Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Turning Point

Dear Christina,

You made it! College was the biggest dream you had and here you are! I know there were times you thought this day would never come. Nights you worried that you weren't smart enough, did not have the talent or the courage to go away to school, and how were you going to pay for it anyway? As those acceptance letters came in those feelings began to melt, but new worries crept in. You doubted that you would finish. You are an expert worrier and you thought of every reason why college wouldn't happen. Nice try, but you are too Type A to allow this dream to slip through your fingers. You're not here by your own accord. You made it because of the love, support, and sacrifice of your parents and their belief that you could do it. You'd prefer to die than let them down, so even though it was scary, you did what had to be done.

Don't be upset that you bypassed Columbia University, Grinnell, Oberlin and NYU for a state school. It had everything you were looking for, plus you felt safer on campus than you have ever felt in your life. Trust that instinct you felt when you walked on campus. This place will open doors you haven't even thought of. It will create relationships that extend well beyond your undergrad degree. It will be about so much more than what you learn in the labs and lecture halls. You come into true independence and it is the most freeing time of your life.

Thanks to your college prep high school, you are more than academically ready and for the first time in a long time, you get to focus on a social life and not stress so much over your grades. It's called a school/life balance and learning it now bleeds into your work/life balance of the future. Have your fun, go to the parties, make a ton of friends, do study abroad, go the football games (you finally have a school team to cheer for!), dress in school colors, and love every minute guilt-free. Yes, you will feel guilty having such a good time away from your family, but you need this. You have earned it. Denying yourself the fun times won't change anything at home. Allow the growth that comes with having those experiences. They are as important to your development as are the hours you put into clubs, electives, studying and mentoring.

You didn't think about it at the time, but you making it to college away from home is inspiring others. Once you realize that, you have the responsibility to pay it forward and support those around you. Lucky for you that ISU had the Early Success Program that not only took you in when you were a first-year, first-generation student but gave you your first opportunity to teach at the college-level. That love for teaching will never leave you. Watching those students thrive and survive some of the same obstacles you did will be some of the more rewarding work you do while as an undergrad.

Aside from loving your role as a Peer Mentor, the friendships you make with your students and fellow mentors bring you so much joy and add depth to your experience. It was a lot of work to plan class sessions while juggling eighteen credit hours, but you'd do it all again if you had the chance and that says a lot for a chance you took at nineteen that set the path of much of your college days.

The tests you ace here will be more than As and Bs on a transcript. They will be about yourself. You will learn what you are actually made of and what you can do when facing tough decisions. That month you spend with no more than ten dollars to your name will teach you lessons that come back to you time and time again. It will suck, but in the end, you will be grateful for those times when your survival skills kicked in.

The best thing about your undergrad experience is that you realize your love of academia. It will push you to get a Masters and work at a university, where you feel most at home. You would be a professional student if you had the funds to support that, and that is awesome. Let it push you to a Ph.D. and beyond!

Adelante, si se puede!

A more enlightened Christina

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