Highlander Diaries: First-year Fears

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In Highlander Diaries, a new section hosted by Features, Highlanders get to share their college  experiences within a Dear Diary format. This is to allow an open space in which students can write within a first-person context and reach out to fellow classmates on a more personal level. Since it is early in the school year and many freshmen might be uneasy about the adjustment to college, this week’s edition revolves around a reflection on first-year fears, or the anxieties that arose when students first entered college.


[pullquote]Writer: Edward Dave, CW[/pullquote]

September 21, 2014

Dear Diary,
Just the very mention of college was enough to send me in cardiac arrest during my high school years. It’s always romanticized in the entertainment medium as something that isn’t as daunting as it really is. You see the glam that accompanies the work — the drugs, the parties, the mayhem — but the actual work element is almost non-existent. From a social perspective it just seemed like so much to take in. Freedom actually becomes inhibiting if you’re granted too much of it. I didn’t want to become another victim to the allure of the lavish extracurriculars of college life.

My family has some minor college credentials on their resumes but none of them actually went to a university. Once I found out that I got accepted into UCR, I finally began to see myself as someone that was deserving of the admission. Once you obtain something, you realize that all the baby steps and fundamental building blocks to get there weren’t all in vain.

Being an African American male, I’ve always ascribed to be more than a statistic. My resolve comes from a desire to constantly prove those who doubt me wrong. My ambition stems from a communal hope that young black males like me utilize their full potential and destroy the very stigmas that still keep many of my community in invisible chains. Before my freshmen year began there were so many nights I stayed awake anxious about undertaking a huge commitment.

College is a commitment that ends up becoming top priority. It’s a beacon of hope that will hopefully lay out your entire future and give you assets you need to thrive. But even though my anxiety was strong, my will to trump my doubt was stronger. There’s so much lying on my shoulders that I’d be stupid to just fall through the cracks. Sometimes the best way to deal with fear is to embrace it. You need to envelope yourself in all the things that are pressing down on you and understand that nothing in this world is exempt from being beaten.

Besides, I knew from a practical perspective that being successful in our current job landscape with minimal education is nearly impossible. One of my biggest goals in life is to give back to my mother and be able to provide for my own family in the future. With all of that on the line, I knew failure wasn’t an option. And it still isn’t.


Edward Dave


[pullquote]Writer: Mikaela Valentino, CW[/pullquote]

October 3, 2012

Dear Diary,

I’m not sure of the me I’d like everyone to see. I could be anyone I wanna be, because no one knows who I am really or who I was in high school.  So, why couldn’t I just create some better version of myself, a version I’m not even sure about?  Why not be the funniest, the most charming, the nicest, or maybe… why not be the mysteriously quiet one who everyone is desperately curious about?  Like a shadow.  Like an elegant, lonely shadow floating through the crowded common areas, past every door in the hall to the last room on the left, without a word.

I hope I don’t seem weird to my roommates.  They’re both so sweet. In a lovable, “I’m adorable and sheltered” kind of way. Everyone seems to like them. They’re harmless, safe, so unbelievably easy that it’s almost a headache. What if they create a little sisterhood bond of their own so whenever we’re all in our three-person closet of a loft dorm, I’ll be forced to watch them enjoy each other, giggling over Taylor Swift, while I just sit and think of something interesting to say?  What if the something-interesting-I-decide-to-say isn’t interesting to them at all and we’re now all stuck in awkward silence?  Maybe I just shouldn’t speak.  

I’ve never had to live this closely with strangers before. It’s like being given an entirely new family, with different customs, smells and interests.  Getting along at home was hard enough, but at least we got some time to practice.  Do I seriously have to live with near strangers in such close proximity for three whole quarters?  What are those, anyway? I’ve never even heard of quarters!  Why do we have to switch classes so much?  Can’t we just pick a professor we like and stick with them until we graduate?  What if I don’t like any of them though? What if they assign endless amounts of reading?  Don’t they know I have three others classes and a part-time job in the dining hall? Well, at least I get to eat for free.

So far, the dining hall has been the best part of college. It’s just the perfect situation: I can shovel down endless amounts of food without anyone caring how gluttonous I look because, let’s face it, everyone’s a monster in here anyway.  And, best of all, no one actually cares if I sit alone … well, except when it’s dinner time. Seems like everyone’s got their little families all in order for dinner time. There are some solo stragglers like me, but sometimes I wonder if they actually want to be left alone. It doesn’t help that my entire hall meets for dinner every night.  It’s overwhelming. They’ve invited me to go a few times, but I think they’re just trying to be polite. I would try harder, but they’re just so loud and obnoxious with their inside jokes and memories, it ends up just making me feel more cast out. Why didn’t I just take summer session? Meh, it honestly isn’t so bad though. I’ll find someone to sit with, but if I don’t, I can just jot down some thought and brush up on my writing skills. Yeah, maybe I’ll just keep doing that. Maybe that’ll pay off more than learning how to eat in large groups.




[pullquote]Writer: Julia Schemmer[/pullquote]

June 1, 2016

Dear Diary,

My childhood was defined in one of two places: A hospital, where I anxiously paced around the waiting room as my older sister received chemotherapy treatment, and a college campus, where I saw my older brother sacrifice everything to obtain a degree from UC Riverside. One brought me hope, while the other taught me humility. Growing up, when I wasn’t on UCR’s campus visiting my brother, I was hearing about the school through my parents, who were hell-bent on me attending Riverside as well.

This wasn’t the first time in my life that education was viewed as the pathway to socio-economic liberation. Coming from parents who did not have the opportunity to finish their degrees, I knew that getting an education would be the only way to advance my passion of public policy into a career that I love. The importance of going to college was stressed from my first day of middle school, as my parents challenged me to obtain excellent grades, work hard for what I have and craft a future that is uniquely mine. My backpack did not just hold my books and school supplies it held the weight of wanting to show my family that the sacrifices we made to get here were worth it. I joyfully traded proms and partying for studying and SATs, giving every inch of my energy into getting the longfully awaited acceptance letter.

But the letter didn’t come.

I received rejection letter after rejection letter, and I was crushed. UCLA, UC Irvine and Cal State LA didn’t want me, but would UC Riverside a school I dreamed of attending accept me? After what felt like weeks of waiting, I finally received the email welcoming me as a part of the Highlander community and reassuring my dreams of college.

Getting rejected from various universities put a strain on my self-esteem, and even as I was preparing for the fall quarter, I was ridden with anxiety of not being able to make it during my first year. Was I smart enough to be a student at UC Riverside? Would I be able to live on the legacy that my older brother left? Will my parents be proud of me? As a first-generation student coming from a low-income family, college felt like a dream that would disappear if I was not hustling 24 hours a day, seven days a week toward my academic and professional success. Never in my wildest imagination would I imagine my year going the exact opposite getting on the Dean’s List, earning a scholarship award from the political science department and being listed as Mogul’s top 30 college students in the United States.

I’m not going to follow in my brother’s footsteps, quite frankly, because I will never be my brother. I can only go through the remaining three years creating a legacy as Julia Schemmer, unapologetically and uniquely. I’ve made it through my first year of college, and if I can do it, anyone can.


Julia Schemmer


Next week, we will be opening up Highlander Diaries to the subject of homesickness. If you would like to submit a 400-600 word piece concerning this topic, please send it over to features@highlandernews.org.


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