4 Reminders for Latinas in a PWI

Going off to college is difficult as you are moving away from the home you have been at for a majority, if not all, of your life. It is challenging as you are moving away from your parents, your pets, and sometimes even your best friends. At the same time, it is exciting because you have watched all these types of movies, read a variety of books that have told you about sorority life and choosing your major, and your family has told you what their experience was like. While this is very new for you, it is sort of familiar because you have so many people to depend on, right?

Well, for the Latinas reading this, we know this is not exactly what it is like for us. A majority of us are first-generation Latinas and are embarking this college journey for the very first time in our families. Our parents came from another country to give us a better life than they had and this includes going to college and getting nuestra educación. It is a bit different for us because if we are interested in joining sororities, we are unsure how to explain this to our parents as there is no literal translation to Spanish. Choosing a major may also be difficult because how does one explain to their parents that we can get jobs despite not being engineering, pre-med, or business majors!?

College is difficult as it is, but attending a Predominately White Institution (PWI) can be more challenging as there are not a lot of individuals that look like us, act like us, or simply have the same beliefs as us. For those who do not know, a PWI is an institution in which roughly 50 percent or more of the enrolled students are Caucasian*. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a historically PWI, the numbers are shifting each year, but in 2017, 43.44 percent are white and 9.3 percent are Hispanic**. This is a 34.14 percent difference, and it is huge. A lot of us may not feel comfortable at a PWI, but here are four reminders that will hopefully aid and inspire you!

Primero:  Know that You Belong at Your University 

You did all the work in high school - whether you were a regular, honor, AP, or IB student, you did the work. You were involved in sports, extracurricular activities or volunteering; you were at the forefront of ensuring your application looked good for when you applied for colleges. And as we all know, applying for colleges, Free Application for Federal Aid (FAFSA) or other private scholarships (if you are DACA) is very difficult, especially since most of the time, we did not have anybody to truly guide us. Our parents were unsure of why their tax returns were necessary for signing up for FAFSA and explaining it to them may have been difficult, ensuring that your college essay was intact even after reviewing it a million times, and looking for the online 3D models of what your prospective school could look like as you may have not had the money or time to visit these schools was just a bit of the process we had to do. But at the end of the day…you did all this and it was not easy. 

Do not let anybody take that from you. You belong here and you deserve to be here just as much as any other individual despite race or ethnicity. You are contributing to making your school that much more diverse and being a role model for your family members. You did that - you belong here. 

Segundo: Find and Join Organizations with Other Latinos

Surround yourself with other Latinos! This could include joining organizations, sororities, or co-ed fraternities. It may seem hard to do that, but by simply searching these clubs you can begin to meet the different Latinos on campus! At UIUC there are professional organizations that are catered toward advancing you in your studies and future career as well as rooting for you to do amazing professionally. Some of these are the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). There are also co-ed fraternities and sororities, and most of these are catered towards philanthropy. These include, but are not limited to, Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Inc., Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority Inc., and Alpha Psi Lambda National Inc. (Co-Ed). By attending some of the informational meetings for these organizations and being a part of them, one overlapping idea from each organization is their club has been their home away from home; these individuals were able to find people like them, relate to them, and succeed with them. 

Tercero: You Are Not Alone

Reiterating a prior point, a majority of us have parents that went through an arduous journey to come to the United States to give us a better life. This loosely translates to us being first-generation students. It is hard, and sometimes you may feel like you do not belong. I am here to let you know that you do and that you are not alone; most Latinas at a PWI have felt like this before. You are doing something that has never been done before and you are making history in your family line even if it may not feel like it. That is amazing! There has not been a single person in your family to have stepped on a university or college campus to receive their higher education, and you have. 

You are not alone; you are simply a little lost. That is okay, you will find your way through college and you will do phenomenal. Si puedes hacerlo y lo vas hacer.

Finalmente y Cuarto: Practice Self-Love

Better said than done, but a lot of ladies feel that they never really belong and simply feel as if they have not found their close-knit community yet. That is okay, they will find you when the time is right. In the meantime, practice finding yourself and who you are. Become friends with yourself first, and you will know what you have to offer and what you will and will not accept in your life. Through the art of self-love, you will attract what is meant to be in your life and push away it is not. And remember, you are very loved. Your ancestors, future and current family members are so proud of everything you are doing and will continue to do. Embrace your cultura, mujer!

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