Future students of color: I was once where you are

Now You See Me

Dear prospective student,

I saw you today, having lunch with your mother in Cook dining hall, silently.

Today is Admitted Student Visit Day, so it wasn’t unusual that I ran into you when I did. Or was it? I feel as though the universe may have placed me there at that moment.

The stars aligned just correctly for this moment to happen. Because you see, prospective student, in that moment when we briefly made eye contact, I saw something.

I saw fear and uncertainty, but I also saw something beautiful. I can’t describe it. I can’t put it on paper, this limited outlet to place powerful thoughts. In your eyes, prospective student, I saw myself.

I saw myself when I was in your shoes, when I was a prospective student touring campus for the first time – shy, afraid and anxious. I saw your mother and in her I saw my mother. Powerful, strong, loving, afraid for her daughter.

I saw your chocolate brown skin and bright brown eyes, and I looked at my chocolate skin and bright brown eyes. I saw your bags and I saw my luggage.

My mother and I traveled 10 or more hours by Greyhound for my Admitted Student Visit Day because it was too expensive to fly into Burlington. It was a long trip that I didn’t want to force my mother to take but she made the decision to go because she knew how much I wanted this.

She knew how much I wanted this dream, this opportunity, and I just had to see it for myself before I committed. So we got on that Greyhound at 7 p.m. Sunday night to arrive at the Burlington airport at 5 a.m. the next day.

I wonder if you did the same?

Did you travel far to get here today, prospective student? Did you sacrifice sleep and comfort?

Are you a first-generation college student like me? Do your parents speak Spanish to you like mine? Did your parents immigrate to this country for you to be in this exact same moment, like mine?

Prospective student, I want to let you know that I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you for living out your dream, your parents’ dream, your community’s dream. I’m proud of you for getting to this point.

You made it. “Congratulations! I am very pleased to offer you admission to the University of Vermont.” I hope you accept our offer because we’d be so proud to have you; I’d be so proud to have you.

Yes, you will feel scared when you arrive, and even after you’ve been here for many months it will be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing.

You will feel different, an outsider, like that small chocolate stain on a clean white shirt. However, you will also feel enlightened, inspired, strong. You will feel overwhelming sadness and overwhelming joy.

It is a strange yet beautiful feeling. And, prospective student, at those times when you feel bouts of impostor syndrome, I want you to know that you deserve all your successes. You deserve all the success that you have obtained and all the opportunities coming your way.

You are not a fraud. You are not a fake. It is not because you are a student of color and someone needs to meet a diversity quota. You earned that shit! You worked hard! So go on and exude your greatness.

I want to end this letter to you, prospective student, by letting you know that you are welcome here. Your friends are welcome here. Your family members are welcome here. Members of your community are welcome here. You are here. Welcome!


Naydeline & your friends at the University of Vermont

This is the first entry of a series I’d like to called, “Now You See Me.” In this entry, I tell “my story” in the format of a letter to a prospective student I encountered today.

“Now You See Me” will be a collection of stories I gather from students of color, currently attending UVM, talking about their experiences as students of color at a predominantly white university.

The current presidential administration has been trying to further divide the American people by spreading hate and fear.

The Trump administration does not appreciate the beautiful blend of colors that is America, as seen by threats to low-income and minority communities, the immigrant population and the public education system.

Through “Now You See Me,” I want to spread the message that we are not marked by our differences, and we all experience the same things as students, as Americans, as humans. We are all members of the UVM community, and we are all here.