By Guillermo Camarillo

My mind was clouded with thoughts of the classes I would take, of the people I would meet, and of how now I would have to be an adult. I knew college was going to be tough. I assumed that the hardest thing would be the classes I was taking and being far-away from home. However, I was wrong.

The hardest thing for me in college was loving myself. It sounds cliché and sort of cheesy. But, seriously, loving yourself in college is hard. Let me explain:

You know when people say that you must love yourself before loving someone else? Well, I think they meant you must love yourself before going to college. You need to love yourself enough to:

  1.   Not compare yourself to others.

There will be both beautiful and smart people (yes, people can be both) in college. Therefore, you must remind yourself that you yourself possess traits both physically and academically that make you both unique and special.    Not let a grade define you.

I have bombed exams and papers only to remind myself that this is a learning experience and that I could do better next time. This takes a lot of effort especially when you realize you probably could’ve done better had you not made silly mistakes.

2.   Care about your well-being.

This is vital when you are deciding between sleep and pulling an all-nighter. Love yo self, and go to sleep.

3.   Treat yo-self.

Yes, there will be times where it will hurt to buy yourself a snack or a whole pizza because you are broke. But, if you know you have been working long and hard, then go for it.

4. Understand your capacities.

You will join clubs, join programs, take-on jobs, and just be overwhelmed. However, you should decide what you would like to dedicate most of your time to and choose to participate in things that mean the most to you.

5.  Not internalize social hierarchies.

You may be the only student of color or woman in a class. Your peers and professors may treat you differently. However, you must remind yourself that existing these places is important and that you have a lot to bring to the table (maybe more than those around you).

6.  Advocate for yourself.

This may be talking to your professor if you are having issues in a class or advocating for the identities that you embody.

7.  Drop a class or take pass/fail.

This is tough. I thought that if I failed a class or dropped one, then I would prove to everyone that I didn’t belong here. However, looking back, I believe that had I dropped a class or took a pass/fail, I would have had a better quarter.

8.  Not question your existence in these spaces.

Yes, you will constantly wonder how you were admitted into your school. You would often make scenarios of how the admission office made a mistake such as putting your application in the wrong pile. However, you have to remind yourself that the process to being admitted into colleges is rigorous and thorough, therefore, you’re not a mistake– you belong in these spaces.

9. Fight “survivor’s guilt” and understand that your presence in these spaces is in a way a service to your community and youth that were not able to make it to college.

This is tough. Personally, I read of youth back home that are victims of gun violence and of the broken criminal justice system. I do wonder why my life took this path and trajectory. Nevertheless, in recognizing the fortunate aspects of my upbringing, I am able to understand that me being here is a mixture of unique circumstances that shaped my trajectory, yet also barriers that at times almost hindered it. Ultimately, one shouldn’t blame themselves because they are not at fault. One should embrace the opportunities they are given and find a way to help others that are aspiring to infiltrate these spaces too.

10.  Change your major.

Although you may have told Abuelita that you wanted to be a doctor, one should always pursue their passions. If you find something that aligns with your passions, then go for it! The only person you will be letting down if you don’t change your major is yourself.

I would like to stress that there is no algorithm to loving oneself. I believe that you learn how to do this as your college years go by. The beauty of many of these hardships is that they may teach you how to love yourself and in return help you advocate, care, appreciate, embrace, accept, and overall feel wholesome about yourself. I have yet to feel wholesome, but I am still learning to love myself.