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The transition from high school to college is difficult. It is not a simple change of going to a different school or a higher level. It includes moving away from home, having to learn how to manage your time, forcing yourself to keep a healthy meal schedule, etc. Especially if you come from a Hispanic culture or background, it is a cultural shock. There are so many things to learn. One of the big things is moving away from home. My parents personally wanted me to go to a school near home or to go to a community school so I could continue to live with them. It was a struggle trying to get them to agree to let me stay on campus but with enough convincing they let me. I thought that was going to be the hard part, leaving my childhood home and my family,but in reality there are more troubles when going to college. 

A major issue when it comes to moving on campus, especially to a school which is predominantly white, is keeping my Latina roots even away from home. It is hard trying to keep yourself to your culture when you are exposed to so many ideas and expressions on campus. But do not fear, if you are new to college life or have been for a while, I have provided tips that have helped me keep myself close to my Salvadorean roots. Not only that but it makes me fall in love with my culture and language every single day and to see it in a new light. 

I grew up in a Hispanic neighborhood so it was normal for me but coming here to college, I realized the importance of valuing one’s culture and language. And just because I am away from home, it does not mean I can throw it away or forget about it but instead embrace it in a new and special way. 

These are my tips and advice to my fellow first-generation college students:

  1. If you have a Spanish Program, connect with the Professors in the program: They speak Spanish so if you want to have Spanish conversations, they are there for you. You do not need to talk about academics but about your day and what you are looking forward to in the semester, anything coming up like concerts, plans with friends, etc. Also, some if not many of the Spanish Professors are Hispanic or come from Latino America so there is some sort of solitary and if they come from the same country as you. There are so many things you can talk to them about. Do not take this program for granted, they are there to help you in your transition and growth. It can be a small community for you to keep your Latino roots.
  2. Take Spanish Courses:  I know this can seem like hard work but it helps you practice Spanish especially at an academic level. You can learn about other Hispanic cultures which are new to you while reading texts in Spanish. In my Spanish class this semester, we had a whole lesson on El Chavo del 8. It was so fun, especially since the homework was to watch an episode. Taking a Spanish Course keeps you accountable in learning more about your roots.
  3. Join Latino Clubs on campus and make friends with other Latine people on campus:  While you may seem like the only Latine on campus, I promise you there are more. You just have to look for them. One of the major things you can do is join Hispanic clubs on your campus. If there is not any, create one of your own. You will meet amazing people who may also be dealing with the same struggles as a first-generation college student. Joining Latino Clubs will give you a break from your studies and set time to relax and be around people who have a similar culture as you.
  4. Bring treats and snacks from your culture: This is one big piece of advice I give to you. I have cravings for pastries or snacks from El Salvador so whenever I go home I shop at my local bodegas. I bring some snacks to satisfy my cravings. If you have a kitchen, you can make food from your culture to keep yourself immersed. 
  5. Read books in Spanish or about the Culture or Keep up on the Media: As a huge book nerd, one way I keep myself accountable for learning about my culture and Spanish is through reading. Whether in Spanish or in English, books are a good way to learn and be close to your culture. Currently I am reading a book my Spanish Professor gave me called Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (see what I mean when Spanish Professors come in a clutch). Even if you are not a huge book reader, keeping up on news or shows like The Latin Babbler are good ways to keep yourself updated. 

These are just a few tips for now but I will be sure to come up with more as everyday I am learning and growing. But please let me know if you have others, I would love to read them. 

Y ahora los dejo para ir a escuchar a Bad Bunny jajaja

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Daniela Hernandez Ayala
Daniela Hernandez Ayala is a first-generation college student at McDaniel College pursuing a B.A in Political Science and Spanish. She is also minoring in Sociology. Daniela’s goal is to get her JD in either the Immigration or Criminal Law Field. She wants to dedicate her life to her community and the people who suffer from the oppressed and unjust society. Her passion has always been words whether that is in books or writing. She enjoys the escape from reality that can be found in words. She wants to use this skill she is learning to bring awareness to the Latino Community.