Graduating as the worst honors student

Graduating+as+the+worst+honors+student

Paulette Villa, Intern

This last semester on the day before spring break, my friend invited me to go visit our old high school because she and other UTEP students had to give a presentation on how to attend college to the parents of students in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program.

I was eventually forced to participate, which made me feel melancholic seeing those parents trying to find the best sources for their children because they didn’t know English. I suddenly remembered going through similar experiences with my parents before entering college that I had completely blocked out of my mind.

I always felt left behind ever since I started my education in the U.S. due to language barriers, discrimination and misunderstanding of the culture, which led me to always underestimating myself. I had C’s in most of my classes, spent many days in tutoring, got several referrals, had intense parent-teacher conferences and even met my high school sweetheart in summer school because I failed pre-AP English.

But somehow teachers enjoyed my creativity, I got commended performance on TAKS tests and I gained college credits through AP exams. I just accepted the fact that I would never be an outstanding student or have a bright future like the top 10 percent of the class, so I just went with the flow. Coincidently, that was the theme of the yearbook, where I was one of the editors and which was the first time I had stepped out of my comfort zone.

In the last year of high school, I finally felt comfortable having full conversations in English and I fell in love with interviewing, editing, making videos, taking photographs and everything related with publishing and multimedia, which is why I decided to major in multimedia journalism with a minor in graphic design.

College went by pretty fast, but it sure was not easy, since I started to develop an anxiety disorder. Receiving letters of being on the dean’s list was always odd to me, since having some good grades and a high GPA was never my intention. I suddenly felt this pressure to keep doing well and not lower my expectations.

I felt more pressured this semester, since I was told I would be walking cum laude and I even went to the Liberal Art’s office to ask if they were sure it was not a mistake. I also started to compare myself to other overachieving students and felt insecure about why I should be graduating if I am not even at their level.

Finally, I realized the main source of my pain were not the exams, projects, deadlines or critiques, but it was me. It was my insecurities that stopped me from truly enjoying my academic career because I was being hard on myself for being the excellent student I never got to be before. I might have been a slacker in high school, but I was relaxed and happy in life, and I kind of want that back.

After graduation, I will be on a sabbatical year to explore what I really want, take care of myself, travel, spend quality time with friends and family without any worries and still put into practice the skills I have gained these years through some freelance work. I plan to pursue a master’s degree in the future because I want to, not because I have to.

But I need to take a break in order to feel that urge and passion of doing something again.

The best things about college were finding moments of vulnerability with my classmates and getting to know them outside of a competitive environment. I learned a lot from them, the same as I did with my professors. Speaking of my professors, I could honestly name at least one thing I learned and appreciated in each and every one of them. They were truly a strong source of inspiration.

Finally, I want to thank everyone I got to meet at The Prospector, even if it was for a short period of time. It was hard to adapt in just one semester, especially being my last and hardest one, but all of you were really nice to me and I truly wish you all the best.

I would like to specifically thank Kathy, Gigi, Rene and Michaela for your understanding and patience. I apologize for all the stress I put you through. Gaby and Alejandra, I enjoyed our conversations and my respects to both of you for being in The Prospector and the graphic design program at the same time.

I learned way more than what I expected from this publication and I encourage any journalism or graphic design student to join, even if it’s just for a semester.

Going back to the high school presentation, I told the parents that I understood their experience and also told the students not be discouraged with their performance in high school. For those continuing at UTEP, be thankful for having the sources the university offers, be curious and do not see it as an obligation and enjoy having the opportunity of studying in this unique border city.

Paulette Villa may NOT be reached at [email protected]