A Semester in Review
I decided to wait until the middle/ near end of winter break to write this piece. I was so fried from my first round of finals, I was afraid my whole article would be about that slice of hell. I wanted to have a fresh, unbiased look at my first college freshman semester, so here we are.
So the question I wanted to answer was “Has my being mixed had an impact on my college experience?”
Short answer: ehhhhh sorta
Being mixed is a facet of my worldview. It permeates everything I do. My past experiences of microaggressions and identity crises led me to become hesitant in my interactions with others. Despite my great advice on dealing with microaggressions, I still get pretty anxious about others’ perception of me because of my race. Will they not like me for being mixed? Will I be fetishized for my race*? Those are some of the fears I had going into my first semester.
Being black and white, I was less apprehensive about having a white roommate than some of my friends were. I was still a little worried, though. (Luckily, my roommate is literally the best. Ever.) But that goes with having a roommate in general. Everyone worries about whether or not they'll get along, if they'll be close, if they have some crazy sleep schedule. Race does play a role in that.
I was hesitant in joining the Caribbean Student Association. I was worried they’d see me as “not Jamaican enough,” “diet Jamaican,” or, “2% Caribbean.” Luckily, during the first week of the semester, there was an expo called Freshcon, which gathered the black student unions, African student association, and the Caribbean student association. They were super welcoming, and it turns out I already knew someone in the CSA. I’ve only gone to a handful of the meetings, thanks to my social anxiety and introversion, but when I went, it was pretty nice.
There’s so many different kinds of people at UMD, all from different places and all having different worldviews. While most of them have been great and friendly, there are also some that get on my last nerve. Among the anarchists, Trump supporters, and “all lives matter”-ists, I’ve had it just about up to here. (Picture me holding my hand way above my head)
Here’s my advice if you’re mixed, or know someone who is, and you’re going to college.
1. Have an open mind.
No, I'm not suggesting you go into every situation thinking everyone is a great person and all ideas are special and important. What I'm suggesting is that you don't go full pessimist, which is easy in a college setting. If you're meeting new people, don't assume the worst. Don't assume the best, either. Just be open and receptive. Why is this important? If you're closing yourself off to the people around you, you're limiting your opportunities. You're cutting off people that could potentially play a big role in your life. That girl you meet in line at the dining hall has the potential to be your next best friend. Or she could be that girl you met in the dining hall and only spoke to once. You'll never know if you don't try! Which leads me to my second point,
2. Try new things.
I’m going to admit, I barely tried anything new my first semester. Someone’s advice to me was “Going to college park, you need to get out of your comfort zone, otherwise you’ll be stuck in a routine of going to class and going to your dorm room.” They were right, and I didn’t listen to them. I went to a couple CSA meetings, passed up a lot of party invitations, and barely got involved with anything. Why? I’m literally the most awkward person ever (example A) and I’m scared of everything. The one time i decided to swallow my anxiety, I went to a meeting for UNWIND, a UMD based magazine. It wasn't this totally redeeming experience where I suddenly gained all the confidence in the world. I sat by myself, talked to a couple people, took two writing assignments, and went back to my room. The end. It was a small step, and I was pretty proud of myself. After that, I applied for a writing position at College Magazine, and that turned out to be a good choice. That position now forces me to create interesting and original content, call my editor weekly, and go to monthly chapter meetings. It’s a slow step towards becoming more social, and it works great for me. (Side Note: My boyfriend Carter is great, because he forces me to interact with other people, but he’ll also spend a whole day with me binge-watching Lost. Best of both worlds.) Stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying new things allows you to learn more about yourself while also making friends along the way.
3. Be confident.
This is another one of those "better said than done" advices. I wasn't confident when I went to the UNWIND meeting. I wasn't confident at Freshcon. I wasn't even confident going into my classes. My best advice would be to fake it till you make it. Force yourself to be that confident person. Before I do something that forces me to be social, I picture confident people doing the same thing. Would Beyonce be afraid to go to this meeting? Would Michelle Obama be scared about this class? (Side Note: See how important representation is?) After picturing confident people in my shoes, I feel a lot more confident. Faking it till you make it isn't one of those "conceal don't feel" lines. It really works. The more you imagine that you're that confident, the easier it becomes to actually do it.
*hint at my next article. :)