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Voices: Almost Done with College, Now For The Next Step

Kelly Carrion, at middle, with two of her fellow “Alianza Latina” members and fellow students at Boston University. Image: Kelly Carrion

BOSTON, MA -- As a second-semester senior at Boston University, I’m two weeks away from closing one of the most significant chapters of my life. I am completely terrified, yet I am excited about this new venture.

How has college changed my life? It is really difficult to summarize four years of all nighters, intense studying for final exams and hanging out with friends, all in a couple of words.

I grew up in Newark, New Jersey. When I decided to move 200 miles away from home to Boston, my family was completely shocked.

My dad was the main person against my decision. He could not accept that his "Chiquita," his youngest daughter, had decided to leave home.

I mostly wanted my independence and freedom. I realize now that moving away from home made me gain so much more than that.

After several discussions on the pros and cons of going away to college, he finally accepted that I was old enough to make my own decisions.

I mostly wanted my independence and freedom. I realize now moving away from home made me gain so much more than that.

The first thing I learned in college was that independence and freedom were hard work. I learned to plan my own schedule and limit my spending habits; Mami was not there anymore to tell me what to do and how to do it. I discovered I had to grow up quickly if I wanted to be successful.

At first, college was not everything I thought it would be. I did not predict how hard balancing classes and a social life was.

Frankly, being a minority in a predominantly white college was extremely difficult. Though I came from a predominantly white high school, I thought college would be different and more diverse. I experienced culture shock.

Even though the college admissions pamphlet said the campus was seven percent Hispanic at that time, I felt like I could not find any of them. I was the only Latina student in most of my classes.

Even though the college admissions pamphlet said the campus was seven percent Hispanic at that time, I felt like I could not find any of them. I was the only Latina student in most of my classes. There were two Latino boys on the floor I lived on, but I learned that even though we were all of Latino descent, that did not mean we all expressed our culture the same way. We did not like the same Spanish music or eat the same foods.

As I started to feel homesick, I went out and searched for clubs on campus with people that felt the same way I did. I joined Alianza Latina my freshman year and have been an active member since. This is where I also found my best friends.

This experience made me value my Latino roots even more. This is one of the main reasons I decided to minor in Spanish.

College was a time to discover myself. I changed my major three times and eventually found a career I am really passionate about: journalism. But my journalism classes were just a small part of my “college experience.” I did so many things in my four years at school as well as outside of school.

I was fortunate enough to be able to intern in various companies such as NBC Universal, Viacom, and Time Inc. It allowed me to view the “real” world at a young age. I learned from so many hard-working professionals who showed me where perseverance and drive could get me.

But my biggest life- changing experience in college was studying abroad in Madrid.

image: Kelly Carrion
Kelly Carrion during her time studying in Spain. Kelly Carrion

When I told my dad that I wanted to study 3,000 miles away from home for four months, he nearly had a heart attack. My family had a difficult time letting me go. I suppose many other Latino families experience this same challenge.

They let me go though, and that was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

I traveled to Madrid knowing one person on the trip and returned with lifelong friends, a love for the Spanish language and culture, and confidence in my ability to be on my own.

Flashing forward to my last semester, it feels like the shortest semester of my whole college career. I have felt so many different emotions.

The job search has not been easy either. I do not think colleges prepare students enough to cope with this job hunting anxiety. Yes, I am nervous, but I am also excited.

The job search has not been easy. I do not think colleges prepare students enough to cope with this job hunting anxiety. I am nervous.

I am also excited. I know that I will end up where I am meant to end up.

So what did I learn in college?

I learned that these four years were an exciting chapter of life, one that I will remember fondly. I also learned that after college I still have a whole future ahead of me.

I’m currently uncertain of what it will be, but I am confident it will turn out just fine.