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Here’s Why Latinos Get Extra Emotional During College Graduations

Getting through college and receiving your degree is not easy at all – especially when you’re a first-generation college student. But despite the stress and sleepless nights, reaching the finish line is the best feeling in the world, both for you and your family.

If you’re the first in your family to graduate, your parents react one of two ways when you cross the stage in your cap and gown: they cheer for you at the top of their lungs or they completely freeze and choke up in tears because they’re so happy and proud of you. And this is why…

As the first in your family to get a Bachelor’s Degree, one of the things you have to bear with and adjust to throughout your years of study is the education gap between you and your parents.

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The contrast between the workload in high school and the workload in college hits you hard in the face as you enter your freshman year. Because you’re the first one in your family to get a college education, you can’t really go to your parents for help – or anyone else in your family and at times it feels like you’re walking in the dark. They give you moral support along the way, but when it comes to your Mechanical Engineering: Finite Element Analysis class or a course on Medieval and Renaissance Literature and Culture, your parents’ hands are tied. This education gap between you and your parents makes it crucial for you to seek help from friends, professors and academic advisors. You have to go out of your way and make time to get the assistance you need because college is way too expensive to feel too shy or intimidated to ask for help.

“I don’t think my parents fully understood what I was doing at my university and why I couldn’t just do it at a local college. I think that until now that I’ve graduated and have the job that I do, they see what I was preparing for all these years.” -Stephanie Osuna-Hernandez

In addition to the intense workload of college courses, another thing that takes time to adjust to is being away from home.

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If you don’t attend a college that’s close enough to commute to, moving away from your home is not easy, especially if you’re extremely close to your family. For the first few days or weeks, waking up in a place that’s not your home feels strange and somewhat uncomfortable. From no longer having home cooked meals, to no longer being taken care of by your mom when you’re sick, there’s a lot that changes once you live away from home, and to be honest, it fkn sucks. There are some days that are tougher than others and sometimes you just break down crying because things get so frustrating and stressful and there’s nothing you want more than your mom and dad. You wish they were there to hug you, hold you, and tell you that everything is going to be okay, but instead they’re miles away and the only thing you can do is call. But soon you learn, this is what helps you grow.

“My mom is my best friend and my dad is a goofball, so I missed them all the time. I needed them all the time – especially when I thought an assignment was too hard or I wasn’t smart enough, I would just call home and my mom would remind me that I could do it, because she knew I could. I graduated because they didn’t and I chose to push harder because they told me that they knew I could. It was all for them.” -Camerina Morales

And one of the scariest things of all, is dealing with the cost of tuition.

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Being the first person in your family to attend college, also means you’re the first one to apply for FAFSA, scholarships and loans and anyone who has been through it will tell you it’s not an easy process. The harder part is knowing that you’ll have to deal with the same expenses for the next school year, and the year after that…but what if you don’t receive as much financial aid, or what if the cost of tuition suddenly increases, or BOTH? The price tag attached to college is scary AF, which is what makes getting through it such an immense relief especially because you don’t want to burden your parents by asking them for some help.

“It all hinged on this one scholarship that had the ability to change my life….and the day I got the call, I collapsed into tears.” -Andrew Santiago

But at the end of your college career, all of these struggles are completely worth it…which is what makes your graduation day SO. DAMM. SPECIAL. ❤️

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Getting through college is not easy, especially when you’re the first one in your family to do it. But the look on your parents’ face when they see you cross that stage, is what makes every sleepless night, every hour of studying and every stressful exam, completely worth it. This is the best gift in the world that you could’ve given them, and they will never stop showing you off – with immense love, pride, and joy.

“Nothing beats the feeling of knowing they raised you, and that you chose to succeed, that you chose to break not one, but many stereotypes.” -Camerina Morales

And the best part is that now you can be there for all of your younger brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews once it’s their turn to apply for college.

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Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re an idol to all of your younger family members. Seriously, you’re their hero. And now that you’ve gone through this process, you can now help out the rest of your family that also decides to attend college. It will still be a difficult journey for them, but at least they’ll have your support, guidance and advice, which is exactly what every student needs.

