As you enter college, one of the first things everyone tells you is that college is going to be the best four years of your life. But news flash: that’s not the case for everyone.
Coming into college as a freshman,I was fed the narrative that Williams was diverse and inclusive and that I would feel a sense of community here. When my experiences failed to align with that narrative, I felt like I was doing college wrong.
I never once felt as though I truly belonged at Williams—I burned off half my hair freshman year in an effort to fit in and feel beautiful; I have had professors openly state their presumption that I was failing classes; I have left friend group after friend group because I felt that I was disrespected due to my skin color; in my classes I have even had multiple instructors consistently pay more attention to students from “certain” backgrounds. Though none of these experiences have been positive and all have failed to align with the narrative I was given about Williams, they, nonetheless, have come to deeply shape my understanding of my place at Williams and my sense of belonging here.
This is not to say, though, that I have not had positive experiences at Williams. I have been offered a one-of-a-kind educational experience, the opportunity for economic mobility, access to a supportive and strong alumni network, and opportunities that far exceed what can be explained here. For these reasons and many more, I am eternally grateful for being offered the educational opportunity to study at Williams.
This is to say, though, that my experiences at Williams have not been solely or overwhelmingly positive. The isolation and the lack of belonging I constantly feel here cannot and should not be overshadowed simply by the fact that “Williams is a good education.” This is also to say that other students at Williams often feel just as ostracized and alienated as I do, but because their Williams experiences do not fit into the right box, they are invalidated.
My entire point here is to say that whether students’ experiences align or fail to align with the given narrative of college as the best four years of their lives, we should recognize that there is not only one college experience—there are many. We should equally accept and value all students’ experiences. Because all experiences, negative and positive, should equally empower us all to see Williams for what it truly is and for what we want it to become.