Valeria Velazquez // Contributing Columnist
Illustration by Cynthia Tran Vo
Unlike most, I can’t remember my first day of school at Capilano University. To be honest, I wasn’t even excited to begin classes, and I’m not going to be the one telling you how amazing my life has been since I came here to start university, because honestly, it has been one of the hardest, yet one of the most fulfilling things I have done in my entire life.
I came to Vancouver from Mexico on Dec. 27, 2017. I stayed over at a friend’s house for the first couple of days, celebrated New Year’s with a great party surrounded by amazing people and woke up with an undesired and one of a kind hangover. On Jan. 3, I moved to a place I thought was going to be the one I’d call home. It turned out to be one of the seven houses I would live in during the course of a little over a year.
When you are first looking to start university in a foreign country you can only think of how much fun you are going to have, all the friends you will make, the parties you’ll go to, how you’ll be able to manage school, work, a social life, sleep and such. But then BOOM you get here and realize things are not as easy as they make them look in the movies. Truth is, it’s not as bad as I’m making it sound right now either. Of course, we all have our ups and downs, but that’s what life, in general, is all about, isn’t it? The only thing is that right now in my twenties, every down feels like the end of the world.
During my first year at CapU, I learned to let go of a lot of insecurities. I think the biggest one was the way I speak English, with my slight yet existing Hispanic accent. I was so nervous about speaking that I didn’t even want to open my mouth in class to clarify a doubt or even ask someone for their name.I thought people were going to laugh at me for my broken accent, but now I like to think of myself as a half-foot-taller version of Salma Hayek. I’ve realized that my accent is part of who I am and I might never reach perfect English pronunciation. The fact that I have an accent means that I can speak another language aside from English and that’s something many people only wish they could do.
Another one of the things I learned was to value the things I used to have back home. When you live with your parents in your home country, there is so much you take for granted, such as having food in the fridge at all times, not having to worry about paying rent or even doing the laundry and cleaning up the house. The greatest thing I found I took for granted was my family. I didn’t know how much I was going to miss my parents and siblings until they were not around bothering me every day as they did before. This really hits the hardest on days when you get sick, or sad or even just stressed out. Those days are the ones when you really wish there was someone there to take care of you or even just hug you and tell you everything’s going to be alright.
The thing I’m still struggling with is learning how to control my freedom. Yes, you read it right, control my freedom. It was so hard for me to come here and set boundaries for everything in my life. Suddenly, I went from being the girl who had to ask for the permission of her parents to stay over at a friend’s house, to being the girl who had the world at her feet and could do whatever she wanted.
Having gotten a job (which meant I had all this money for myself) and not living with my parents anymore, I thought I was invincible. I started to do all these things that I wouldn’t have normally done had I stayed in Mexico – some which were nurturing and put me in the path towards becoming the best version of myself, and others which I’m not so proud of that pushed me sort of in the opposite direction. This push and pull went on until I reached a point where I felt I was taking one step forward and two back and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I felt I was abusing my freedom and so I started setting boundaries for myself and that itself is a fundamental part of growing up, maturing and becoming the person you really want to be.
During this time, I’ve been through a lot – more than I can put into words in this column, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned is that growth (in any aspect you wish to think about) is not found in comfort. Throughout our lives we are going to find ourselves in situations that we don’t want to be in, having to do things we might not want to do at that moment, but we have to think about the effect it will have, good or bad, and decide if we want to go forth with it. Life is all about the decisions we make. They define us and every choice we make defines our path. As far as I can tell, if you’re an international student just like me, I know you’ve already made a good one just by coming here.