“Making my family proud was a priority, but hearing my baby brother say that he was proud of me was even better because I know he looks up to me…I guess it’s the same feeling I had when I was a little girl and looked up to my neighbors’ daughter who had graduated from med school in Guatemala. Children are influenced so easily, and I’m content knowing my little brother will follow my example.” -Jasmin Ramirez


READ: Mother of Mexican-American Student Killed In Paris Received Her College Degree In Her Honor


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Despite Obstacles, Latinos And POC Have Been Getting Into College Without Help From SAT Rigging Aunt Becky And Her White Privilege

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Despite Obstacles, Latinos And POC Have Been Getting Into College Without Help From SAT Rigging Aunt Becky And Her White Privilege

According to the Pew Research Center, there are fewer and fewer Latino students are going to college. In fact, despite how rapidly the Latino community is growing in the U.S., a widening education gap lands us at half as likely to hold a college degree as non-Latino white adults according to The Education Trust.

New York City school districts have the largest Black and Latino enrollment rates in the country but offer the fewest programs for gifted and talented children.

Recent surveys show that 10 school districts with 88 percent to 96 percent black and Hispanic enrollment have either one or zero K-5 Gifted and Talented programs.

In a recent interview with  Tai Abrams, a 2005 alumna of the Bronx HS of Science whose alumni list boasts eight Nobel and eight Pulitzer prize winners called the statistic “educational genocide.”

“It’s like killing off a group of people who are not getting the quality of education they deserve, and it’s a crime,” Abrams told the New York Post.

This is the kind of lack of educational nourishment that underlines the need for programs like affirmative actions.

People can whine and rant about it all they’d like but POC have a right to affirmative action. The latest arrest of Academy Award nominee Felicity Huffman and actress Lori Loughlin, best known for her role as Aunt Becky on “Full House” are proof of this fact.

In headline breaking news the two actresses were revealed to be part of a college cheating scam which gave their kids an unfair advantage that garnered them access to some of the country’s top universities, including Yale and Stanford. This is all despite the fact that the children of these two women, as well as those of over 30 other celebrities and CEOs, were already riding on an enormous wave of white privilege that gives so many white students a leg up in the college application process each year.

Never fear fellow Latinos and POC. While most of our parents might not currently be able to fork over a load of cash to pay and have someone else beef up our SAT exam scores, there are ways to beat the system. And that’s purely on smarts and know-how. Just how abuela would want you to do.

If you’ve already completed your college applications and you met all the deadlines, know that there are several things that you can do to improve your application post-submission. There are also cosas que puede hacer that are just for you because this is a time when you also need to practice some self-care and to remember that you are worthy.

1. Get back to taking care of yourself

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Now that your applications are in and you’re not multi-tasking ad nauseam, you should take care of your mental health. Get back to sleeping seven to eight hours a night and cut back on junk food. Get back to making and eating actual meals when hungry rather than snacking on empty calories. Get back to your exercise routine, quit staying up too late, and research some mindful techniques to help you through the stressful waiting period.

2. Start researching scholarships

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There are scholarships for everything and everyone. Scholarships for first-generation college students, Dreamers, musicians, people who wear glasses, and on, and on. This McDonald’s Scholarship is seeking to give money to Latino students. The due date is February 4! Looking for other kinds of scholarships? Check out this directory.

3. Double-check letters of recommendation

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Most colleges are using online tools to collect your application and recommendation letters, and most colleges will not turn you away for a late letter. Go to all sites and confirm that all your letters of recommendation have been turned in. Contact any teachers who haven’t turn in letters by sending a cheerful e-mail letting them know that their letter is not showing in the portal, say something like, “Dear Ms. Lopez, I went to the UC Davis portal and did not see your letter of recommendation. Please let me know if there’s something else you need from me.”

 4. Check your FAFSA

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If you haven’t filled out the FASFA, you need to do it now. If you have filled it out be sure to make sure all information is filled out correctly to minimize annoying delays. You CAN fill out the FAFSA and provide tax information even if your parents are undocumented. Simply enter 000-00-0000 for their Social Security number. Do no enter their TIN or tax identification numbers that they use to file their taxes!

5. Do more research on each college you hope to attend

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In order to make the best decision when you start getting those acceptances that we know you’ll get, you should start researching each college, and the program in the college you intend to major. You should also research student body demographics. It might be very difficult to go to a school that has very few Latinx students.

6. Research your intended major

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It’s important to have some kind of idea how much you’ll be able to make with a four-year degree if you plan to go to graduate school, and how much that might cost, and weigh that information with how much money, if any, you’re willing to borrow.

