Many students go through personal journeys while in college. For most of these journeys, we are clueless about the twists and turns that are present on our student’s paths. It is eye-opening when they decide to share.
I met Alfonso during his first semester as an LCC student. He had just moved to the US and was living alone for the first time.
Many of the legs of his journey were heartwarming.
He was navigating how to cook for himself and keep his house stocked. Before this, he said he never thought how supplies got into his house, he remarked, “you just open the closet, they are just there”.
After a few missed assignments, I remarked that the US writes dates month/day/year and not day/month/year. His jaw fell to the floor and his mind moved at lightning speed, “so that’s why I missed” and before he could finish “…and so that’s why; …and that’s why!”
Many of the legs of his journey revolved figuring out sad truths about American culture.
One day he came into class shell-shocked. His tall, adult muscular frame had somehow been replaced with that of a child. He confided that he had witnessed a person get shot in the parking lot of his apartment. He stated “Nothing like this happens in my country”. The scene was on loop in his head and was preventing him from sleeping.
He mentioned he was surprised that his new friends used race as the defining lens that they viewed the world. He noted that his peers would treat him harshly if he introduced himself as an African versus as a Caribbean. “Why would people treat me differently based on where they think I’m from? It’s not like I am acting differently.”
At times, Alfonso seemed pushed to his breaking point. He was having difficulty adjusting to the rigor of American education. He mentioned that he was thinking of dropping out and moving back home.
It had been months since I had seen Alfonso and I feared the worst. But I spotted him on campus when I was leaving work one day. He mentioned that he had changed his major and was now thriving.
I find myself wondering how many of my students are on similar journeys that will play a central role in defining who they are. And we just don’t know it.