Before actually attending Harvard, I had many expectations and preconceived notions of what I would gain from being a student at Harvard. I expected to gain a worthwhile education, connections with groundbreaking professionals, and access to incredible research opportunities.
Going into my senior year of college, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my expectations and experiences here. Just as I expected, I have had three (going on four) incredible years interacting with phenomenal people, gaining incredible experiences, and overall growing as a student. Through my reflection, I also realized that there are so many things that I didn’t expect to gain from my time at Harvard that I did. These are as follows -
- My People: While I knew I would make friends throughout college, I never imagined how pivotal these individuals would become in my life. I have met my friends in many places - my first year pre orientation program (FYRE), my random roommate assignment first year, classes, clubs, and my upperclassman house. Despite meeting them all in random places, we have formed a unique bond that extends beyond shared interest and resembles a family-like bond. They are my biggest supporters, and they bring endless amounts of laughter, smiles, and joy into my life. Together we have grown into adulthood, and we will embrace the next steps in our lives together. They are the individuals that will be a part of every big decision and occasion in my life post graduation, and I will be a part of theirs. I am so eternally grateful to Harvard for bringing us together.
- Travel Opportunities: Prior to college, I had never even been to the east coast of the United States, let alone traveled out of the country. Almost four years later, I have seen more of the world than I imagined I would, and it is all thanks to Harvard. Through Harvard Mignone Center for Career Success, Harvard Summer School, and Harvard’s Chapter of MEDLife I have had the opportunity to travel to Madrid, Spain, Riobamba, Ecuador, and Coimbra and Lisbon, Portugal. By providing international educational opportunities and supporting students through funding, Harvard has supported me in broadening my horizons through experiencing the world's first hand. Harvard also encouraged me to explore outside my comfort zone and travel more on my own. Now I can proudly say I have been to 8 countries, with many more to come.
- Personal Growth: Coming from a small, rural town in West Texas, I had not had many experiences that many of my peers had by the time we started college. This made me timid in many aspects of my life at Harvard during my first year. During classes, I was shy to speak up or ask for help, I was nervous to try new things, and I was unsure of how I fit into Harvard. A large part of this was due to imposter syndrome, the feeling of not belonging at Harvard because of my background. However, the more that I interacted with my peers, especially those in the Latinx spaces, the faster I realized that this is a common experience. While there was some initial discomfort, I quickly found my footing by embracing my Latinidad and my Latinx community. Through these organizations, I gained leadership opportunities that helped me to rediscover my voice and how I can use it on campus and beyond. In many ways, I am still the same person who first stepped foot at Harvard, but Harvard's community has helped me foster those skills I already had and become who I am today.
I have come to realize that Harvard is much more than just an academic institution. While I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities and education Harvard has provided me with, I am even more thankful for the people and experiences it has given me. It truly has been a transformative experience.