7. Be realistic about what you can afford

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Sure there’s financial aid and scholarships, but student aid doesn’t always cover all costs. Do you really want to go into debt? We now know that loan companies have been targeting people of color and veterans, hyping the promise of education and taking advantage of people who have very little money to spare.

8. Have a real discussion with your parents about how much they can pay

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I had a student who got into more than one four-year colleges straight out of high school. She was all set to study medicine when her parents told her that they couldn’t afford the tuition. Before she applied and got in, they hadn’t quite understood how expensive college would be, even with the aid that she got. She was, needless to say, devastated and she didn’t quite know what to do.

 9. If you’re concerned about funding, consider community college for the first two years.

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That student that I was telling you about, well, she wound up staying with her parents and going to the local community college from which she’s about to graduate and transfer to a UC. As a result, she saved thousands and thousands of dollars doing her general education and preparing for her major at a two-year. While I’m on the subject of community college, you should know that students who go to community college have better persistent rates and get better grades than students who go straight to a four-year. Most California community colleges have Puente programs which provide extra support for Latinx students.

10. Don’t sabotage everything because you’re afraid

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You’ve heard of those students who dropped out of high school during the last month or two of senior year or the student who didn’t turn in that last assignment and didn’t graduate? Human nature is a funny thing, and sometimes we’re afraid of success. Gente, we’re about to take over this place, echale ganas!

11. Spend some time reflecting on whether you’re sure you’re ready to leave home.

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Many students drop out of school during the first year because they weren’t ready to leave home in the first place. It’s a lot to expect for every single young person in America to be ready to move to a new city and go to college on their own at just eighteen. As a nation, we need to get better at realizing that. Some students feel they have failed when this happened, but there are many different paths to getting an education. If you decide to stay home and attend a community college, remember that authors, Oscar Hijuelos, and Amy Tan went to community college, and so did musician Alice Bag, that one director of Star Wars, George Lucas, and Tom Hanks.

12. Keep in mind that you might not be ready today, but that you may well be in three months.

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As you reflect on your readiness to move out of your house and into a dorm, remember that young people grow and change very fast. Maybe you feel mostly ready but your feeling reticent too. Keep in mind that feeling a bit afraid doesn’t mean you aren’t ready now, and how you feel today might change a lot in few months.

13. Try not to be mean to your parents

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If you’re pretty sure that you’ll be going off to a four-year away from home, you’re at that age and maturity level where your parents are making you crazy. Being impatient with them or mean won’t make you feel better. Take it from me (mi híjo is on his way to college tambíen), your parents are probably profoundly sad that you’ll be leaving home. Spend some time trying to understand how they feel and compórtate bíen.

14. Start donating things you’ve outgrown

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When you do move out of your parents house and into a dorm, you can’t take everything with you. Do your parents a favor and start getting rid of things piled up in your room and closet that you’ve outgrown or don’t need. Pass down things to your hermanx that they could use and donate the rest.

15. Help your hermanx be successful in school

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Now that you have what it takes to be successful in school and apply for four-year colleges, help your sibs. Encourage them to stay focused, to manage their time wisely. Talk to them about the importance of learning and having a strong GPA. Give them study tips, tutor them in subjects they may need improvement.

16. Write thank you notes

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Studies show that practicing gratitude is good for you. It’s also good for the teachers, mentors, family members, and friends who have helped you through the college application process. Take some time writing anyone who helped a genuine, heartfelt thank you note.

17. If you work, save money.

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This one seems obvious, but it might be one of the hardest things to do, BUT if you’re not supporting yourself or anyone else like your parents probably are, you need to start saving money. Set aside a little money each month that you can take with you to college. You’ll need it! Here are some apps that could help you get started.

18. Read

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I’ve noticed that one skill that students struggle with in my college English classes is reading — reading material that is at a college level and so much of it. You will be assigned an astounding amount of reading in college. The best way to prepare for that is to keep reading — read anything and look up any words you don’t know that seem important to understanding. Looking up words will increase your vocabulary, and I’ve taught many students frustrated by their vocabulary.

19. Plan your summer

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If you have to work all summer, you should plan your summer carefully. Be sure to plan a trip or two with friends, especially those who are also going off to college or those you won’t see when you’re away. Plan out time you’ll spend with your familia. You’ll feel better leaving for school, if you spent quality time with everyone before hand.

