When I declared that I would be attending the illustrious Clark Atlanta University, I was hit with a lot of questions and concerns. Even throughout my freshman year. a different set of questions arose from my peers and teachers. With that being said, I am going to answer all the questions I have gotten this past year, and also explain my first-year experience. Keep in mind that this article is completely subjective and from my own personal experience, meaning different experiences are bound to rise within various people at various universities.
First and foremost, the frequently asked questions:
1. Why Clark Atlanta University?
I chose to go to Clark because everything about the university because everything about it appealed to me. I was locked in off back from the looks of the school’s website. This is mainly because everything was modern. Clark showcased happy students and all the information I needed about my major. One thing specifically that really drew me in was the school mottos: “Find a Way or Make One” and “Culture For Service”. Those two mottos represented my life and what I wanted to continue to pursue in adulthood. To me, there was nothing not to love.
2. Are you uncomfortable being one of few Latinas?
I got this question a lot during my college search. I was never concerned about being the one of few at any college, PWI or HBCU, because it was going to be my reality anywhere. However. this question would make me uncomfortable alone because it would disconnect me from other Latinas on campus who share the same culture as me, just not the same complexion. It was as though the question was framed with an underlying question of comfortability around skin tone. I was never worried about being the one of “few” and I would not ever attend an institution for four years that would make me feel uncomfortable on that basis.
3. What are you?
Although I do get more polite versions of this question, this is the version that is most frequently asked. To this question and all of it’s variations I answer: I am Puerto Rican. Within being Puerto Rican our ancestry is a mix of Taino (the indigenous people of many Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico), Spanired as in from Spain, and African. With that being said, I identify as Puerto Rican and understand full that my physical appearence does not attribute or eqivulate to being visbily black or expeirence the black plight. However I work to acknowelge all aspects of my ancestreal/cultural background and advocate for said communties.
These somewhat awkward conversations rooted by said questions never disrupted my year or made me want to compromise my presence on campus. Sometimes people think HBCU and all black student body instead of majority, while that is not wrong it almost creates a divide because there is little to no expectations for other people of color to attend HBCUs. This is a hindrance as it fails to realize the true benefit of an HBCU education. My first year at Clark taught me a lot more about my ethnicity and its entities with blackness more than any other source of education I have received. Moreover, there is no sense of isolation or uncomfortablity and other people of color need to not fear that upon engaging in their own college search.
College is a 1/1 experience that you get to personalize. To me, your college experience should be centered around growth and therefore your choice of college should reflect what you want to grow into and fully aid you through that process. Overall I knew Clark Atlanta University would be that place for me. CAU is a place where my cultural values and ideologies for the future intertwine, making it my worthwhile college experience. That is what anyone looking into college should follow. It is not about how many people on your campus look like you, it is about how that campus and everything within it will help you thrive.