Culture Shock

Daryl Loreus

“Culture shock” still seems like a bit of an understatement when describing my first few weeks at Merrimack College. I arrived on campus to start my 4-yr undergrad campaign in August, 2016. Going into my freshman year, I had already asked all the credible people I knew what I’d thought were the appropriate questions. “How does the workload compare to that of high school?” “Do we have a homeroom?” “How’s the food?” I assumed college was going to be like high school with more freedom and more time for sports. I was recruited to run track in college as well, so finding or trying to come up with my own identity on campus wasn’t ever really a difficult task seeing as a label was kind of already given to me upon arrival: Athlete.

I graduated from Malden High School, statistically the most racially diverse high school in Massachusetts that year and a few years prior. I’d attended Malden Public Schools from 1st grade to 12th grade, so it was kind of all I had known. For many years, faculty members would preach to us about how lucky we were to be a part of such a beautiful, diverse student body, and I never really thought much of it. Like I said, it was all I had known, so I got so used to it.

I barely remember the first week of classes at Merrimack or what we even did in those classes. One thing I remember was the walk to the academic buildings. I remember walking and looking at all of the white faces avoiding eye contact with me. I remember holding the door open for a group of white students who seemed to have already known each other. Every single person was speaking English. I remember feeling alone and out of place. I remember missing Malden.

My first track practice didn’t really change much in regards to my feelings towards the school in general. I actually realized that the school wasn’t actually all white students. I noticed, while making my way to the athletic complex where all of the locker rooms are located, there was a decent amount of black students on campus. They were just all on the football team. My team lacked diversity as well, which didn’t surprise me much but I wasn’t as bothered by it. Things had been going just fine for the first few practices. I wasn’t uncomfortable or lonely. I kept quiet for the first few days until one of the seniors on the women’s team asked me a question after practice that I didn’t think I’d ever have to answer: “Why do you dress like that?” I was wearing baggy sweatpants, a hoodie, and a durag. “Because it’s mine” I answered sarcastically. My teammates laughed at the response and, for the first time, I was able to bond with them after practice. We played basketball and had dinner together and talked about anything and everything.

A few days later, my coach asked me to come to her office to discuss my experience with the team up to that point. She asked if I was having trouble getting acquainted with my teammates because she could tell I didn’t necessarily look or act like most of the people on the team and it showed. We both even referred to a time where I used the “N-word” while singing a song in the vans we took to practice and how everyone’s faces were sort of flushed and shocked to even hear the word spoken out loud by someone so close to them. I told her I was a little nervous about being 1-of-6 black guys on a team of 120 athletes, but I wasn’t going to let it bother me. 

I stood out at Merrimack early in my career. My roommates were white. My teammates were white. My professors, RA, and coaches were almost all white. I still wasn’t going to let it bother me, and most importantly, I wasn’t going to let it change me. I figured if I was going to be different, no matter what, I’d embrace it. 

I’m now in my fourth year at Merrimack. As a senior, I’ve been named a captain of the men’s track and field team for 2 years in a row as a result of my ability to influence, inspire, and effectively lead my teammates in the best way that I know how. I’m proud to say I didn’t let the abrupt changes in culture and surroundings affect me negatively. In turn, I did my best to put into the world around me more than I anticipated receiving. I stayed true to myself and I’m happy to say I made the best out of my time at Merrimack.

It Wasn’t Supposed to be Like This

Maeva Veillard

August 2015– I loaded my parent’s van and my father along with my aunt drove 986 miles from Hyde Park, Massachusetts to Greencastle, Indiana. I was eager to “start my life” (As if I hadn’t already been living my life for 17 years lol). In my mind, I thought escaping to a far-off state would solve all the problems and hurts I endured in Boston. I couldn’t wait to “start fresh” and “find myself”—this time, for real. I planned to make friends, meet my husband, get involved and have the best 4 years of my life. The plan was this: get to DePauw, fall in love, graduate a Music Education major with a job secured as a music teacher in the Midwest. 

May 2019– I graduated, but I was single, a Global Health and French double major with a plane ticket back to Boston. So, where did it all go wrong? I mean, I thought I was supposed to follow “the plan.” The truth is, I did follow a plan, it just wasn’t my plan. You see, God had other things in mind for me during my 4 years in Indiana. I don’t think He planned for me to get my heart broken multiple times, get on probation or get sent to the hospital at 2am for ingesting synthetic THC (that’s a story for another day), but He did intend to use all of those experiences for good. 

College for me went NOTHING like I had planned, but I graduated a smart, confident and inspirational young woman. August 2015, I was naïve, innocent and completely oblivious to the true complexities of life. It took my plan falling through the cracks for me to realize that we rarely end up where we think we’ll be, but we always end up where we need to be. 

My advice to you is to make a plan but don’t get married to it. Seek new experiences and meet new people, but keep in mind that things can change in an instant. Be open to things falling apart only to find them falling back together again in the most random and beautiful ways. College stretches you, it teaches you that you are stronger than you think. Although in my mind I was paying for an academic education, I soon realized that I was paying for so much more. I paid to find myself, make mistakes, fall in love with myself and come out on the other side as the most amazing individual. 

You will grow in college. You will fall apart. You will be confused. You will constantly question if you’re doing the right thing or if this is really for you. All of these thoughts are normal. Believe that you belong there. Believe that if you are willing, you can make some pretty awesome memories, and also become an incredible version of yourself. 

