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Finding a home away from home  October 20th, 2011

Three years ago I contemplated dropping out of college. Out of my 10 siblings, I was the first one to attend a four-year university. I did not know what to expect. I still remember the excitement I felt when my parents dropped me off. However, the enthusiasm and excitement quickly dissolved. I never thought I would miss home so much.

I grew up in Woodburn, Oregon, where the majority of the population is Latino/a. Moving to a town with a population of less than 6 percent Latino/as was a very difficult transition. During fall term I went home every weekend, I missed “real” Mexican food, my mom’s cooking, and all my friends.  Even though I didn’t have a car, I would always make my way back to Woodburn. I asked for rides, carpooled, and had my parents pick me up. If everything else failed, I would turn to my last resort: the Greyhound! The weekends at home couldn’t go by any faster, and the weekdays in Corvallis couldn’t go by any slower.

Being a person of color in a predominately white institution (PWI) comes with its challenges. I found it difficult to relate to most of my classmates. I felt like I couldn’t be myself and still fit in.  Communities with a large minority population have their own culture, norms, sense of humor, way of talking, and many times these norms are different than those of the dominant culture. While I loved Corvallis, this sense of normality was missing. I couldn’t find a group of people I could call friends – people who shared similar stories, passions, and backgrounds as me.

No place on campus felt like home. Many of my friends asked me why I went home so often and even made fun of me. At first, I was unaware of this unwritten rule. Many times conversations turned awkward when it was my turn to explain my “crazy” weekend. I began to feel embarrassed to them the truth, so I either avoided the question or said I was studying all weekend.  I began to lock myself in my room, snooze through classes, and not care about my grades. During Week 4 I failed my first midterm. I felt miserable and began to contemplate dropping out of school. I feared I was becoming a statistic; another “Latino drop-out.” I felt like I had no one to turn to for help; I knew none of my family would understand having never attended college.

Luckily a friend began to invite me to events sponsored by the Centro Cultural César Chávez (CCCC). I began to meet new people and become more involved on campus.   Thanks to my friend, I also found a place on campus that felt like home, the CCCC. The CCCC had events that served food that tasted like home. I began to meet people with whom I could relate; the more friends I made, the more involved I became on campus. Eventually, my involvement with CCCC gave me the courage to seek out the Student Leadership and Involvement homepage and saw OSU had hundreds of clubs and organizations. I became involved with the OSU Soccer Club Team, and Omega Delta Phi, a non-housed, multicultural, community-based fraternity. Becoming more involved on campus and seeking out resources helped me build a support network. I now felt I had a reason to stay in school. I began to feel a sense of belonging. As I became more involved on campus my grades began to rise and I began to go home less often.

The transition to college can be very difficult for many students but there are many resources on campus that can help. Feeling homesick is natural for everyone. Being a Student of Color at a PWI can exacerbate these feelings. Homesickness becomes a problem when it begins to hinder your academics or health. If you begin to feel depressed, I encourage you to take full advantage of the resources available. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is free for students and is located on the fifth floor of Snell Hall. A rough transition can also lead to poor grades or bad studying habits. The Academic Success Center (ASC) located in Waldo Hall is a great resource.  The ASC allows you to work with an academic coach to build skills to become a successful college student. The best way I found to get connected to campus is meeting new people and getting involved.  Check out the Student Leadership and Involvement website. Did you know OSU has more than 300 clubs and organizations? Getting involved with clubs and organizations is not only a great way to meet people who share similar passions as you, it also helps you network, build a support system, and become a leader on campus.

Most importantly, I encourage you to think about how you are helping to create an inclusive and safe community for your roommates and floor mates. How would you feel if you paid money to live in a place that does not feel like home? Every resident plays a role in building a safe and welcoming community. If you know someone who goes home every weekend or is not close to people on their floor, make an effort to invite them to events, programs or floor dinners. Try to find out their story and perspective before making judgments. I wish someone had reached out to me, now I work on reaching out to others.

Thank you for reading and good luck with your fall term!

Miguel Arellano, Community Relations Facilitator

Being a friend, becoming a proud LGBT ally  October 20th, 2011

I was sitting in the Pride Center today, thinking about my first personal experience with LGBT* identities. I was in high school and one of my close friends came out to me as gay. He said I was the second or third person he opened up to about his sexuality. I realized that his coming out to me showed a great deal about his trust in me as a friend and a person. I didn’t know the term for it then, but this was my first experience of discovering what it means to be an ally.

Before this experience, I had never (knowingly) been around anyone from the LGBT community. I was raised in a very sheltered setting, not very aware of personal differences. I remained extremely naïve as a child, even as late as high school. I don’t remember knowing about people being gay or that they were around me. I just thought “people were people.” I was raised in a heavily Protestant family. I was taught that being gay was a choice and that it was bad. I learned that, according to the Bible, God didn’t agree with people who are attracted to the same sex. Realizing that one of my close friends is gay helped me make some personal decisions of what is true for me.

