History, graduation and beyond
Well, I finally did it, guys. I am officially a college graduate.
I have to admit, I expected to be a bit more emotional, considering the amount of adversity and setbacks I endured throughout my lengthy collegiate journey. Of course, I am elated about the accomplishment, but for the most part, I am relieved. I completed a long, exhausting nineteen hour semester. A stockpile of stress has been lifted from my shoulders, as I have met the expectations set by myself and the ones I care about. And finally, I can begin to use my time and talent towards something outside a classroom. Nonetheless, I have reached an important milestone – for both myself and my family.
What a majority of my friends don’t know about me is that I am a first-generation college student. Both my mother and father migrated to the United States, as teenagers, in pursuit for a better life. My parents devoted a majority of their young life working numerous laborious jobs and, therefore, were unable to pursue a proper education. Thankfully, with aspiration, hard work, and some fortune, my father later established a business successful enough to provide our family with new and better opportunities.
The family’s gradual transition from working to middle class occurred during the years after I was born. During this time, we resided in decent neighborhoods and attended school districts that were subpar and made up predominantly of minorities. Not to say minorities, like myself, were bad people. It’s just that, unfortunately in these environments, academics weren’t always the priority of most students and with higher education being a subject rarely talked about.
Gratefully, our parents preached the importance of education from the very start. Our mother and father often alluded to their adverse childhood as a reminder of what they didn’t want our family to go through; but also to be appreciative and to take advantage of all our given opportunities. I committed myself to their advice and became a good student. I challenged myself by taking advanced courses and associated myself with students who stayed on track. Eventually, I absorbed from them the idea and the ambition to pursue a college degree.
I initially declared Computer Science as my major in college. After my freshman year, however, I fantasized about becoming an electrical engineer. My father often told me he had wished to have become an engineer or an architect, given the chance. A part of me wanted to make him proud by fulfilling his dream while the other highly desired the reputable title of being an engineer. I knew the curriculum would be more difficult, but being favorable at math and science with deep interests in computers and electronics, I was fearless in taking up the challenge.
It was not long into the following semester that I recognized I was inadequately prepared for college. I lacked the core, studious skills and habits necessary to excel in college, let alone in a major as intense as engineering. I should have developed them during high school, but I believe my former school focused mainly on sustaining their graduation rate rather than preparing us for college. I began to struggle badly in most of my courses. Having never experienced failure before, I lost all confidence in myself, along with the passion to become an engineer.
I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to about my troubles. It was difficult explaining things to my parents related to school; the times I did, it pained them not to be able to give advice since they had no prior experience. My older siblings were unreachable at the time as they were getting their own lives together. Most of the people I surrounded myself with came from well established families; having many family members with former college education and respectable careers. It was an embarrassing subject to bring up. I didn’t want to paint myself as stupid or a failure.
I made a bold decision to take some time off school. I wanted to pursue other interests of mine (web design and development, film and television production) in hopes that I could find something to be passionate about again. I desired to start a company, just like my father, but the venture never panned out, mostly because my heart was still wanting to finish my college education. In the meantime, I also did some soul searching. I read various helpful books and blogs. I traveled abroad to learn more of the world. I saw many of my friends start their careers, get married, and start their families. I experienced a tough heartbreak and some longing depression. Eventually, I said enough was enough.
The semester back at the university, as a returning Computer Science major, I immediately found passion again in programming. This time I felt ready, experienced and even had a good friend by my side along the way (also pursuing a CS degree). The way I finished last two years of my college career, is what I wished I had started out. Regardless, I would not trade it for what I’ve learned and experienced the last few years. I have learned humility, especially when asking for help. Through adversity, I have shown my character, my strengths and weaknesses, and it has evolved me into a better man.
As previously mentioned, I am proud about my accomplishment, but it is still only a milestone. Even though I am no longer in school, I am still learning and bettering myself each and every day. I am excited to see what my growing passion and mind can lead to.