By Ashley Morales
I didn’t think identity was a big thing for me until I got to college. I grew up in a diverse town, about an hour away from Rider. Although a majority of the population in my hometown is white, there was still a mix of people from around the world. A real melting pot.
When I decided to go to Rider as a filmmaking, tv and radio major, I felt very fortunate. One reason was because I hadn’t known many Hispanic/Latinx people, or women who identify as Hispanic/Latinx specifically who would go to school for such an “arbitrary” major (read with a pinch of sarcasm). But the main reason was because I was another first-generation Latinx kid who was pursuing higher education. However, my first year at Rider wasn’t what I had expected it to be. It was nothing like the movies.
After a pandemic my freshman year, I decided to live on campus the first semester of my sophomore year. Again, nothing like a movie. It just felt like I was going to classes and passively living, unable to find where I would “fit in.” It wasn’t my best year academically either. I found some ease with fellow classmates who felt the same, but I also felt that I was disappointing myself and my community. Was I not a hardworking Latinx student? Was I stereotyping myself in some way? I’m supposed to work harder as a minority but I felt like I was failing at even being that.
During the second semester of my sophomore year, I decided to move off-campus. I also abruptly decided to become an English double major. The beginning of the spring semester felt the same as the fall semester, as I still didn’t feel like I fit in. I stand out like a sore thumb in my film classes and some of my English classes. There have been many times when I’ve felt I wasn’t good or smart enough to be there. I wish there was reassurance with some professors or advisers who looked like me to make me feel a little better (Shoutout to professor Vincent Toro, my creative writing teacher, super inspiring guy).
I went to a Latinx focus group Zoom meeting hosted by the university on March 31, and I was oddly pleased that my fellow Latinx and Hispanic peers felt the same way I did. It’s an off-putting environment and we all just want to feel comfortable. I feel like that may be too much to ask for from a predominately white institution, but the staff does seem adamant about changing and becoming better. At least I hope they are.
The thing is though, there are clubs like Rider Latinas Unidas and Latin American Student Organization on campus that help to make people like me feel more included and comfortable. It’s just that meetings and events are so limited, and some people don’t put in the effort to show up. I might be a hypocrite too since I can’t always attend these events.
I don’t think that I’m going to really find myself here at Rider, or ever really feel like I belong. But I’d like to think that it will help shape me for the better. Or at the very least, I hope it does.
sophomore English and filmmaking, tv and radio major
Originally printed in the 4/6/22 issue.