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Oct. 30, 2020

Student view: Si se puede!

Kiara Zarate

Kiara Zarate is a sophomore majoring in child development in the College of Social Science.

Growing up in South Texas, life was simple and different all at the same time. Being a migrant farmworker meant much of my life was spent on the move. My family and I spent six months away from home working in agriculture throughout the Midwest. Working long, hard hours in the sun was never fun, but the lessons learned shaped who I am today. 

I remember once while walking alongside my father in the corn fields, he turned to me and said “Mija, promise me that you’re going to study hard — a life like this isn’t for you.” Since I was only fourteen at the time, I thought he meant I should finish high school and get a good job.

“‘Mija, promise me that you’re going to study hard — a life like this isn’t for you.’”

As the daughter of migrant farmworkers with a middle school education, I didn’t think that going to college was an option for me. Later that year, through a migrant program with the school I was attending in Indiana, I was able to take a tour of Michigan State University. Never had I seen such a big school. Even with that visit, I still didn’t think opportunities like MSU were for a student like me.

However, upon entering my senior year of high school, I applied to Michigan State. Through MSU College Assistance Migrant Program Scholars Initiative, or CAMP for short, I discovered I had the opportunity to pursue higher education.

I was nervous and excited and fearful. If I did not get admitted, I would not know what to do. Fortunately, soon after my interview with CAMP, I received the good news. The joy and excitement I felt that day still gets me excited because it was something so special.

Once I knew I was admitted, I could hardly contain my happiness. When I showed the acceptance letter to my mom, her eyes filled with tears. Soon, my entire family was jumping around with excitement.

I know I am incredibly blessed to have my family as a support system since the beginning, but traveling 2,000+ miles away from the place I call home and settling into college life was not easy. I arrived with luggage and $200 to my name; I was terrified.

“Basic things like moving around...are just harder.”

To be a Latinx student in a predominately white institution, combined with monetary issues, I struggled to feel like I fit in. Basic things like moving around – transportation to stores and appointments — are just harder. I had to come up with a way to work, keep up with my classes and create a space for myself.

These challenges are real for many first-generation college students. Through those struggles, however, I learned to be resilient and stand up for myself and others. 

For those students who feel as if they don’t fit in or that money will be an issue, take my advice: You DO belong here and there will be ways to get things done. It can get lonely, but know there are people willing to help. You’ve got this! Si se puede! 

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