My eyes felt so heavy the entire ride.
“Are you sure this is the right exit?” my sister said.
My eyes were closed but I managed to mumble, “Yes.”
We arrived at the apartment complex, and she gathered my things for me as I unbuckled my seatbelt and stumbled out of the car, “Be careful,” she said. I smiled and said goodbye. I walked inside the building, feeling like the stairs were actually an escalator. I opened my apartment door and my stomach turned thinking of what my new roommate would be like. I opened the door and found her asleep. So I jumped into my bed and stared at the ceiling I would be looking at for the next nine and a half months. I could not suppress the tears, saying to myself, “What did I get myself into?”
But let’s start at the beginning. After I graduated high school I made the difficult decision of rejecting an acceptance from California State University, Northridge and attending a community college instead. I was being notified through social media about all my friends’ excitement of moving away and starting a new journey. I remember crying myself to sleep knowing I was not going to be joining them on the same path.
I have a strong relationship with my sisters, and one of them saw my disappointment. She encouraged me and said even though I was attending community college first and staying home, that didn’t mean I was any less of a person (i.e., “Slap out of it! You are awesome!”) Besides her wonderful words, I quickly saw a positive: I will be saving thousands of dollars!
I attended community college for two years, and during that time many blessings came my way. I was working two part-time jobs while attending college as a full-time student. To add to this, I was a student contributor for an online writing company. Although I had much to do, I was grateful because I was doing what I loved. The process took time and patience, but I realized an important fact: we do not all travel on the same path.
In high school, we tend to narrow our ideas and perspectives to a particular group because this is all we know. The fear of walking alone in a different direction often overcomes us. But a new journey is about taking chances and focusing on our individual life, not the person next to you. I learned about being independent and working hard for my dreams. I knew I wanted to attend CSUN once again after my first two years at the community college. And although this journey was tedious and tiring, I am glad I created my own journey.
In my last year, I was planning which universities I would apply to transfer to. But when my sister asked me, “So you’ve applied already, right?” I felt my stomach twist inside as I remembered the application deadlines were quickly approaching. I immediately set up an appointment with my counselor. I was in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at my community college, which I recommend to everyone if your school has one. This program has helped me plan for classes; informed me of scholarship opportunities, tutoring, and priority registration; and sent out information about helpful programs. My counselor helped me plan out exactly which colleges had classes for my major, but we also explored the financial aspect. I knew since the beginning I could not afford college on my own. My family does not make enough money to fund my education, so I had to save money, apply for scholarships, and fill out the FAFSA. I applied for several scholarships and fortunately I received funds to assist me in affording my education. I had to take out a loan to pay off the remaining balance, but with careful financial planning and savings I know I can pay this debt off accordingly.
I reapplied to CSUN and was accepted. When I found out they had an EOP, I immediately applied. I was accepted into that program too, and their counseling, guidance, and funds have also helped me continue my journey. There are programs and people out there to help you, so do not feel ashamed to ask; this only makes you appear bolder.
The commute from my hometown to the University would have been too much of a drive, so I am living in student housing. Back to the first night in my new apartment: I was so nervous. On the drive there, reality was sinking in. I am from a small home with over five people constantly coming in and out. But now I was going to be living on my own. No parents, no family, and no old friends. I had to become responsible and find the local gas stations, grocery stores, and good parking. I remember wishing the drive to the apartments would never end, because once my sister dropped me off and I headed upstairs, my stomach was flipped upside down.
But I am so glad I took that chance, because I have met some incredible people. I feel totally independent now and focused on my education. I am able to go to the library often and take advantage of other programs being offered at school. This opportunity allows me to meet new people and focus on my life. There is a lot more freedom, which allows me to be responsible and realize what is important to me. I am also working a part-time job, which assists me with necessities I may need and helps pay for college. That first day I went to a Taylor Swift concert. I must admit, that was time well spent. I familiarized myself with the city and started to explore the location I will be living in for the next two years.
I won’t lie: my first semester was not easy. I had a difficult time adjusting to this new lifestyle. I wanted to drop out and return to what was familiar. The major change was not suiting me at first, but I slowly realized I was where I needed to be. Although this journey did not start off easy and simple, I do not regret transferring and coming to the city. I have learned that my life is important, and working hard for my dreams is essential. A new journey may seem scary and impossible at first, but you still have the ability to succeed. This is your life, so make the best of it your way!