As I worked as an orientation adviser this past summer, I came across quite a few students of color who were culture-shocked as they entered into a predominantly white space for the first time. I couldn’t help but resonate with their nerves as I was just in their position last year. For tips on how to tackle your first year, check out the keys below.
Don’t be afraid to speak to upperclassmen of color
We want to meet and connect with you all. We understand the most what you all are currently experiencing — we got y’all. The Black, Latinx and Asian communities are willing to embrace and mentor the new generation of young leaders. When connecting with upperclassmen, you will be linked to jobs, internships and leadership positions on and off campus, gain life experience and expand your social network.
Use everything and everyone as a resource
At Binghamton University, there’s an abundance of resources at your disposal, such as résumé-building, finding jobs and internships at the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, connecting with professors and academic counselors, resident assistants of color in your residential communities, tutoring, financial literary events and the Student Association. These are all resources that you pay for, so put them to use. College is much more than academics. The most important skills you will learn are outside of the classroom.
You earned your seat at the table
Don’t let anyone’s ignorance distract you from what you’re destined to achieve. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. If someone says you don’t belong here, trust me: you do. You put in the hard work to earn your seat at the table. We all had someone who doubted us and told us we weren’t good enough. But no matter the circumstance, we persevered and proved them all wrong, so continue to keep that same energy. Prioritize your time. Your academics should always come first. You earned your seat, so now you have to work hard to keep it.
Not everyone is your friend
You will meet new people every day, and at times, you might not even remember their names. However, it’s immensely important to understand that not everyone has your best interest at heart. Some people are only your friend because you benefit them. In life, people will use you until they have no need for you. So be aware of who you hang out with. If you feel that someone is bringing you down, don’t just cut them off. You deserve the same genuine care and respect that you give to others. Remember who you are and always know your worth.
Keep your mental health in check
College will get rough at times, whether you’re having a hard time in a class or dealing with family issues back home. It’s important to know that it’s OK if you need help; it doesn’t make you weak. The University Counseling Center has counselors that specialize in helping students of color. If you don’t feel comfortable going to counseling, make sure you utilize your friends or someone you trust as an outlet to unpack your emotional baggage. Build bonds with others and hold each other accountable for maintaining a healthy mentality.
Support each other
We only have strength in numbers, so supporting each other is tremendously essential. If you see someone doing something good, compliment them on it. Reassurance makes people feel really good.
Go to the multicultural student organizations’ general body meetings and events
BU caters to about 100 cultural student organizations. Within these student clubs, you have the opportunity to celebrate your culture, become a leader on an executive board and meet a lot of people. You’ll experience everything from fashion shows, to banquets and food that will remind you of home, to trap karaoke.
Understand that you don’t have the same luxury as your white counterparts
Remember that you are a person of color first, no matter who you surround yourself with. Don’t feel that you have to assimilate to the white power dynamic just to fit in. Also, be wise about the choices you make. If you go out to a party, don’t act wild and be a fool because historically, time and time again, we have seen the unequal treatment of individuals due to their pigmentation, so beware and stay safe.
Enjoy this new chapter
You worked so hard to get here; celebrate it. As you begin your new journey, there will be good times and bad times. The hard truth is in life, you’re going to fail, you will make mistakes and bad things will happen. Life will punch you in the face. But when it happens, don’t you dare give up. You pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes and keep going no matter what. You use what knocked you down to motivate you to get you to where you want to be. All of these experiences will help you grow. Your freshman year will be full of adventure. Just remember to maintain your peace, stay focused and stay up.