Guest post by Adan Gonzalez: Leaving to D.C.

Adan was our intern at iNSPIRE! last summer and he was kind enough to come back and write this post for us about his first impressions of college, well done Adan!

At the beginning of my senior year in high school, I was determined to attend Georgetown University. Growing up in an unstable household with three brothers and being raised by hard a working custodian father and a mail clerk mother, I knew that the only chance I had to pursue a higher education was to earn scholarship money. So I applied to over twenty scholarships with the thought that they would pay my way. For me (and for many teenagers) there was never another option but scholarships. 

Ever since I can remember money has been an obstacle at my house. I had to start working at ten to help my parents buy my own school uniforms selling movies at a local flea market. The money I made went to help support my parents and siblings. There was nothing left to put aside for school for me. The only reason my father allowed me to go to DC to study was because I was offered a full ride. I was convinced that I would not pay anything since I won numerous scholarships, but I was very wrong! The expenses of being a college student were astronomical and to make my college experience a bit more intense, money was not my only concern. I never realized how attached I was to my family. 

I grew up in Oak Cliff, the soul of Dallas. I graduated from W.H Adamson High School, which is made up of 96% Hispanic students and the majority of those Hispanic students have Mexican roots. I am the first in my family to receive a 4-year university education.  It was a challenge to prepare myself for college because no one in my family had a clue of what was needed for a dorm. I began to seek advice and recommendations on what to take, and everyone seemed to mention “clothes, laptop, toiletries, and something that reminds you of home.”  My mom is from Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, the only thing she handed me to take (in tears) were three Saints: La Virgen de Guadalupe, La Virgen de San Juan and Jesus Christ. My father, the person I am with most of the time (besides my girlfriend), for the first time did not have any words of wisdom to tell me. He just hugged me and I felt his tears roll down his dark cheeks. It has been the hardest good-bye of my life.  

I left for school early to take a summer course. Georgetown paid for my transportation and that was great, but I only had $160.00 to pay for any extras during my 4 weeks there. Unfortunately, at the airport I had to give more than half of that to pay for my only bag since it was overweight. From that moment, I realized that I was on my own. My papi y mami were no longer by my side. Mis hermanos were no longer near me. It was hard and I cried. I am a boxer with no fear about taking a punch, but I have to admit I was scared. As I walked through the jet way to the plane I knew that my home would never be the same. I was on my way to college to finish off my family’s American Dream and help them live a better life. But at that moment, I felt like I was losing them.  

As I arrived at Georgetown, I stood and stared at the campus. My first reaction… Well, no, I had no reaction. I just stood and stared… stood and stared… for an eternity it seemed like. My new school looked like Hogwarts from Harry Potter. Ironically once I came back to reality, I smiled and came to the conclusion my dream had finally begun. Soon, without even knowing it, I began keeping a diary of the time I spent at Georgetown. It wasn’t a cute little book, but something called Facebook. For one reason or another, everything I did or felt would end up as an update of my status or be uploaded as pictures. And to be honest I discovered it to be a remedy for my homesickness, at least with my friends. Not only would I receive supportive comments on my status updates or postings on my wall motivating me to keep on pushing, but also I felt like I was making a difference in my community by leaving home. Facebook allowed me to feel like I was in Dallas at times. I knew what friends were doing, so I knew that the only thing I was not taking part of in my city was the record breaking hot temperatures. Facebook allowed me to stay connected more than ever, but it just wasn’t enough. 

I took it day by day. Every moment in class was a challenge. I know I am smart and a great student but it was unbelievably hard to compete and understand some of the words used by my professors and classmates alike. Even though I was born in the United States, my first language was Spanish and it shows in my writing. Most of the feedback that I received was that I write the way I speak. I am playing a constant game of catch up with my country’s language, but at the same time I go home and have to communicate with my family in the only language they know: el español.

