OPINION: Talking about Latinx/Hispanic college experience

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The college experience can be daunting for those who feel as though, they do not fit the traditional college student mold. (Illustration by Galadriel Gross)

I am a second generation Mexican American and the first woman in my family to attend a four-year university. 

The University of Arizona has ethnically diverse people of various ethnicities, and the experiences aren’t the same, especially for a woman of color. 

Being a woman of color, I am held to a different standard than someone whose family has been college-educated for generations. My family has not had the same opportunities as families that have been here for generations.

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According to Valeria Estrada from Texas Woman’s University, “Hispanic women have not had an equal opportunity to education, but without evidence, this claim bears no weight. Evidence for this claim comes in many forms, one of which is discrimination."

I remembered the culture shock I felt walking to my classes the first day at the UA. I rarely saw anyone with my ethnic background, and it made me feel out of place and isolated. I felt as if I didn’t fit into the mold of the standard university student, and there was no one to guide me through it all. I am the oldest out of five and have parents who did not know how to start the college process, so I had to guide myself and eventually, my younger siblings. 

In a lot of cases similar to mine, this is a transformative experience that is more strenuous than that of the average young woman being dropped off to explore her beginning of adulthood. The adulthood that I was yet to experience made me question everything about myself and why I had to go through this alone. 

As I met other Latinx/Hispanic women, they often tell me about trying to not put yourself too much out there because people would simply not understand. I’ve seen in one particular incident where a good friend of mine dropped out due to the lack of support on campus and at home. I often hid from the crowds and tried to not stand out in the slightest. The independence of adulthood came with an overwhelming amount of insecurity that was rooted in being an outsider on campus. 

In an article from GBH news, Devin Karambelas wrote, “College is a transformative experience for any young adult, but it carries a special resonance for Latina women ... encountering that kind of independence on a college campus — where in most cases women of color are already seriously underrepresented.” 

It was a lot of pressure on me and I felt alone in the beginning. But as time went on, the “college experience” got a lot better as I stopped worrying about being different. 

Women who came before me gave me this opportunity and I embraced it.

I valued myself and stopped putting myself down. I found that the smallest reminders of my heritage helped me get through insecurity, whether it was a woman like me or even a plate of traditional Mexican food near campus. Somewhere in me, I understood that hiding who I am prevented me from going forth in the world to create the person I wanted to be.

I am a senior now, and the last four years were difficult. My experience on campus as a Latinx/Hispanic woman has made me who I am. This experience that was handed to me and other Latinx/Hispanic women on campus strengthened us.


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Alexzandria Martinez

Alexzandria (she/her) is a senior majoring in journalism and minoring in psychology. She loves writing about music and playing guitar. In her free time she enjoys reading and spending time with her sisters.


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