The day I was dreading had finally arrived. I woke up on Aug 15, 2022 early in the morning, body caked with sweat from the night before. My eyes were bloodshot as I blankly stared at the wall for a good 10 minutes. Could this really be happening to me? Was I really going to Vassar? I knew the answer already: Yes, I am.
The drive to Vassar was relatively calm. We passed many bridges, many trees and many empty roads as I approached the Poughkeepsie area. I sat there absorbing the peace and quiet—a luxury in New York City, the place I was born and raised. A feeling of tranquility enveloped me as I slumped in my seat. This changed the instant I reached the reception area outside of Main house.
I was greeted by a roar of cheers and applause from the upperclassmen I would eventually call student leaders. Their smiles beamed as bright as the sun on that warm August morning. They were holding signs of greeting and waved me inside. I felt like I belonged.
Then I was led to my room in Josselyn house by one of the available student leaders, and I was told how lucky I was to have such a large room. Afterwards, I was left to my own devices and followed my family around to different events. The privilege of touring the campus for the first time was, much like the rest of my introduction to my new home, a surreal experience.
Sadly, the time came for me to say goodbye to my family. After a family dinner, we walked back to the parking lot in front of Josselyn house and I said my farewells, gave my hugs, and everything in between. Yes, I would keep in touch through Facetime and I would see them again during Thanksgiving break, but my heart still ached. I was devastated and didn’t know what my next steps were. Doubt crept in my mind. I became unsure of what would happen in the week to come.
However, in hindsight I can say that the week that followed contained some of the best adventures of my young life. I took part in Foundations week, a pre-orientation program bringing together first-generation, low-income, and/or undocumented students to foster early community ties and support systems. Thank you Michelle Quock and the Transitions team for making it all possible.
On the night of Aug 15, 2022, Foundations students started the program by playing Where The Wind Blows, an offbeat and exciting game of musical chairs that doubled as an icebreaker. We got comfortable with one another and acted like giddy eight-year-olds in the process. Then, there was a road trip to Storm King Art Center where we admired the artistic beauty of different sculptures (and drowned in sweat). Later in the week, we bowled at Spins Bowl Poughkeepsie and cooked at Molé Molé, and bonded over the lighthearted fun of both activities. The most memorable event by far was Standing on Shoulders of Giants, the final event of the program. We sat in an oval formation and took turns sharing our darkest memories, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in sharing these personal stories. All eyes were turned towards the speaker and the room was dead silent. I didn’t speak, but I empathized with all the stories told. Tears were shed, embraces were given and awkward laughs were let out. That night we were a family.
The new student orientation that followed changed the entire dynamic of Foundations. Instead of only being around 50 people, I was surrounded by hundreds of other new first years. Foundations students were divided into different Stufel groups and I was separated from my new friends. I began seeing everyone less and less, and the effects of Foundations week started to wear off. The community that existed began to fade.
But, as the saying goes: once a family, always a family. Many Foundations students continue to keep in contact. Transitions is also currently hosting Supporting Possibilities & Opportunities to Thrive (SPOT), a bi-weekly event where Transitions students gather to discuss their experiences. As for me, I see familiar faces every day and give greetings whenever I get the chance. It’s more difficult now to stay connected, but it’s still definitely possible.
Foundations week was filled to the brim with both wonderful highs and horrible lows. I started friendships that I hope will blossom over the next few years and perhaps even over a lifetime. I also experienced being away from my friends and family for an extended period of time, which had almost never happened before. The transition to college has been a double-edged sword, but I wouldn’t change a thing.