College in My Language

Bee is a 17 year old high school senior, attending school in Newark, NJ. Bee’s family is from Haiti and she is on her way to attending college Fall 2019.

How has senior year been so far?

Bee: Senioritis is real. I don’t want to work anymore. I just want to graduate already. But I have to remind myself that colleges look at the first two quarters. I have to keep working to prove to them that senioritis didn’t hit me. It is just on the surface.

How does it feels being the youngest in your family, having older siblings who have gone through this process?

Bee: It is a lot of pressure. People are expecting a lot from me and I’m not sure if I can meet their expectations. People are expecting me to go to this great school and I’m not sure if that will happen. People are like, “you’re smart, you’re a (last name).” It is a compliment, but also not a compliment. Thank you for having such high standards for my family but then, me, the last, I just have to carry all the burden because I will make or break the streak. I didn’t get into my dream university, but I’m still working on other college applications. I am hoping not to break the streak.

How has the influence of the Haitian culture helped with coping with the stresses of senior year?

Bee: The food, language, and the influence of family. I love Haitian food, the rice, laboyi, sos pois. When I eat Haitian food, it helps me forget some of the stresses I am dealing with.  Over winter break I spent a lot of time with family who do not speak English, so I was forced to practice speaking Kreyol and it took my mind off a lot of things. My sisters have also ben super supportive. They helped me deal with my disappointments. I knew it wasn’t healthy to keep it all inside, but I had to get it out when I was ready. Also, get your nails done! If I had money, I would get them done every week!

How has the Haitian culture influence your work ethics?

Bee: Education is really important in the Haitian community. But Haitians usually want their kids to be doctors, lawyers, not architects. My dad gave me the seed of architect and I grew the flower. It was really me who thought about what I wanted me to be and not letting what other Haitians wanted me to be influence me. It is really hard to compete with a doctor, but you have to look at your own goals. I thought about being an engineer, but I realized I wouldn’t be happy, so I wanted to do something that would allow me to make money and be happy.

How has your parents influence your decision to pursue a career as an architect?

Bee: The only person who talked to me about my career was my papi (dad), He gave me the idea to be an architect not because he wanted to influence my decision, but because he saw that I really liked drawing and being an architect, I can draw houses. He put the seed in my head and didn’t talk about it much until I brought it up to him after I did my research. I didn’t really talk about it much with my mom.

What advice would you give to Haitian parents?

Bee: Let your child choose their own destiny and be supportive about it, unless if they want to be drug dealers. If they want to be a photographer or an artist, something you didn’t plan for them to be, let your child be. Let them find their own destiny. Mommy and papi let me find that I want to be an architect and now I am satisfied, but if I felt I was forced to do something, I would be really stressed and sad during the process because I am putting effort into a major that I didn’t want. Don’t be in their face all of the time. Don’t ask them too many questions, let them come to you. Also, don’t put your stress on them. Wait until May when the storm is over!

How does being Haitian-American influence your interactions with your peers?

Bee: People always assume that I’m not Haitian so I always feel like I have to represent a lot more than most people. I always have my Haitian flag, I am always speaking Kreyol, and I always correct people when they mispronounce a French name.

When considering college choices, do you consider the school’s diversity?

Bee: When I was looking at one of my top universities, diversity wasn’t something I was looking at but the school mentioned that there was a lot of diversity, was a cherry on top. I’m not really looking for it because I feel like I have to prepare myself for any scenario because there is going to be a time where my culture is not going to be accepted and I need to know how to deal with that. There is going to be a time where I might be the only Haitian American or the only black person in the room. I have to know how to deal with that and represent. I know the world is not only made of black people.

Have you ever been in a situation where you were the only minority in a group? How did you deal with it?

Bee; When I attended a pre-college program at a predominantly white institute over the summer, I was the only minority in the group I hung out with. The only time I felt different was when someone asked about my braids. They had a lot of questions about how I got my hair done. We knew we had different cultures and we embraced it. We tried to learn each other’s languages when we were speaking with our family members. We tried to learn from our different experiences.

How do you embrace different cultures?

Bee: My experience at the pre-college program showed me that there are people in the world who embrace other people. I know I want to embrace every culture because I want to learn as many languages as possible and visit as many countries as possible.

What are some words of wisdom that you can share to high school seniors?

Bee: Don’t listen to people who say senior year is the best year. It is going to be in the end when you figure out your college plans, at least not until May 1st. It is going to be a lot of stress to do well in all your classes and participate in extracurricular activities. There will be disappointments and good news, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you have people who have already been through the process, ask them for help. Don’t wait until last minute to do your senior quote. Apply for scholarships, even if it is for $100!

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