The stress of trying to succeed in class made me miss my family even more. I do not want to disappoint them. And that pressure was something not even Facebook could fix. Hearing the voices of my family throughout the day made me feel good, but it wasn’t enough either. I was grateful for technology because it allowed me to webcam with my parents and siblings, and that made all the difference in the world. The first day I Skyped with my parents, tears was what I saw, but after several days those tears transformed into smiles.  Being able to see my family through a screen made it so much easier to study, to focus. My little brother who is eight years old took it upon himself to grab the computer and call me himself and that gave me the strength to make it. Although I was hundreds of miles away, technology made me feel close to home. 

Soon I discovered I was not alone; all the Latinos I met at Georgetown had the same feelings I had. Everyone missed home. Every Latino that I met was tired of burgers because every Latino wanted a home cooked meal of beans and rice. The great part about the Latinos I met was that we connected, even if none of them were of Mexican descent like me. Many were from the República Dominicana, El Salvador, Trinidad y Tobago, Colombia and the list goes on and on. It was amazing that we were all heart broken Latino teens, but we managed to make a family with each other to fight the homesickness.

6 comments

1 Gerardo Reyes { 08.24.11 at 3:18 am }

As I sit here and read Adan’s story, I can’t help but shed tears. I should already be used to reading his stories because I was by his side for 4 years at W. H. Adamson. I’m beggining to realize everything comes with the decision of attending college. I can’t say I have an idea of what he felt after being so far away from home, since I will only be half an hour away from my parents. But I can sort of understand how college plays a big role within your family. It’s a time of mixed emotions such as happiness, excitement, gratitude, anxiety and sadness and many more. As Adan mentioned, you begin to notice how attached you really are to your family. As we grow older and more mature we begin to think that moving away from home is an easy task but once that time comes you realize how much you really depend on your family. I have spoken to Adan and I have asked him for advice on how to make my time at UTA a great success and how to deal with the distance between home, since I too will only see my family during holidays. I believe that with the advice he has given me, my time in college will be a great success. Adan has always been there for me, he is always watching over me and I am very thankful for that. I love him like a brother and admire him for the person that he is, I can truly say he is one of my biggest role models. Thanks for always being there for me Adan.

2 Sheila Lemon { 08.24.11 at 11:59 am }

Wow – thanks for sharing the story and snapshot of life. Very powerful and insightful with the emotions, the reality and the success of the story. What technology has done to change our lives!

3 Fernando Soledad { 10.02.11 at 8:51 pm }

Inetresting, I felt in that way when i went to USA for 28 days, with my granma and me, I was always translating everything for her, felt away from my parents… only by phone i could contact them, wasn’t easy to be there, to have different backgrounds, different pronunciation, I still having some fluency troubles and spanglish problem i used to say “cut the grass” instead of “mow the lawn” etc… then I came back to Mexico, but I’m considering to come back there, during those days I realized that I’m to so far away from their culture, I missed tacos, pozole, birria, etc. But I always enjoyed other types of food, Armenian, Japanese, Brazilian, Mexican of course, Chinese, French. So I can handle it.

4 Adriana Jaquez { 10.03.11 at 2:14 am }

I think this story was really intersitng because of the situation Adan’s in.
I realized all the things that come with going to college, and its more difficult for latinos that live in USA because they get to see their families only in holidays and they have to leave their way of living.

5 Everardo Palomino { 10.03.11 at 7:23 am }

Hi! I’m studing Business in a private school in Mexico and I’d like to congratulate Adan for being brave enough to face up this problem.
I must say that in a certain way, I feel identified with this story because someday I’d like to study in another country but I’m afraid of going through this situation. I’m afraid of missing my family, my country and my friends as Adan did. I need to convince myself that I’m no kid anymore and that some day I’ll have to take this step.

I am glad to hear about this kind of Latinos stories and I’m really impressed with the way that technology can link us up with everyone in the world no matter how we are.

6 Sandra { 06.19.12 at 5:12 pm }

Hi Adan, congrats for your post. Your history has impressed me and I admire all your achievements, because even if you are away from your family you have been searching ways to be in communication with them. Also, I admire the effort that you do to persuit your goals and your dreams. You are an example for those who are in the same position as you. Keep doing what you are doing and never give up to accomplish your dreams.

Leave a Comment