I still remember the day I got my acceptance letter to the University of Massachusetts. I was living in Reston, Virginia at the time. It was a hot early summer day, and I was walking back from work to the bus stop, listening to some cheesy song about achieving dreams.
As I was walking to the bus stop my phone buzzed. I looked at the screen and saw that I had gotten an email from UMass Amherst saying that my decision letter was ready for review.
I stopped in my tracks and, impatient as I am, I opened the email immediately and followed the link. As the letter loaded, which seemed to take forever, I began making plans in my head. I had about five contingency plans ready when the letter finally showed up on my screen. I don’t remember what it said exactly, only that the word “congratulations” popped up somewhere. That was all I needed to know.
I was filled with an immense sense of pride. I had gotten through so much to get to where I was at that point, and it finally felt like all my hard work had finally paid off.
I immediately called my mom, who congratulated me with her trademark “felicidades muñequita.” I then called my dad, who shared that same sense of pride I was feeling.
But my happiness was quickly cut short by doubt. Did I really want to go to UMass Amherst?
Before starting my transfer process, I’d decided I wanted to find a place with a quality journalism program, and a community of people that could help me make a home.
Of all the colleges I applied to, I was torn between UMass Amherst and University of Arkansas. UMass had the quality of education I was looking for, but Arkansas had my people. Don’t ask me why, but the University of Arkansas has a huge Bolivian and Latinx community. It wasn’t just a generic Bolivian community, it was people I actually knew — including one of my closest friends.
Everyone who’s ever gone to a college far enough away from home knows how hard it is to start over from scratch. Leaving everything and everyone I knew behind was an incredibly hard thing to do, and so, when it seemed like I had a chance to have an already established community, and, more importantly, to have a little piece of home with me, I became torn about what I wanted.
It all boiled down to what my priorities were, but I still couldn’t make a decision. So, one day, completely unable to make a choice, I decided to take a walk and truly think about it. I eventually reached a quiet lake near my home and I sat down and closed my eyes. I pondered about the possibilities each place offered and tried to imagine what my life would be like in either place. I tried to see years into the future, imagining every possible aspect of my life and how it would differ in each place. I liked both versions, and with every minute that passed, I became more and more indecisive.
My parents wanted me to come to UMass Amherst. It was close to where my dad lived at the time, the journalism program was higher ranked, and it was located in a place I actually wanted to live in (I’m a Northeast person, no doubt about it). Still, if I made the choice of coming here, it would mean starting from zero all over again without the help of a tight-knit community. My dad offered a year-long trial period. His idea was that I would attend UMass Amherst for a year. If I absolutely hated it, then he would fully support me if I wanted to transfer out.
And so, I came to UMass Amherst with one foot out the door. Without even knowing that I would fall in love with this place instantly, and that all my fears about not finding my people would quickly disappear. I do sometimes wonder what it would’ve been like had I made a different choice, but UMass Amherst is my home, and I’m glad every single day I chose the path that I did.