So go, find yourself, fall in love, make mistakes, change your major a million times, cry at 2am—it’ll all happen, but you know what will happen also? You’ll graduate, you’ll be successful, and you will come out on the other side

Raised By A Village

Dinah B. Salomon

Twelve schools man. That is the number of schools I applied to during my final year of high school. Out of those twelve schools, ONE accepted me. And to tell you the truth I actually got waitlisted. See, I wasn’t exactly your model student, not in the positive way anyway. There were many years of failing classes, failing my mom and myself. Everyone who knew me then can attest that my period of being lost felt like forever. Therefore, when it came to the end of high school and figuring out what the next step was, it was then I knew I had screwed up. Letter after letter was a “No thank you” or a “yeah you seem cool but the others seem cooler”.

I mean what did I expect? Who was going to waste their time on someone with a transcript like mine? Then came that one, that one out of twelve. Curry College gave me that shot. They looked past my haunting history and saw a much brighter future for me and it was up to me to see it for myself. Something I can say about my 4 years there is that I am exceedingly who they wanted me to be. Your initial expectation of what college will be is usually correct. It will be a cluster of fun, freedom and the ability to run around all day with your friends. However, there’s another side that people never tell you about; the side you can’t prepare for. Like once you screw up one class, your GPA is in the crapper or when you’re having a bad day the day doesn’t stop you have to keep going.

I remember emailing my professor explaining how crazy my day had been and I wasn’t sure if I’d make it time for class, their response was: Great for reaching out, see you for the second half of class! – Cheers. From then on, I decided if I wasn’t going to class it was way better to shoot the email after class was already over to avoid their guilt trip. There were also times I felt so alone and I was the only one having a hard time. Yeah definitely felt that way too many times, but then come the end of every semester I always realize that I didn’t do it alone.

First came the professors. Professors became advisors then advisors became friends. It is without a doubt that the people who have taught me molded me into the student that worked for their grade. My very first inspiration, professor and now advisor Michelle Perrault; a woman with confidence and grace she is who I embodied. The infamous Grant Burrier; the one always down for the culture infused his affinity for politics and history in me and inspired me to declare a minor in it. I also have to thank him for his astounding support for my growth and taking me to Cuba to study their political system. Thank you to the raging Melissa Anyiwo, who everyone told me to stay away because she supposedly never gives A’s, I am proud to announce that it is in fact not true. She taught me what it was to really learn your history. Being able to learn from her was a great honor and double that because she was the only black professor I had in my undergraduate career. Last but not least, Maria Droganova and quantitative methods. Yes, that is the type of class you go home and cry about and no that did not stop her from calling me out in class. One day she told me that there is significantly less women representation in scholarly fields because we are more afraid to speak up even when we’re wrong. As crazy Maria was at that time, she was right. I mean of course she had the data to back it up but even without it, I had seen it within myself. She was a wonder woman, a math Goddess, she devoted her time to make me great and for that, I am so grateful.

All these accolades boils down to a specific point, it took a village to raise me. Professors have raised me, the mixed community shook me and my beautiful friends have loved me when I was at my very lowest and it was all because Curry College was that one. I wish that the perfect euphoria called college could’ve lasted forever, but nothing ever does. Through loads of trial and error I came out on top and that is something I’ll always be proud of.

A degree in one hand and peace sign in the other because student loans are already knocking at my front door! So like Nipsey Hussle (RIP THE DON) said, “the game will test you, never fold. Stay ten toes down, it’s not on you it’s in you and what’s in you they can never take away.” Don’t ever let your past define you. I have what I have because of God’s grace and he gets the final say, just get ready to do the work. OKURRRRRT. 

Was It All Worth It?

Sabrina Desriviere

My college experience started in the summer of 2010 at Umass Dartmouth. I was super anxious, not knowing how everything was going to play out. First week of classes I was a wreck unable to sit in class, constant panic attacks, and just overwhelmed with the thought that I was destined to fail. After a couple of weeks of living on campus, I’ve made the ultimate decision to leave before the semester ended. This was by far one of the hardest decisions I had to make because I felt that I failed my family, friends, and more importantly myself.

I didn’t have much of a back up plan, and was struggling to figure out my next move. After some time to myself my dad suggested that I attend Bunker Hill Community College.Initially, I was so frustrated for allowing myself to hit this low, and also with the thought of being judged having to go to a community college overwhelmed me. I felt stuck. I gave Bunkerhill a chance, it helped me ease my way back into the college setting by being flexible, and not having the pressure of taking on a full course load. I started off by taking two classes which wasn’t too much to manage, however my  struggle with being able to sit in a classroom continued to persist. Over time I took time away from school to work full time and figure out what are my other options.

The next step I decided to take was to attend a trade school to receive a certificate in medical assisting. By far the best educational decision I’ve made for myself. The setting was more interactive and hands on which I loved. It help provided me with the skills, and tools I needed to further my career beyond medical assisting. Most importantly it helped build my confidence to go back to college and obtain my degree. Unfortunately, I didn’t go back to Bunkerhill but decided to attend Northshore Community College instead. Northshore was more my speed and made me much more comfortable. With balancing work and attending classes during the evenings and weekends it took a lot out of me. However, I made it; graduating with my Associates Degree in Health Science May 2019 I had endless breakdowns, ocean of tears, and constantly questioned myself if all of this was worth it. Truthfully, after nine years of battling myself with trying to finish my education: it was all worth it. I learned so much about myself through this journey that probably wouldn’t have known had I stayed on campus at Umass Dartmouth.

Some advice I can give you is “don’t give up” as basic as it sounds. You probably already have  this set plan on how you vision these next 4 years of college and that’s great. However, that plan is not set in stone so anything can happen, not to burst your bubble. Truthfully, life happens. It will take you places that you didn’t see coming, but all it takes is some readjusting and that’s ok. Yea, things will get tough, anxiety is on 100, and you may feel the weight of the world is on your shoulder, but keep trying and pushing yourself because it will be worth it in the end.