When I was a sophomore in high school, I traveled from Colombia, my home country, to Germany for a semester abroad. While there, I wished to start my college education in the United States so I could have the opportunity to learn about journalism from a different perspective than the one I would get at home.
While I have family in Germany, the U.S. was a completely unknown place, which both scared and intrigued me.
However, my vision was very clear: I wanted to learn in a city full of art, culture and history and go to a big school with a good journalism program. My goal is to become a great journalist and highlight polarization and social injustice in Colombian society. The U.S. was the perfect place to pursue my dreams because I know freedom of the press is essential to American democracy.
I started working hard to achieve this dream by building a strong resume for my college application. I organized a marathon to help communities affected by COVID-19, started a tutoring program, joined the school’s orchestra and earned outstanding grades to increase my chances of studying in the U.S.
On Nov. 25, 2021, I received an acceptance letter from Temple University. During our last day of high school celebrations, I didn’t waste any time sharing the news with anyone that would listen, but I wasn’t ready to fully commit to attending Temple.
Everyone was happy for me, and it wasn’t until I was alone in my bed that night, that I started to think of the negatives of moving to the states. Concerns of discrimination started to terrify me. In the U.S., immigrants can face harassment for not knowing English, having different features or darker skin and crossing the border.
Every other day, I saw news of Latin people, especially women, getting harassed or even assaulted across the U.S. I never imagined I’d get the chance to go to college in America, but now having the opportunity, I was afraid of being a Latin woman exposed to brand new things in a big city with no one to rely on.
I was also discouraged by the many steps I’d need to complete before coming to Temple because of my experiences with other college admission processes. Some schools required SAT scores and offered limited scholarships, making it seem impossible to apply without assistance.
In January 2022, I got an email from Temple’s International Student Affairs office about a webinar for new students and, even though I was nervous about taking the next step, I signed up.
I remember every single detail of that day. I was shaking when I opened the link, and I had a blue notebook filled with questions I thought I’d be too scared to ask and was ready to take notes as if they were going to quiz us at the end.
Instead, I was surprised to find that the office answered all my questions about the admissions process. Their helpfulness was one of the main reasons I chose to attend Temple.
The office became the support system I needed while learning to navigate the U.S. without family. They understood how hard it was to start fresh in a new country, which made me feel seen, and advised me on how to choose health insurance and to bring pictures of family and friends, so we wouldn’t feel homesick.
However, I was still concerned. The help of a community didn’t inherently mean I wouldn’t face prejudice because of where I’m from.
So, with the May 1 decision day approaching, I needed to make a choice: I could stay home, not deal with any of my concerns but miss out on my dream, or I could go to a new country completely alone and vulnerable but in pursuit of my goals.
I decided I couldn’t give up my dream for any reason. I wouldn’t have been able to forgive myself if I missed all the good experiences that studying abroad could bring me out of fear of discrimination. The opportunity to grow as a person, begin my professional career and create good memories outweighed the idea of possibly having a bad experience.
During my first month at Temple, I found amazing friends and experienced new things. I tried fried Oreos — a food I never knew existed — and biked around the city for the first time.
I ate the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life from Philly Style Pizza and Grill right in front of my dorm and got the chance to go to the recording of a TV show called The Feed at Night through the Klein College of Media and Communication.
Even if I’ve dealt with some inappropriate comments, nothing serious has happened. While it hurts to have to always be aware that something worse could happen, like getting harassed, I’m happy to be in the U.S., getting closer to becoming a journalist.
Sometimes I can’t believe that I’m really here and need to remind myself that because I faced my fears and took a risk, I’m finally able to chase my dreams and I know my 15-year-old self would be over-the-moon knowing that her fantasies are now a reality.