A year ago today, I was in my bedroom, in the midst of submitting my college applications, much like many other high school students. But for me, the situation was different. The stakes were much higher. I was and am undocumented. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get into any college and be able to afford it because of my status. I was bitter, anxious, and desperate. I had done my utmost in high school to ensure that I could attend a college that would both challenge and grow my intellect, but it seemed as if my efforts were all for naught because of a single factor that was beyond my control. I had applied to 29 colleges because of my concerns at the time. I didn’t know if I would be going to college, and a part of me even thought that I would not receive a higher education because of my status. Well, that was not the case.
I am sitting in the same place that I was at last year, but I can definitely say that my situation has improved. I was obviously accepted to a college (one that’s not too shabby, if I do say so myself), and my life went better than I possibly could have imagined. I say this not only because I was accepted to an extraordinary university; I say this because I believe that I am attending the university that will result in the most personal growth in me. I did not have much of a choice when selecting which university to attend. I was only accepted to the University of Notre Dame, and while I was excited to attend, I felt as though “fitting in” and finding my place would be a considerable challenge. I knew that I would be different from the average student, and I felt as though my Indian heritage and my religious background as a Hindu would make “fitting in” challenging.
My acceptance letter - I was relieved and excited!
Well, it was. It was challenging, eye-opening, and at times painfully alienating. But, in the end, I do believe that I have found my place at Notre Dame, and I am grateful for this. However, I am more thankful for the growth of my emotional intelligence that resulted from the difficulties of discovering my place. This emotional growth that I experienced can easily be related to the Five Pillars of Holy Cross: Mind, Heart, Zeal, Family, and Hope.
My group at the Asian American Retreat
The mental development needed to adapt to my new environment called for growth of the Mind because of the empathy needed to understand the backgrounds of my peers. The decisions, actions, and interactions I participated in required empathy that came from the pillar of the Heart. The initiative required to actively speak to new individuals and make friendships called for Zeal. Discussing my religion and learning about Catholicism with others helped break down what I perceived to be a barrier in the creating of friendships and developed the pillar of Hope. And, lastly, I was finally able to truly relate to the pillar of Family after finding my social niche. I believe that I have made friends that I can rely on both in my dorm, Keenan, and throughout campus.
Meeting the mayor of South Bend with the Balfour-Hesburgh Scholars
I hope that the integration pieces that follow this introduction reflect my personal growth in the manner described above. I plan on using these experiences as the foundation for my future at Notre Dame and beyond. In my first semester, I have learned to adapt both academically and, more importantly, socially. This was a result of rooting my experiences in the Five Pillars of Holy Cross, and the connection I developed to these pillars ensures that the growth I have experienced will remain with me for a lifetime.