20. Try not to stress out

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Stressing out won’t help you. Try not to check your e-mail for acceptance info too obsessively. Go on a walk in the fresh air, cuddle your favorite pet, tell your mamá, or favorite tía, what’s on your mind, and remember that getting accepted, or not, to the college of your choice does not determine your self-worth.

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When I Moved Away From My Family For College I Started My Journey Of Becoming An Independent Latina

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When I Moved Away From My Family For College I Started My Journey Of Becoming An Independent Latina

When it came time to choose a college, I wanted to go as far away from home as possible. I love my family, but I knew that I needed to move out if I was ever going to be a truly independent person. Going across the country for school was the best and most frustrating experience of my life up to that point all at once. As a Latina going to college, I learned so much about myself, my family, and my culture that made it all worth it. Here are 20 important lessons from my college years.

1. We’re not in abuela’s kitchen anymore.

Credit: @simply_samantha/Instagram

In Los Angeles, I had access to Cuban food anywhere I wanted. My abuela would make me ropa vieja if I asked, and I could always get lechon and plantains delivered from our favorite restaurant. In Boston, there was no abuela and nowhere that delivered, and my scaredy-cat self certainly wasn’t going to take the subway alone to find what I wanted. Once I had access to a kitchen again, I learned how to make my favorites and more. It helped me feel connected to something familiar while I navigated the newness of college.

2. Community doesn’t just happen.

Credit: @bc_casa/Instagram

The Cuban-American Students’ Association was a godsend once I found it. Here were people who spoke like me, had families like mine, and got Cuban food for meetings. Seeking them out and getting involved with them took work, though, and I joined late in my college career. Had I found them earlier, I might have had a smoother transition to college.

3. Keeping in touch requires patience.

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I talked to my mom, grandma, great grandma, and anyone else who happened to be in the house at the time on a weekly basis. Telling the same stories over again and answering the same questions got old fast, and I had to learn how to be patient. They were trying to figure out this newfound independence as much as I was, and I couldn’t let their concern for every little detail bother me.

4. It also requires boundaries.

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Going to college meant that for the first time, I had way more control over boundaries. It took me a while, but eventually, I realized that I didn’t have to pick up the phone every time someone called – I could protect my time if I needed to and call back later. I also didn’t have to tell them everything, and while I don’t advocate lying to your family or withholding important information, it was nice to know that I wouldn’t get in trouble for staying out late as long as I chose not to share that. I felt less anxious and more in control of my decisions. 

5. Things slip through the cracks too easily if you don’t keep up.

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When my great aunt died, no one told me. We weren’t particularly close, but I was still shocked at the news when my dad casually brought it up one day. Everyone had assumed that someone else had mentioned it. I realized that if I wanted to be kept in the loop, I had to do the work to keep myself in it.

6. Dating is a whole lot easier when you’re far from home.

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Bringing boyfriends to meet my family always made me anxious. In college, I could go out with someone, and nobody would know. It helped me be more adventurous and relaxed. If the date went wrong, I wouldn’t have to retell all the gory details, and if it went well, he didn’t have to meet my parents if he dropped me off at home. I could keep it to myself, grow in the relationship, and then let everyone else in when I was ready.

7. I had to make my own decisions.

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Before college, it felt like I rarely made decisions on my own. I constantly had a committee of people around me to help me decide on everything from what to wear to which classes to take, and I had a weird fear of disappointing people by making the wrong choice. Sometimes I had college friends around to help, but sometimes, I was on my own, and it was paralyzing. Without people around to constantly validate my actions, I had to learn to trust myself more.

8. You always need some structure.

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After spending what felt like every Saturday cleaning the house and constantly operating on my family’s schedule, I loved the idea of having complete control over my own routines — which meant that for a long time, I didn’t have them. My “No parents! No rules!” attitude meant that I regularly slept with unfolded laundry at the foot of my bed and had a hard time remembering to take the trash out. My poor, poor roommate! Eventually, I knew I needed some structure, but I created it on my own terms.

9. Life requires some fearlessness.

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Growing up, I was always warned about the bad things that would happen if I went anywhere alone. “Sin chaperona, no!” was a common refrain. But in college, I learned how to be a little more fearless. I could take the subway by myself if I paid attention to my surroundings. I went to Italy for spring break — sin chaperona. Realizing I was capable of doing these “scary” things boosted my confidence and made me feel truly independent.

