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Terrified, I quickly punched in my student ID number and let the machine scan my hand before entering the gym. In all honesty, I did not want to be there; I was especially wary about the class I was going to take. The UCR’s Recreation Center offers a variety of free classes to its students and some dorm mates had convinced me to go with them. They had decided to go to Zumba, a fast-paced, dance-based class that, to me, sounded like one hundred ways to embarrass myself.  

[bf_image id="5v3qqz3zg677tsg3pm3qss"] As we entered the room I noticed it was pretty packed and music with a catchy beat was the accompaniment to the mild chatter from other gym goers. A girl who I immediately knew was the instructor was in the corner wearing a pink shirt that read “Zumba” as she looked through her phone, probably getting the playlist ready. Suddenly, she clapped her hands together and announced the start of class. She went over the moves and then started to play music. I was mortified as I saw the front row dance seamlessly on time, while I kept almost tripping over my own feet. However, the instructor was motivating, telling us to keep going and then she moved from the front stage to where the students were. She danced with us and encouraged us; although I was still embarrassed, I kept at it. By the end of the class I felt amazing as I realized people were focused on nailing the moves rather than looking at others. I was also in a supportive environment. 

[bf_image id="bhnmk3cwrv7t39ngm4rpq936"] This led to me attending more and more zumba classes. At first I was still embarrassed by what I deemed risque movements and because there were mirrors capturing our every move. However, it was also exhilarating learning the steps and watching myself get better. I was able to begin to embrace my body and my femininity which have always been things I struggled with. It also helped that everyone was supportive and the instructors always seemed to be having a blast. Zumba has been one of my best experiences because not only was it good for my physical health, but it also allowed for me to embrace myself and become more confident in who I am.

Paulina Herrera

UC Riverside '22

Paulina Herrera is a junior at UC Riverside studying English. She has spent her time refining her skills as an art director intern for The Naked Magazine and as an intern for The Art Collection, NY. When she is not working on her art or writing you can find her reading copious amounts of comics and books or attending conventions.
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