by Sabrina Michelena
For the past couple of years, college has been a regular topic of conversation with my family. My mother is a college professor who encouraged me to read college pamphlets since eighth grade.
My extremely studious cousin, who is now graduating from high school, has been obsessed with the topic of going away for college since the end of her freshman year. She has always been a high-achiever and can’t wait to get out of the comfortable suburban neighborhood she grew up in and never identified with. To her satisfaction, she’s going to McGill University in Canada, where she plans to take a year abroad to study in Europe.
Since my cousin had always thought about colleges, my aunt seems to expect me to do the same. It’s always an awkward moment when, since freshman year, she asks me, “Where do you want to go for college?” and I don’t know what to answer because I truly don’t know.
It doesn’t even seem real that I’m halfway through my high school experience because I feel like I’ve just entered high school. This feeling could be caused by the pandemic and the fact that I didn’t even get to finish my freshman year in a normal way. I’ve been remote this entire year, and although I know I’m taking school, it doesn’t seem like it. I’m not sitting in a cold metal seat in a classroom. I’m not yawning in the first block and glancing at the clock on the wall. I’m not physically around other students. It’s so hard for me to fathom that in a couple years, I’ll go to a different school when I barely got to be familiarized with this one.
Just before the pandemic hit, East Side organized a trip for us to visit NYU. We got to see the cafeteria, some of the hallways, and inside of some classrooms. We learned that there are several NYU campuses and over a hundred NYU buildings in Manhattan. We entered different buildings and went up different floors and it was all a little dizzying. I remember thinking, “I would have no idea how to navigate all these different buildings,” and I made sure to stick with my group, in fear of getting lost. We even passed by a couple college students on their way to class who looked at us with sympathetic smiles. Perhaps they were remembering what it had been like to be our age. I wondered if they missed being hand-held and navigated through life, resulting in such a shock when they had to do everything themselves in college. I wondered if they had been scared entering college.
It’s hard to know whether I’ll go away or not. Maybe I’d go to a different state but even if I stay in New York, I’d live in a dorm to get the real experience. I want to feel the intimidation but also the excitement of figuring everything out by myself. I wish to not depend on my parents to coach me while I’m at college. I want to do it all myself and I want to thrive while doing it. It seems terrifying now, seeing how much I can rely on my parents. I may get stuck or feel helpless but isn’t that what it’s like to be independent? You don’t always have to know exactly what you’re doing but you have to figure everything out yourself. For the first time in my life, I want to feel that way.