Welcome to a place where you were never intended to be. Sorry to be depressing right off the bat, but institutions of higher learning are uncomfortable with your presence. Here are four tips for being a POC (Person of Color) on campus.
1.The first road to beginning to like your experience in higher education is to know that everyone will not understand or care about your experience. If you walk into your orientation group hoping to talk about Afrofuturism and how the fetishization of Eastern cultures has fed into the poor treatment of women of color in academia, I feel bad for you. There are few campuses that attract people already in the know.
2. It’s unfortunate, but the hope that that your peers will acquire some knowledge over the next four years is slim, which is why you need to find your people. There will be numerous types of your people, ranging from the person you look up to, your chosen family, and the person who invites you to every party they know of. I strongly advise lurking in the learning, ethnic, and or cultural centers and developing relationships with staff members. They’ll get you out of your dorm, and interacting with people. Do this as soon as possible so you can interact with different areas and departments on campus. Expand your knowledge.
3. I go to a small private college, so for those of you in the same boat, talk to everyone. Trust and believe that you will interact with them again, especially if you have the same major. Networking starts early, so create a LinkedIn early in your college career and add everyone you trust.
4. Go to a counselor. I mean this with every fiber of my being: talk to a counselor or staff member if you feel threatened at any point. Higher education is naturally stressful. From the faculty to the people walking their dogs across campus, you are being watched. Find a confidante. Preferably a confidante that can be sued for breach of privacy.
When all is said and done, there’s so much you should know. Do your FAFSA. Get more sleep, and work when you can, but don’t overextend yourself. Treat yourself at least once a month by eating a food not made by the cafeteria. Make friends with undergraduates twice as old as you – they have more interesting stories, and probably connections to a job.
Higher education was never meant for you. Make it yours, despite them.