Here at Iowa State by Rene
03 Mar 2020 2:06 PM
As I got here to Iowa State, I didn’t realize how much of an impact this new environment would have on me and my identity. I come from Des Moines, Iowa, which definitely has a diverse population when in comparison to Ames Iowa. I grew up playing soccer most of my childhood and with the sport, I was able to meet many different people from different demographic groups. With that I found myself making friends with a lot of my peers, we came from different parts of world, but our love of the sport united us.
I grew up always seeing myself as a Latino and, frankly, that was it. I wouldn’t make the effort to really learn more about my culture and my family’s traditions. I was slowly losing my ability to speak Spanish as I would only use it at home when needed. This was just how it was as I was slowly assimilating to the “American” way of life. It wasn’t that I didn’t care for my culture it was just that I didn’t find the love for it until I reached Iowa State.
Arriving at Iowa State I saw just how different things were. I was sometimes the only Latino in the room and, honestly, that would scare me. I would look around and I was lost in a sea of people who didn’t look like me. I found myself isolated sometimes, anxious when it came to interacting with my peers. It wasn’t until I started reaching out to find my people on campus that I grew more comfortable.
I started going to spaces on campus where I felt welcomed, I would find myself hanging out at the TRIO SSSP and the MSA offices all the time. These were spaces where I felt that I belonged and felt at ease here. I began getting involved with several Latinx organizations on campus as well. I attended the Latinx Leadership Retreat hosted by Latinx Student Initiatives and joined the planning committee as well. I also eventually joined and became a brother of Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity Incorporated. These were student organizations that were meant to uplift, educate, and simply provide a support system that is essential when navigating higher education. I was again surrounding myself with Latinos and grew to really enjoy my culture. By surrounding myself with Latinos I grew more comfortable in my skin and was embracing it after so many years of setting my culture aside. I really grew to truly become proud of my culture as I immersed myself into it.
By surrounding myself with my people I really came to understand that our struggles are generally similar and I no longer felt alone. I felt empowered and realized that I am blessed to be here at Iowa State. As a minority, I felt the need to go into spaces on campus and voice my opinion, especially when no one who looked liked me seemed to be heard. I felt the need to get myself out there and show what I can offer to the table. Many times I have remained quiet because I felt invalidated, by, isolated from, and unacknowledged by my white peers, but that’s not a way to live happily. I need to show what I can offer. I want to make difference here and for my community in order for students like me to succeed and enjoy their experience here at Iowa State.