Fall is around the corner — time to register for classes, buy books, and get ready for the new school year! For many freshmen, this also marks the beginning of new chapter in their life, as many move away from home to go to school. However, for a lot of Latinas, moving away from la familia isn’t as easy as for their peers.
Currently, Latinas outpace their male counterparts in educational attainment. In 2011, 17 percent of Latinas earned at least a bachelor’s degree compared to just 10 percent of Latino males. Latinas are also outpacing Latino males in terms of independence. According to a study by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) in 2007, Latinas are moving out of their parents' home sooner than Latino men and are less likely to return home.
I remember the day when my parents moved me into the dorms to drop me off for my freshman year of college. Now I’m fiercely independent and my parents always knew I was never going to stay near home for college or my career. Even though I was excited and strong, I started crying when my parents said goodbye. I think we all knew that the chances of living in the same city again were slim to none. It wasn’t because I hated my hometown, I knew that my career and ambitions would always take me elsewhere. It was a tough realization in that moment as we all cried and hugged each other.
Moving away from my family was a difficult transition for me. I went to the University of North Texas, where I knew no one and basically had to start a new life for myself. However, that was over a decade ago, and I am happy to say moving away to college was the best decision I made. For those struggling with moving away from your family, here are a few tips that helped me with transition to become an independent and educated Latina.
1. Get Involved In School Activities and Organizations
One way to help with moving away from home is building your own community and family on campus. There are typically numerous student organizations that you can join, including many that are geared specifically towards Latinas. However, you don’t have to join Latina organizations to feel like you fit in. Get out of your comfort zone and meet people you may not have otherwise have had the chance to meet in your hometown.
2. Keep Up Family Traditions at School
Missing abuelita’s mole or menudo? I know when I moved away to college I sure did. Instead of solely looking for a Mexican restaurant to get my mole and menudo fill, I did the next best thing – I asked my abuelita for her recipes and taught myself to make them. Sure, maybe my mole didn’t turn out as good as my abuelita’s the first few times, but it made me feel like she was there with me even though we were hundreds of miles away. If you’re not a cook, keep other family traditions alive in your own way so you can feel at home in your new surroundings.
3: Stay in Touch With Family
Today with smartphones, apps, and Skype you can stay in touch with your family in many ways. You can Skype or Facetime, or you can simply pick up the phone to call or text your loved ones. While it is important to keep in touch with your family during this transition, make sure it does not consume your life. You can't do your work, study, or make new friends if you’re constantly on the phone with your family and friends from back home. This is your time to work hard and enjoy this new adventure!
4: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you’re still struggling with being homesick and feeling alone, tap into your college resources. There are many people and departments that are designed to assist with new students in the transition. Ask your college counselor or department head for advice and guidance. There are also tutoring programs or study groups available to help you with any academic issues you may be having.
As you start to pack your bags in the next few weeks before your big move, feelings of excitement and nervousness may consume you. While moving away from your family may be difficult transition at first, there are several ways for you to ease your homesickness. Remember, you are making this sacrifice to pursue your education. You are also now part of the group of Latinas leaving home to pursue their education and dreams. It will all be worth it in the end, when you cross that stage to receive your diploma with your family cheering you on from the stands.