Chestnut Hill, Mass. is 195 miles away from the Bronx, N.Y., but every time I return home for a break, the two locations seem to get farther apart from one another.
Prior to coming to Boston College for the third orientation as an incoming freshman, I had never visited the Jesuit institution. In fact, I had no intention of enrolling at BC. Instead, my plan was to attend Syracuse University and study journalism. My decision to attend ‘Cuse was based off a visit I made during my junior year of high school. Although the weather impeded my group’s tour of the campus that day, the rain allowed us to spend more time in one of the dining halls.
After piling up greasy food on my tray, a group of guys offered my fellow high-schoolers and me space at a table and effortlessly sparked up a conversation with us. One of the students was also from the Bronx, so we knew some of the same people, lived in similar neighborhoods, and shared interests. I felt right at home. The college-preparatory program I was a part of throughout high school had a long-standing affiliation with ‘Cuse, meaning my chance of getting accepted was high. As I had heard before (and the group of guys attested to), ‘Cuse wasn’t difficult, its parties resembled what was depicted in Project X, and its female students would have your eyes popping out of their sockets and jaw on the ground. Maybe some things were exaggerated, but the consensus I gathered from alumni and Google searches was that ‘Cuse’s social scene was top-notch among all colleges in the country. Since I was soon to be a first-generation college student, my idea of what college would be like came from American Pie, How High, and Accepted. Now, as a sophomore at BC, I realize that my vision of what college would be like was skewed (though I’m still waiting to hear from the South Harmon Institute of Technology).
As the deadline for my final decision as to which college I’d attend drew nearer, ‘Cuse was removed from the last round of options because the school’s population was too large, I didn’t like journalism that much (ironic, huh?), and I was willing to sacrifice the parties for the academics. Plus, the very thing that drew me to ‘Cuse in the first place is what eventually turned me away-I envisioned ‘Cuse to be a continuation of high school because many of my friends would be enrolled there and because it had a fair representation of students with backgrounds similar to mine. Syracuse University is most likely a perfect fit for me, but I wanted to experience opposition throughout my college career in order to step out side of my comfort zone and I felt that ‘Cuse would not be adequate in this department.
Although at the time attending BC seemed like a challenge solely because I only knew two people out of 9,100 undergraduates, obstacles pertaining to socio-economic status, race, and educational background have been at the crux of my struggles-but I wasn’t able to fathom these difficulties until experiencing three semesters at this University.
Had I gone to ‘Cuse, I suspect things would be different than they are now, but more like how they were in high school-I would have been reserved, so I (most likely) wouldn’t have gotten into performing spoken word, been involved with culture clubs, volunteer and service programs, or writing what you’re reading. Even though I’m still faintly aloof, BC has challenged me to overcome (or at least combat) certain limitations that held me back in high school-I’ve been unsettled into action against certain aspects of myself that I believe would have persisted had I gone to ‘Cuse. My thoughts on the person I’d be had I chosen orange over maroon and gold largely derive from what I’m told by and see in my friends who do attend ‘Cuse. Don’t get me wrong-my friends are great, intelligent people who will be better off than others because they’ve attended a reputable four-year college, but I can’t help but feel as though they’ve become conformist-members of the utopic fifth party school, according to The Huffington Post. In conversations I’ve had with friends who attend ‘Cuse and several NY state schools, one of their main talking points is always the social scene. To be quite frank, I’m not a fan of the party scene at BC. Perhaps I’m not hanging out with the right people or hanging out in the right places, but that’s beside the point. In comparison, friends who attend the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and Georgetown University always bring up that there aren’t many of us at these schools.
Through my personal experiences as a first-generation Latino male at BC and with social science classes at BC, I have been exposed to injustice, inequality, and struggle that have targeted and continue to target marginalized groups. A lot of the required literature in the sociology courses offered at BC speaks to experiences that those who identify with me and I have lived. Therefore, I find it necessary to become a voice for those with no opportunity to speak. At BC, I am living out this newfound duty, but I oftentimes feel as though my work is going unnoticed and unappreciated by those whom I’m trying to help.
People in my community commonly perish in the same under-resourced, poverty-stricken, crime-ridden neighborhoods in which they are born and bred. The highbrow conversations I’m part of here are not ones I partake in back home, because my peers and relatives are not educated in the same fashion. I constantly travel between the world that exists back home and the one that exists at one of the top 40 universities in the country. My dilemma may seem rooted in issues of race and class, but the struggle to create a link between two or more things is fundamental to the human experience. It is our job, however, as learned individuals to spread the message we are taught at BC in order to raise the quality of life. Although the task of bringing St. Ignatius’ flame back to one of the poorest congressional districts in the USA is daunting, I’m confident that I will make our founder, those rooting for me, and myself proud.
Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights.