Maria Martinez’s Story
As retold by Rachel Osborn and Debra Gibes
What defines me? It is probably best to begin with what doesn’t define me? My past failures and barriers while facing college do not define me. I am now 24 years old, and when I look back at my college years, I see one hurdle after another. My hurdles began when I wanted to make the move to be on my own and attend college as a resident student. With great anticipation I moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan and began to attend Western Michigan University. I was looking forward to living in this college town and interacting daily with college students. My excitement was short-lived when I began to face the realities of living on my own.
My first hurdle was preparation for the University. I had had some experience with community college but at that time I was looking for careers that I thought would be “fun” like a Pastry Chef or a Photographer. To study at a university for a Communications degree, I realized I needed to be more self-sufficient. Learning at the University was based on my own ability to study and not just turning in assignments.
My second hurdle was living arrangements. I decided to room with two other girls, even though I didn’t know them very well to try to reduce my expenses. Unfortunately, it was not a good match. Their rooms were always messy, clothes were everywhere, dirty dishes were always in the sink, and even things spilled on the floor stayed there. This made it difficult to feel comfortable in my own home.
Another hurdle was money. In spite of trying to reduce expenses through my living arrangements, I did not have enough money to pay for all the things I needed. I had college loans and felt like I was drowning in debt. My dad was paying for most of my living expenses, but I really felt uncomfortable allowing him to do that. I felt so bad because I wanted to be able to do things on my own, without any help from my parents.
Another hurdle was transportation. Because of my poor decisions as a young driver, I have not had my license for a while. Although there are plenty of transportation options such as Uber drivers in a college town like Kalamazoo, it still made going to school difficult. Lastly, my illness was a hurdle. I have had good care but being so far away from my doctors while going to college made it difficult to keep up with my care. Yet in spite of all these hurdles going to college was very important to me.
I will not let my barriers to college define me. Knowing that I didn’t make the right choices is hard but I will not let my past decisions determine who I am inside. What does define me is my relentless quest for a college degree and a career I am passionate about. That is why I realized that if I wanted to reach my dream of a college education, I needed to move back home and save some money.
What also defines me is my family. When I decided to return home and save money, my parents welcomed me with open arms. I don’t have to live on my own because my parents would rather that I live with them right now. They help me with a lot so I don’t mind. I also realized that my family roots as a Mexican-American strongly defines me. As I began to think about my future, I knew I had a great heritage and my fluent Spanish along with my desire for a Communications degree would be my direction going forward. I decided to enroll in Mott Community College to start in this direction.
School at Mott allows me to interact on a more personal level with my professors. In addition, I am taking some online courses at Mott which is more like the university. Taking online classes is going better than I thought it would. Being able to do my work whenever I have time in my busy schedule is perfect. Even though I’m not physically in college every day, I still have to stay focused. Having online courses makes it easier not being able to drive. I don’t have to drive to school as much and I learned how to make better decisions from that experience.
School will always be an essential in my life. By going into Communication, I will definitely need to be taking my classes very seriously. Even though my primary language is Spanish, and I can speak it very fluently, there’s more to Communication than English and Spanish. I’m trying to learn how to speak other languages, too.
Although I still have to keep paying for college, it’ll all be worth it. Through my passion for who I am and what I can become, I will continually define myself by my successes and not my failures.
-Rachel Osborn -Debra Gibes
This story originally appeared in Facing College: Immigrant & International Students’ Stories, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan.