As I weighed my choices for college I had the option to go to a HBCU (Historically Black College or University) where I knew that I would be able to turn the corner and see faces just like mine no matter what, but I chose a small catholic school with a predominately white population instead. So like many other students of different racial minorities I had a lot of fears about attending a school where I would not be able to see many other people who looked like me. Still fears and all I believe I have found some of the best ways to combat these fears and look forward to starting in the fall.
One of the first and most obvious fears that I experienced was not being able to find other students who looked like me. As a friend of mine once said “I know I can find some Snow Whites, but I don’t expect to be seeing many other Princess Tiana’s.” If this is something that you’re fearing, I’m sorry to say this but you probably will not be seeing many “Princess Tiana’s,” but the good thing is I can help you find them. Your school should have a department for multi-cultural affairs. Multi-cultural affair departments host a plethora of events during the school year and summer which will give you the opportunity to meet other people like you and people who are not so that you get a chance to make a plethora of diverse friends. Some of these events are just for a day, but some can be an overnight weekend experience where you’ll have a chance to see what kind of long lasting friendships that you’ll be able to build.
Still, even better than a weekend program, many schools offer summer programs through their multi-cultural affair departments fo
r incoming freshman to apply to. These programs are highly competitive and often times offer a chance for you to take a college course, sometimes credited, in order to get adjusted to the college experience. Within these programs you’ll not only be able to get a taste of what college courses will be like, but living in the dorms for an extended period of time, making sure you eat balanced meals (rather than pizza 14 times a week), and if you haven’t begun yet, doing laundry on your own. What’s cool about programs like these is that you’ll be spending time with a small amount of people and you’ll be able to find a family of people who you can spend the next four years with. Despite all of the racial and gender differences you will be able to find people who have experienced similar situations as you and it will make you closer as a family.
Another fear you may have is not knowing how to address insensitivity that occurs in school. I have heard stories from some of my older relatives that when they got to college they met people who had never seen a black person in real life before. As hard as that may be for some of you to believe, it is true for some people. In response to this you have to take a step back and assume the best of people. If they continue to say hurtful things it is okay to take a moment and speak to them privately about it. It’s important that you do it privately as possible because if you do it in front of their friends there is a chance they’ll try to show off and not listen to what you’re trying to say to them. While this may not always work out the way you planned it to, often times taking the time to talk to people will get them to be honest and understanding and can cause change within them that they will hopefully bring back to their own circle of friends.
So as you go into one of the most defining experiences of your life I say to take your fear with a grain of salt. To yourself say things like “So what?!” Yes, you may be one of the few people of your race, socio-economic status, sexuality, or gender on campus but now you’re there and if people are not going to accept you then it is their problem. Don’t be afraid to branch out and join organizations that have strong support groups because they will help you to be more confident in who you are. Despite all the potential fears go for it, take the campus by surprise and make the best out of your years there.