My educational path was never easy. A heaviness, something I could never fully describe, plagued my high school years. I didn’t know what achievement and pride felt like, so I’d never pursued them. There was just too much material, and the overstimulation constantly shut down my mind. I found myself in a never-ending hole of unfinished and seemingly unattainable schoolwork. I felt close to drowning.
Not only were my grades suffering, the lack of encouragement from my supposed “mentors” harmed my academic performance. School repeatedly placed me with the teachers and counselors with the lowest expectations for students — myself included. My high school years were bombarded with whispers about my peers and me ending up as a gas station worker or a McDonald’s employee, as if these positions are the ideal symbol of a failed life. Side note, they are not. No matter how much those who were meant to encourage us attempted to mask these low expectations, I always felt the condescending tone oozing out of their comments. “Maybe a four year university isn’t for you, just go to junior college instead.”
So that’s exactly what I did.
My high school years did not prepare me for a four year university — besides, I doubted my grades would’ve gotten me into any. I was filled to the brim with so much self-doubt and insecurity that I didn’t even think I was good enough for any UC or CSU school. So, I applied to my local community college.
Even so, my first year in college wasn’t the best. The thoughts and comments from high school still loomed over me. Since I had never experienced proper encouragement, I believed that I couldn’t do any better than my current state. While academic probation did scare me enough to strive to do better, it wasn’t enough to make me want to do better.
It wasn’t until I met my first genuinely encouraging professors that I felt like I could do and be whatever I wanted. One professor began class with words of affirmation, telling us what we were doing was good work. Another dedicated time and effort to improving my writing and making me believe my work was good.
I’d never experienced this before. For the first time, the “bad student” label that was unwillingly given to me no longer dragged me down.
When I finally recognized that I was capable of good things and was no longer burdened with unkind words and life’s obstacles, I found a drastic change not only in my academics but in myself. I felt confident in my achievements, like I could strive for more. I worked incredibly hard my following two years of community college and got into one of the best schools in the nation.
If it weren’t for my professors in community college, I would’ve never gained these forms of self-confidence, sense of accomplishment and drive. They helped to push me into seeing the greatness I had within myself. I wouldn’t be at UC Berkeley if I’d never decided to go to a community college first, and I always have immense pride in my status as a transfer student.
I owe a lot of my success to the journey that took me to UC Berkeley, and I don’t regret a single step I took to make it here.