In the summer of 2018, I spent my time developing the mindset to prep for UCLA. I felt optimistic to enter a university environment. I dreamed of immersing deeper in my interests through coursework and spending my free time conversing with my peers on topics like history, philosophy, cinema and much more. University represented everything I constantly searched for, in contrast to the difficulties of finding friends and in-depth courses in community college.
Before I began UCLA, my personal life faced some rough patches.
To prep for my French coursework beginning in the fall at UCLA, I studied French through a study abroad program in Paris. There, I dated a man four years older than me. The Parisian string of dates from Versailles, Jardin du Luxembourg and the Champs-Elysee made it seem like our relationship would continue to blossom.
The everlasting beauty of Paris brought the perception of reality during my last two nights.
During my last two nights, I spent my time wondering what to do about my emotions and how the relationship would not last due to my ambitions at UCLA. Regardless of my heart liking the boy, I did not reciprocate my true feelings to him. Instead, I voiced to him my concerns of focusing on myself for my new chapter at UCLA while hoping he’d understand.
My first week as a junior transfer at UCLA felt like a daze.
At one moment, I felt at my age I should know how the university works and at another, I felt like a freshman. I marveled at the buildings on the north side of campus and all of the orange-red bricked buildings looked the same. I hadn’t registered the nuances of university architecture; UCLA felt like a village with little variation of style to differentiate a specific building. I didn’t know my way around the school. It was intimidating to stop students who were too busy to get to where they needed to be.
I purposely came to university extra early and put big time gaps between each of my classes to make trips to the transfer center multiple times during the day to ask for directions. By the time class sessions ended, I got caught in a swarm of thousands of students walking in one direction or the other. They all marched at the same pace and direction to move around efficiently. My fear of claustrophobia influenced me to watch and wait for ten minutes to have peace of understanding of my new university at my own pace.
As I found my way to class without bumping into students, I didn’t feel smart enough.
Before transferring, I confidently raised my hand and participated in class in any way I possibly could. Now I remained silent. To absorb the critical information in scholarly journals takes another skill set–one that’s foreign and new to me. Hearing my classmates’ comments and reflections, while I barely made sense of my assignments made the classroom environment terrifying. I began feeling incompetent.
I overstressed thinking about the class syllabus daily.
I kept thinking: “What are the expectations to earn that A?” for each class session I braced myself for. I overthought about how I’m a disappointment because I’m not living to the standards of the new university. My professors at my previous college prepped me for these moments at a university classroom, but being prepared for a challenging environment and actively engaging are two very different things. Instead of taking the opportunities to show my new professors my competence of daily readings by posing questions, I blew off my opportunities to learn in fear of embarrassment.
Meanwhile, in October I was scrolling through my iPhone before bed one night, and the boy I had once seen in Europe got into a relationship with another girl. I wondered how he found someone to love as quick as my exit from his life. I began detesting the idea of meeting anyone new for a while, to the point where looking at groups of happy friendship gangs and couples bothered me when I’d walk out in public.
My loneliness began to spiral.
I was unsuccessful in any attempt at a social life outside of the university. The taste of love felt foreign to me. I had made no efforts to find anyone new in a romantic or friendship sense. I hid at libraries with my books and school assignments to not show my family any inch of extra anxiety. I came home to sleep and would wake to the next school day, to move on and persevere in my academic journey.
My negative thinking had reflected in my midterm for Latin American art history.
I wrote too quick for the exam. The teacher’s assistant, Sergio contacted me telling me to come to his office to read my exam aloud. Afterward, he suggested I go to the Center for Accessible Education at UCLA to make a case to increase my test-taking time to feel less test stress.
I persuaded against it, I denied I had a learning disability. I simply told my TA that the material I studied for the exam didn’t appear on it. I had bad penmanship because I tried to cram information I barely remembered during the hour time limit. After my incident, I gained the mentality to believe that it was the last time I would run into that problem.
Halfway through the quarter, I got the courage to visit my French professor during office hours, we spent about forty-five minutes together going in detail over my mistakes in the French language. The professor noticed a long line forming outside of his office by a look through the peak of her doorway and politely escorted me out. I spent too much time in her office.
I felt so stupid to the point where our next meeting, I was left in tears.
I simply said I felt stressed because of my first quarter at UCLA. I finally felt a breath of air being released to share this with university faculty. Her sense of urgency and sympathy reflected in her response of, “When I moved from France to the United States to teach French at UCLA, I too cried because of the harsh academic scheduling.” A sense of relief came to me with opening up.
When I made the decision to open up to a faculty member, I realized that letting go of my inner thoughts was important to make time for daily. I made time from class to class for my mind to reflect each day. I needed to sit by the water fountains or take a walk in the sculpture garden alone to come to my senses before class. I told myself repeatedly not to worry, the beginning of anything brings difficulty at first. Slowly I felt ready to open up to my transfer friends–they too had their inner struggles with UCLA. We shared our terrifying classroom experiences and lower than expected grade averages. I began to feel good about myself. My transition was normal.