On August 30th, I arrived at Williams College, Forbes’ #1 college in America for the year of 2015. I finally made the 2,880 mile journey to my newfound home for the next four years. I was accompanied by my father, an African American parole agent and my mother, a Caucasian insurance agent. As I walked on the campus of Williams College, located in rural Williamstown, Massachusetts, I asked myself a lot of questions. The first being: what was a middle class, biracial football player from California doing all the way in rural Massachusetts at a school that most of the people he had ever encountered had never heard of?
In fact, I ask myself this same question to this day, along with others. When I made the decision to attend Williams College, I did not realize what I was getting myself into. I had chosen the school due to the sheer possibility that I could exceed the income of my 50 year old father at the age of 21. That appealed to me. This goal was only deepened and questioned as I arrived on campus, and saw a lot of brands I had never seen before, leading me to the second question I asked myself: what were all of these brands?
I had never heard of brands like Vineyard Vines, Patagonia, Burberry, and Cole Haan. I quickly attributed this lack of awareness to my socioeconomic background as well as to my hometown. All of this was new to me. I did not come from a prestigious Northeastern preparatory school. My complete ignorance of how things were different in wealthy east coast areas led to a more difficult transition. I struggled to fit in with my fellow classmates. I had never had this issue before. I grew up in a traditional middle class home. I always lived in a nice neighborhood and through the struggles of my parents, was always able to attend private school, but at Williams, it was different.
At Williams, I felt that if I did not dress similarly to everyone else I would be looked down upon and even occasionally have my intelligence questioned. I felt as if I did not belong and this transferred over to the classroom as well. For the first time, I was asked to participate in discussion based classes where speaking in class is vital to my academic success. The only problem was that I was afraid to speak because I thought that other people would view me as intellectually inferior, because of the way I presented myself.
This same concept of presentation also proved true in the social scene. I realized that I would be viewed as an outlier if I did not dress similarly to others. I found it hard to cope with these newfound east coast “preppy” standards. And the pushback from my parents at home did not make the transition any easier. I was continually reminded of how much my school cost and how much sacrifice was made for me to go to school at a prestigious institution such as Williams College.
This led to my third question: why did I choose to attend Williams? I knew I was blessed and lucky to attend such a phenomenal school, but I questioned why I did not pick a school where I could have earned merit scholarships allowing me to attend without a cost that would burden my family. Why was I making my parents struggle, forcing them to take out student loans simply to graduate when I could have gone to a state school for free. It is a tough situation to be in and I felt that I was being compressed. I felt out of place.