10. Being alone sometimes is a good thing.

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With three younger cousins, a little sister, and countless tias, tios, and people who were somehow related to me even if I didn’t know how time alone was scarce. I loved the noise – usually. College gave me my first opportunity to really spend time alone. Sometimes I enjoyed the quiet, and sometimes I made a beeline for the dining hall to just be around noise. Over time, I learned to really appreciate long stretches of time on my own more.

11. When it comes to language, “use it or lose it” is right.

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I went from speaking Spanish almost daily to almost never, and I lost so much vocabulary so quickly that I worried I’d lose it all. To me, speaking Spanish is a huge part of how I personally express my identity as a Latina, and the thought of losing that ability freaked me out. I spoke Spanish to everyone I possibly could and listened to a lot more Spanish-language music than ever before to make up for it. 

12. Being Latina was a bigger part of my identity than I realized.

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You know that bad joke about how vegans will always tell you they’re vegan as quickly as possible in a conversation? That was me, except I told everyone I was Cuban. Ev-er-y-one. It made me feel special and interesting, and as a freshman in a small New England college who walked in without a single friend, I craved those feelings. But I was also extremely proud to be a little bit different, and I realized just how much I loved my culture when I moved away from it.

13. Apparently, being Latina is “trendy.”

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Here’s the thing about being different: You also start to feel a little like an oddity. Most people asked questions about being Cuban that led to really great conversations, but some made me feel like I was on display. All things Cuban had been trendy for a few years, and sometimes it seemed like I was one of those things.

14. There are a lot of misconceptions about Latinidad out there.

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I found myself making a lot of corrections and introducing seemingly new perspectives in many of my conversations. No, Cuban food is not spicy, and no, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro are not “heroes” to all of us. People were shocked at the new information, and I was shocked at some of the broad generalizations I bumped into. I’d never assume that all food from all English-speaking countries was the same – so why did some people seem to think that Cuban was just another way to say Mexican?

15. Other parents had been as strict as mine.

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Trading stories with other Latinas about our childhoods was an amazing experience. You mean your mom called required phone calls home every hour on the hour when you were out, too? And you weren’t allowed to sleep over at certain people’s houses? My childhood wasn’t so strange, after all.

16. Other families were so similar to mine.

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Come to think of it, our entire families felt similar. From Nochebuena festivities and chismosa older family members to Vick’s as a cure-all and countless requests to “ponte un sueter,” I was amazed at how alike Cuban families from all over the country really were.

17. There was a lot about my culture that I didn’t know.

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Similar as we were, there was so much I didn’t know about what it meant to be Cuban. Other Cuban-American students used all kinds of slang I had never heard before, and when I said I had no idea what “El Burrito Sabanero” was, you could hear the gasps from down the hall. There was a lot to catch up on, and while I was happy to dive in, sometimes my lack of knowledge made me feel like a fake Latina.

18. Therapy is not a bad thing.

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It’s no secret that mental health in the Latinx community needs more attention, and because it’s never really discussed, it took me two and a half years before I took advantage of the free, on-campus counseling offered. I didn’t have to tell anyone I was going, which was one less thing to worry about, and it was a relief to have a way to talk about some issues I’d always wanted to address but didn’t really know how.

19. And I learned to handle stress.

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Stress was the biggest issue for me to figure out. I had always been an incredibly anxious person, and everything seemed to have the potential to stress me out and totally ruin my day. I was on my own in college, and I needed to learn how to swim before I sank. It’s an ongoing process, but since going to therapy and really working to find a solution, I’m getting there

20. Now that I felt I had truly grown up, anything was possible.

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I know my family cares about me, and all of their questions, restrictions, and concern really do come from a place of genuine care. But going away to Boston for college – a time meant for learning, growing, and exploration – was the best thing I could have done for myself. It allowed me to grow and make mistakes away from watchful eyes and make decisions that were truly my own, rather than decisions made out of fear of disappointing people. It helped me grow into a more independent person who felt confident and knew she could be a capable adult, and it was totally worth the lack of Cuban food to get there.

Read: Get It, Ma! These Are The Latina Artists Nominated For The 2019 Grammys

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