Surprisingly enough, my relationship with my friend was not at all negatively affected by his coming out. In fact, I think our friendship actually became stronger. I knew he trusted me and I was able to support him in his coming out to others when he was ready. I still saw him as the same person, because he is the same; the difference is that I now know him more completely. The fact that he is gay doesn’t change his personality or the friendship we have between us. Unlike some TV shows, I was not, all of a sudden, worried that he was attracted to me just because he is gay. He helped me understand that, for him, it wasn’t a choice. His sexuality was something he had been struggling to understand and share for quite a while. I am glad he chose to confide in me and include me in his coming out process. I am also glad his courage sparked courage in me to learn how I can be a better ally to him and others in the LGBT community.

Since I have been at OSU, I have found that going to the Pride Center events have helped me explore my own thoughts regarding sexuality and the LGBT community. I would like to consider myself a proud ally, and I encourage caring curiosity with regard to what it means to be an ally. I encourage you to check out the Pride Center soon. The Rainbow Continuum student group is another great avenue to learn more. I especially encourage you to check out their fall and spring drag shows, which are quite fun! In fact, their next drag show is at 8 p.m. Oct. 28, in the Memorial Union Ballroom.

Thank you for reading,

Nick Taylor, Community Relations Facilitator

*(lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender)

Moving Past White Guilt  May 19th, 2011

My name is Bree Mead and I am a sixth year graduating senior from Novato, California. I have been here so long because I am double majoring. I have an Art History degree already completed with a focus in Mesoamerican Art Studies, along with a Spanish minor and I am just finishing up my Fine Arts degree with a focus in Printmaking. I have officially been a Community Relations Facilitator for OSU since early April 2011 and it has really altered my life. I have been reading on social justice and diversity and also attended the first ever Exploring White Identity in a Multicultural World Retreat (EWI), the sister to Racial Aikido for students of color. It is a retreat for white people to learn and understand their own white privilege and oppression. In addition, I recently completed the Building Inclusive Communities (BIC) workshop to better educate myself on oppression & privilege.

These emotional experiences have been the most valuable to me in my growth as a white person in this world we live in. Read the rest of this entry »

Prejudice is Like Genetics: It is Passed From Generation to Generation  May 5th, 2011

Over the last weekend, while visiting my family members, I was able to witness the reinforcement of societal prejudice. Although my they come from a conservative background, what was said during a conversation at dinner was inexcusable. With my brothers sitting at the dinner table, a family member openly made comments degrading people of the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »

White Identity  May 5th, 2011

Through the last two years of working on understanding social justice and diversity I have had many battles within myself. I have worked hard to gain a better understanding of my white identity and how I may be perceived in our society. Yet, there is still something that I can’t understand or agree with that many white identified individuals have said. Many people who are White have said that they don’t believe they have a culture or there is no white culture. I’m shocked every time I hear someone say this to me as they believe they have no culture what so ever. Read the rest of this entry »

Not Blending In  April 21st, 2011

Being a person of color in a predominantly white institution can definitely have its challenges. I have been at Oregon State for over a year now and being here has been very interesting. It has been here at OSU that I have been more intentional in learning about my own culture and what it means to identify as a Latina/ Mexican-American than anywhere else. I believe the reason for that is because it has been not only here in Corvallis, but also here in Oregon that my ethnicity matters.  I constantly find myself in conversations about who I am and where I am from and it’s not because of my job. These conversations have been occurring since my arrival to Oregon. Read the rest of this entry »

Owning Privilege  April 7th, 2011

Whenever someone makes a mistake or does something wrong that might affect others, the world expects us to take responsibility for it and own up to it. In a sense, this is very similar to the way privilege works. In our world, there are millions of beneficiaries of societal constructs which define who will be the advantaged and disadvantaged group in society. This is something that is out of the control of most, but is reinforced by institutions and society as a whole.  Although it is not intentional, it is imperative that we analyze where we fit in, and recognize the areas that we are the beneficiaries. By recognizing advantage, you are owning it, and can then learn how to use it to make this community more inclusive. Read the rest of this entry »

Mid-Year Transitions  March 9th, 2011

Dead week already!!?? Is it just me, or does anyone feel like it went by too fast? Many things happened, many things didn’t happen, but one thing that is for sure, transitions in the middle of the school year, at least for me, have not been the best. I like order and knowing what to expect, so when change occurs in the middle of the school year it tends to throw me off.  As a fifth year senior, however, I have learned how to deal with change in my life and I hope you all do too.  As many of you know, or don’t know one of the biggest transitions for me was coming here to Oregon State.  I can still remember how lonely I felt even though I was surrounded by thousands of people. Read the rest of this entry »

Assault and Me  March 8th, 2011

On the morning of February 8th I was assaulted outside of the town houses on 10th and Jefferson. I was with two friends a man and woman. We were heading back from Qdoba to a friend’s house after a night out. Read the rest of this entry »

Being an Ally  February 23rd, 2011

An ally is a person who identifies within a dominant identity, yet chooses to aid or fight alongside those who identify with subordinate identities. An example of what an identity can be is how I identify as being a white, straight, male. Those are all examples of dominant identities and the supplement subordinate identities would be a person of color, gay, and female. I now consider myself an ally to all subordinate identities, even though in the past I didn’t give my support. Read the rest of this entry »