Friday, August 6, 2010

Surviving My First Year at Williams College

By Viviana Benjumea (SJP '08 Alum/Williams '13)

Two months after my first year at Williams College and back at SJP as a counselor this summer, I find myself reflecting on the good, the bad, the fun, the stressful, and lazy times at the very small and isolated liberal arts college. Coming from New York City, my first week at Williams was, needless to say, very different from what I was used to. I made sure that the orientation program I chose did not involve any hikes or any outdoor activities involving nature too much. I avoided walking through the grass and made sure I did not partake in the Hopkins Forest rope challenge. I stayed true and loyal to my city mentality. Though getting accustomed to the different environment was one of my biggest challenges, an even bigger challenge was reminding myself that I had earned my way into this elite school, and that I was just as good as everybody else.

There was always something I didn’t understand or had never heard of in every conversation. The first article I wrote for The Williams Record, had been mutilated and destroyed to the point that I barely recognized my article. I spent two days without sleep trying to write my first seven page paper for my Ancient Political Theory class. I never knew what to say in class and the readings were impossible to finish. I just did not feel like I belonged with this group of such intelligent people who wrote their papers and spoke in class with so much ease. I was not as eloquent or as fast as the rest of my freshman class. I was just not going to fit in.

Little by little, however, I realized that though I didn’t always know what people were referring to, there were things I spoke about that people had no idea about either. I remembered that when I had been an editor for my high school newspaper, I had also changed a lot of the reporters’ articles. I noticed that I spent more time on my writing because yes, I had never written such long papers for my high school teachers, but it was more because I was a perfectionist and wanted to fully understand what I was writing about. I realized that the readings were impossible to finish because unlike all the other students, I never skimmed or skipped any parts. Each and every one of us had something to teach the other and it had nothing to do with being smarter or more knowledgeable … it had everything to do with our different backgrounds, experiences, and interests.

Now that the year has ended and the moment has passed, I miss those endless and sleepless nights. I miss the long practices for Sankofa’s (the step team) show. I miss the discussions about diversity at Williams and the parties where I always hoped they would play at least one Spanish song. I miss the lunches with my professors and the time spent with them during office hours.

So yes, I am a Hispanic girl from New York City, but the cultural exchanges that have occurred up in the middle of the mountains with my friends and professors are invaluable.

1 comment:

  1. I really want to enter Williams college