How drive, support and faith helped me get back on my educational journey

It was smooth sailing during my first few weeks of my sophomore year in community college. I was a part of the student newspaper, I had some friends from high school that I would see on campus, and I had good professors. On a random weekend, I was eating with my family on what seemed like a completely normal day. Then, I got an email from my algebra professor saying we wouldn’t meet in person for the rest of the semester. I thought, “Nice, I can sleep in a little longer.” Then, my other classes sent out emails saying we wouldn’t be meeting in person anymore either. 

The pandemic’s effect was in full swing at that very moment. From that moment on, I spent the last two years of community college looking at a screen.

My attention span was almost non-existent. I couldn’t sit still in my chair during my Zoom classes, I would leave the house right after a class or just skip classes nonchalantly, and instead of striving for good grades, I settled for passing grades. At that point, I was just trying to get by and trying to ignore the things that were happening around me. 

It wasn’t all bad though. I picked up new hobbies, became more involved in my church, grew closer to my family and friends, and I earned enough credits to transfer and graduate with my associate degree in the fall semester of 2021. 

While looking for a school to transfer to, I became excited to be a student again. I thought all my academic struggles and shortcomings would be resolved once I was back on campus. Sadly, that’s not how it turned out.  

In spring of 2022, my first semester at APU, I realized I was not ready to be a student again.

The first few weeks, the 30-minute commute drained me. I had to learn where my classes were located and become familiar with the campus. I zoned out during class then became aware mid-lecture (even when they were just going over the syllabus and class schedule). I stayed quiet during open discussions and would only speak when spoken to. I was overstimulated, exhausted and felt like I was dropped into a new world.

I also felt like I was behind everyone. Even though I graduated as a junior at my community college, I was listed as a sophomore when I enrolled here. Meanwhile, my peers that are in the same program as me had already met the professors and seemed to be on track for their academic journey. Becoming a student again, especially becoming a student somewhere new, was proving to be difficult.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling down. Self-doubt sank in, and I thought about taking the semester off. I tried to think of reasons why I should leave, but, of course, I couldn’t find a valid reason. After some prayer, venting to family and friends and getting love and support from my number one fan, my mom, I had some renewed energy and mental strength. 

My main motivation became that I am a first-generation student. I got my associate degree, which is already a big deal in my family, and now I am the first one to attend a university. It’s not a burden but a good reminder that I am a representation of my family. After coming to that realization, I knew it was time to seize the moment. So, I buckled down and faced this adversity. 

The fourth week of the semester, I finally hit my stride. The commute became the easy part of my day where I could prepare myself for the long school days. I became familiar with campus and never ran late to class. I started to actively listen again during lectures; I was enjoying the process of learning.

When it came to the classroom, I created a challenge for myself that I called “earn to kick your feet up.” In order for me to kick my feet up and relax, I had to engage first. Anytime I was put into groups in class, I made sure to open up conversation. I’d talk with my classmates before class started, and anytime a professor asked the class a question, I didn’t shy away from speaking.

Besides adapting to the classroom, I started to explore the new community I am now a part of. I love the village vibes of APU’s East Campus and the modern feel of West Campus. I found a coffee shop to go to in the morning after class, ate food at local grub spots and enjoyed the Hispanic heritage of the town. I felt like a part of APU and Azusa.

Now, I’m starting my second semester at APU. It doesn’t feel foreign, I don’t feel like a transfer student as much as I did last semester, and I feel like a normal student again. My reintroduction to college was anything but normal and was difficult at the start, but I adjusted and overcame it.

To any transfer students who had a similar journey as me or a completely different one, you got this. Welcome the new environment and new faces. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Set some personal goals for yourself. If you need extra motivation, find the bigger picture of why you’re here, and answer why you’re doing what you’re doing.