I can’t really point to one specific time that I could say I struggled the most at UVa. I think I’ve experienced small struggles over time, all stemming from the environment I was raised. Having a mom who moved here in her twenties from South Korea without a college education, I didn’t know I would be unprepared for some of the experiences I would have at UVa. I’ve had to be independent both inside and outside of the classroom, which is nice at times, but when I was nervous about trying out for organizations, deciding which classes to take, wavering to continue my premed journey, and finding internships, I didn’t have my mom’s experience to guide me; so I had to lean on the friends I’ve made here to get me through those times. Overall, I’ve grown a lot here, but I definitely wished I learned certain things when I was growing up, rather than playing catch up in college
During the transition from adolescence to young adult life, you are constantly defined by numbers. Your age. Your height. Your weight. The number of friends you have. Your GPA. Your SAT score. Your ACT score. The number of extracurricular activities you’re a part of. But, a “defining number” I never encountered until this transition was “my household income,” which wasn’t even technically mine at the time. I couldn’t comprehend why this number seemed to be more limiting than all of the others. My self-worth was never defined by the monetary value equated with my life. Yet, since I’ve come to UVA, my socioeconomic status plays such a large role in my college experience. For starters, it’s the reason I’m at UVA. Without the help of Quest Bridge and the generous amount of scholarship money provided, I wouldn’t be here. So, it’s not all bad. But, when I see my peers walking around in Vineyard Vines and casually dropping a few hundred dollars on dues for whatever club they’re in, I am constantly reminded that my socioeconomic status does in part define, and in some cases, limit me. It’s something I have always internalized, not because I was embarrassed, but because I never really knew what to think about it. It’s the only life I’ve ever lived, and working from the age of 15 to working three jobs my senior of high school was normalized. Maintaining two jobs while being a full-time student at UVA is a challenge, but necessary, so I like to look at the positives. In my transition to adulthood, I’ve learned to stop measuring my life quantitatively and start focusing on quality. The quality of my health, my relationships, and my overall experience is more valuable than any number placed on my life. I’ve been fortunate enough to reach this conclusion, and I encourage all of my peers, regardless of socioeconomic status and any other personal barriers they may face, to do the same.