Wednesday, April 1, 2009:
Today is the day of all days. Today is the day I find out if I got accepted into Duke University. What a rush! It is 8 a.m., and I run to my computer. As I open my email, I see that I have ONE message in my inbox: the senderâDUKE UNIVERSITY. Should I open it? I was bombarded with a flux of emotions. I was torn between the possible excitement of being accepted and the potential disappointment of being rejected. But I HAD to check. Here goes nothing: click... YES!!!!!! The email read:
"Dear Stephanie Amador,
Congratulations! The Admissions Committee and I take great pleasure in offering you a place in the Duke University Class of 2013â¦"
I jumped up and down. Enthusiasm radiated and oozed through my pores. I ran and told my family as they were gathered around the dining room table enjoying a rather delicious cafÃ© con leche for breakfast. âI got accepted to Duke University,â I told them. The look on their faces was indeterminate: I received some smiles and some sullen pouts. â No te vayas para Duke Stephanie. Â¡ Esta muy lejos de Miami!â Julia said to me. The expression on her face was one of helplessness. My grandmother has always been uneasy when it comes to my safety. After an eighteen-year mother-daughter relationship, my grandmother has not been able to accept the fact that I have grown up. She still sees me as this four-year-old child who would dance to Celia Cruz and draw flowers all over the walls of the house.
âAbuela, I need to pursue my own career. Just like your pursuit for better opportunities in America provided you with a liberating experience, I have to leave for college in order to obtain that same liberation,â I said to my grandmother. My grandfather and my mother, Connie, were the only ones who seemed to understand. You see, the thing with Hispanics is that family is everything. The traditional Cuban family is characterized by a strong parental control over childrenâs livesâincluding college and educational matters. If my grandmother could keep me under her wings for my entire life, she would!
As my senior year in high school came to a close, Julia began to cry at the mere thought of my departure. One night she had a dream in which she woke up with an enlivened scream: âAy, que buen idea,â she yelped as she briskly arose from an enlightening dream. Her dream had provided her with a revelationâapparently God had told her that the whole family should see me off to college. Can anyone say âÂ¿QuÃ© pasa ,USA?â Can you imagine fifteen Cubans in a small dorm room with no air conditioning?
The summer passed by swiftly. I would soon leave behind everything I knew. I would have to adapt to a new school, a new culture, and to a completely new environment. College was my symbol of liberation; college was my chance to equalize my familyâs struggles in their attempt to provide a better life for their family. I would be the first to go to college, to make a name for myself. I am my familyâs chance at a second liberation: they envision their dreams in my accomplishments. âDeseo lo mejor para ti mi niÃ±a,â my grandmother would say. She was so proud of my accomplishments now that she had realized what an honor Duke University would be.
It was the day before move in, and I felt restless. I tossed and turned in bed at night awaiting the day all teenagers look forward to: the day I would become a college student. My grandmother had taken me shopping prior to Duke, and she bought me my bed spread, frames to capture memories, and some essential items such as a cafetera. Yes, a Cuban Coffee maker. When I chose a zebra comforter at the store, my grandmotherâs eyes almost popped out of her sockets. She clearly has no notion of style (well, no interior decorating style).
August 19, 2009:
Move in day was fun, hectic, yet emotional. Duke was everything I imagined it to be and more, but one problem still remains: home sickness. The walls of my room are covered with pictures of my family and friends, but these memories constantly remind me of the âold days.â I remember my grandmother on her favorite sillÃ³n, playing with my hair, arranging it into a braid. I remember my grandmaâs home cooked Sopa de Pollo that she made me whenever I had a cold. Who will take care of me when I am sick? Who will wash my clothes? Who will tell me what I can and cannot do? NO ONE WILL! I am alone, an independent college student. So this is what liberation feels like?
This was when I realized that I was going through what my grandmother went through on her plane ride to the United States. A college student, a recent immigrantâone in the same: emotions of confusion, homesickness, and the realization that a new life awaits ahead. Her steps off of that plane, my first steps into my dormitory, my college. Leaving everything she knew, leaving everything I knew. Over 45 years and two generations of Hispanics had past since my grandmotherâs difficult journey to the United States, yet I am just beginning to understand the emotions she battled when she arrived here. Our plane rides proved to be a journey into a new life: one filled with hope and fearâa journey into the unknown world that awaited us. We knew our destinations, but we did not know what to expect. Our journey that lied ahead was rough, but in the end, we managed to face our fear of the unknown and accept change to be something proactive.
This is a normal feeling. Most of you are leaving home and will feel home sick, but there are many places and people to turn to when things get tough. Just remember that most of your classmates, whether they are willing to admit it or not, feel like they might not belong. We are all Blue Devils and are in a new unified community. This is the True Blueâthe truth behind what awaits at Duke. True Blue provides a place for wellness and resources and people that you can rely on.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009: