Leaving My Hispanic Family for College is the Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

Denise Vaque, Design Editor

Going off to college is a traditional right of passage for many American teenagers. Whether they are going to the university down the block or one across the country, gaining independence is a freedom-granting experience that helps teenagers learn about themselves and grow into the people they are meant to be. It is when birds learn to leave the nest; it is when they learn to soar. 

However, my Ecuadorian-American family does not function the same way. I live in a multi-generational household with my grandparents, parents and siblings — all under one roof. My grandparents are my confidants, my parents are my biggest supporters and my little brother and sisters are my built-in best friends. Throughout my childhood, the rest of my family only lived a few blocks away from me. Birds of a feather may flock together, but we all practically lived in the same nest. 

Being Hispanic, the sentiment that even when everything falls apart, your family always remains there for you is extremely strong. The idea of leaving your family is unthinkable — it is a sacrifice made by immigrants in dire situations. It is a sacrifice that we venerate our parents and grandparents for making. 

Yet, I am Ecuadorian-American. While part of me values my family before anything else, I cannot help but crave the adventure that awaits me in attending an out-of-state college in a faraway place. I almost feel selfish for leaving by choice, but I am also excited to gain independence and see the world in a new way. I want to take advantage of all of the opportunities offered, I want to further my education and make an impact. So, I cannot give up this opportunity of a lifetime.

I grew up in a boring little suburb, always enchanted by the allure of the lights, people and culture rumbling in the city just across the Hudson River. They call it “the city that never sleeps” and the place “where dreams are made of.” When I found myself boarding a plane to move across the country to Miami five years ago, I knew that it would not be goodbye; I always knew that I would find myself back in New York City. 

Just as my parents did as immigrants in the 90s, I will make my own way in NYC. I will work hard to make them proud because even if leaving my Hispanic family to go to college is the hardest thing I have ever done, it might just also be one of the best things. Go NYU Bobcats!