As part of the Division of Student Affairs’ initiative for Diversity and Inclusion, we at I Am Rutgers have started the #RUIDProject to highlight the many diverse identities, experiences, and reflections of the Rutgers student body. Students featured in this project share how they choose to identify themselves and how Rutgers either helps them express their identity or has helped shape their identity. If you would like to be featured in this project, share a picture of yourself and how you choose to identify using the hashtag #RUIDProject on Instagram or contact us via email.
Photography by Pat Nadolski
I am the youngest in my family, with an age gap of 16 and 13 years from my siblings. My parents came to the United States in the 80s with my brother and sister. Dad graduated from a technical college in Peru and his first job here was cleaning cars in a car wash. My mom worked as an X-Ray specialist in Peru and her first job here was in a factory. As years passed by my dad was able to be an electrician at a paper company and my mom ended up taking care of the kids along with her job at the factory. I came along in the 90s as a surprise, and I heard things changed after that. My family used to go on vacation trips, but as the family grew and diaper expenses and college bills started being paid there wasn’t any more time or money to do things like before. My brother and sister had the mindset of immigrant children that were expected to: Go to school, get a degree, and get a high paying job to help our parents and have a better life for our children. There wasn’t time or money to try to pursue a career that interested them a lot. As I grew up, I noticed sketches and artwork that both my brother and sister did. It ended up being a hobby and a thing to do on the side. The thing is, what I saw were beautiful pieces that I wished others would see. Then it was time for me to grow up.
I did have a slightly better childhood than my siblings probably, but I didn’t feel as if I had the same childhood as some of my friends in middle and high school. Then my mindset was: Go to college, get a degree, and get a high paying job to help our parents and have a better life for our children. I attended a very small all-girls high school and I met a few friends that ended up being protégés of the dreams of their parents. They excelled in math and science and were on track to be doctors and engineers. When the time for applying to colleges arrived, I applied to business programs because I thought that was what I would be good at. My family had this phase when they encouraged me to apply to engineering programs. I got accepted into many universities that had engineering and business programs. Finally, May 1st came and I had to decide between Rutgers and an out of state school, I chose Rutgers. To be honest, Rutgers was my last choice. I didn’t want to stay in New Jersey. I wanted to leave. Fortunately, Rutgers and NJ grants helped me out a lot financially. The only thing, I wasn’t in the engineering school and I wasn’t in the business school. I was in limbo. I took a stab at some engineering courses and eventually realized it wasn’t for me. I tried the business track, but it wasn’t fully for me. I felt like I hit rock bottom, not knowing what I was going to do as a career and how could I not disappoint my parents.
I took a communications course and talked to a very helpful professor, turns out I was meant to major in Journalism and Media Studies. I tell everyone this, I don’t like journalism writing, but I do like learning a lot about the media. Thankfully with the digital age, I’ve gotten the hang of strategically planning on social media. I’ve been able to learn more about photography and video, which I plan on applying to my career. I’m able to do something that I love and that I’m good at as a career. I’ve got to thank Rutgers and the support of my family for this.
Rutgers was able to help me not be stereotyped as an average college student and child of immigrant parents, that tries to fulfill the false dreams of many immigrants throughout the country. Each person has a talent that can be turned into a career. Each person has the ability and opportunity to do what they want and excel at it. They helped me believe in finding a career that would make me happy every day for the rest of my life. I can use my creative talents for actual jobs. On my 21st birthday, my brother said something to me that really resonated with me, “You got the opportunity to do what you want. Kelly and I didn’t really have that chance when we were young.” I’m grateful for the opportunities Rutgers has given me and for the support of my family in this journey to believing in myself and having the confidence to do what I want to do. Now, I’m excited about my future after graduation and I can’t wait to wear that cap and gown in May, while saying, “Thank you, mom and dad.”