#RealCollege: Surviving My First Year at Cal Berkeley

Earlier this month I turned in an application, and one of the questions revolved around the notion of the most challenging aspect of college thus far. After days of rethinking and drafting my response, I came to realize my struggle with college was not linear. There was no single reason as to why college had been incredibly hard for me. However, after one of the most eye opening time periods I have yet experienced, I can say that a handful of things have made college challenging. Now if I had to select the most challenging thing about college I would say, “The most challenging aspect has been surviving, staying afloat.” 

Navigating an institution structured against me has exhausted me. This institution deprived me of any refund by having charges for a dorm I never lived in. 

The university has chosen me for verification every single chance it could. I have experienced hate speech on campus regarding immigration, and as an undocumented student, I have become anxious, and angered every single time I have stepped onto campus. It is difficult to point out the biggest challenge of college thus far, because every single structure on campus has been built for those much more privileged. Navigating mental health services has been depressing to say the least, and as upsetting and negative this may seem, it is my reality. 

Academics have been rigorous no doubt, but I have also been challenged by living in my identities as an independent, undocumented pansexual woman of color. Don’t misunderstand me, living in my skin and continuing to navigate oppressive structures is in no way easy, but it does not mean it will immobilize me. My goal is to keep moving forward.

Yes, admittedly this semester was the hardest I have experienced, but I still did THAT. Despite being over worked by my previous job which impacted my studies, being severely depressed and trying to seek help for my anxiety, which lead to being on Effexor (a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and being rear ended in a car collision leaving me with a concussion, cervical strains, and back problems, and nearly dropping out, I managed to finish this first year. Whether it be with flying colors or not, I still made it through. I made it through because I did my best to remain consistent, identified my weaknesses, and most importantly allowed myself to indulge in my feelings as much as I could. I’ve come to find that restraining my feelings, whatever they may have been, in an attempt to continue did not help at all. 

I could not for the life of me continue to pretend everything was fine, when it clearly seemed to be going down hill. Instead, I chose to lock myself in my bedroom alone and sit with my feelings. I sat with my feelings and digested them on my own, to help me figure out how I could manage everything else. While advocating my needs and trying to reach out to people helped me get this far, it seemed others could not help me if I could not advocate how they could aid me. As corny as it is, I learned it was necessary to really know myself in order to help myself. There is no shame in struggling or going through a tough time, but it is important to figure out your needs in order to do better and be better. Take care of yourselves, you come before anything else!

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Yendy Rebollo

Yendy Rebollo

Yendy Rebollo is an independent, low-income, first-generation, undocumented or rather DACA-mented, woman of color navigating higher education at the University of California Berkeley. She has been an independent student since her senior year of high school, when she ran away from her abusive parents. It is in that same year, Yendy became a published writer with Lacomadre.org. Yendy is currently double majoring in Ethnic Studies and Comparative Literature with a Minor in Education. She strives to attend law school as soon as she is finished with her Bachelor’s degree.

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