming experience for me. As for MassPirg, I was able to volunteer with a schedule that worked for me. I assisted on campaigns such as “Save the Bees” and “Free Textbooks.” All the while, I was traveling home on weekends to work my security job in Boston. If my mother taught me anything, it was a strong work ethic. UmassD allowed me to push myself and the boundaries of my expectations. I never before believed I could do all that I accomplished.
The experience I value the most above all is the internship program I became involved with during the Fall of 2019. Thanks to the opportunity provided to me by Semester In The City, the values that make up my brand have been validated, reinforced, and engraved into my everyday choices. I knew I wanted to make a difference, I knew I wanted to give power back to underserved people. I knew I would find fulfillment in a life of social and restorative justice, but I didn’t know if I was even capable. Semester In The City helped to show me that I am very much capable.
They placed me at a nonprofit organization called The GroundTruth Project, I was able to learn about the various opportunities offered to young journalists, many of them being offered by my very organization. I learned about fellowships, scholarships, grants, and funding partners who are dedicated to the cause of on-the-ground reporting.
At the beginning of my internship, my biggest weakness has always been my communication skills. I could write a beautifully researched paper but when it comes to participation and advocation, I tend to fall short. That semester, however, something changed. The program had revealed to me the importance of bridging the divide and normalizing uncomfortable spaces. I met some of the most wonderful and socially driven people who helped mold my career path until it became too transparent to misinterpret. I even gave a TedTalk at the end of the semester.
Four years ago, the idea of college was all very overwhelming. Today, it is significantly less so. The world appears smaller now, more tangible. I want to go out, meet interesting and mundane people, listen to their stories, and write about them. In this way, I can shed light on issues that matter to me most. I want to see, learn, and continually expand my cultural reach. And in this way, I can make a difference. I can find fulfillment.