What I Missed Out on When I Attended an Elite College

by Adan Barrera
Also Featured on KCBS

What I Missed Out on When I Attended an Elite College

by Adan Barrera
Also Featured on KCBS
03.09.20
Photo: Etta Washburn
03.09.20

After dropping out of a prestigious university, it was hard to believe that I would ever find a college community where I fit in. I’m glad I was wrong.

In my first month at Duke University, I talked to several students in class, in the dorms and in the dining halls. Most came from well-off families. Students who lived in expensive houses, and went to elite high schools. As a first-generation, Mexican-American student, I couldn’t relate. 

I remained hopeful, but after three semesters, it became obvious I didn’t belong. I felt like an outsider, and this contributed to my decision to drop out. 

Back home in the Bay, I enrolled in community college. Unlike Duke, my new school was rich with diversity, and not just racial. When I spoke to other students, their stories were different from each other. 

I ran into several students who also dropped out. I also met a Latino student from New York whose family recently moved to the Bay Area. I no longer felt alone.

I used to scrutinize myself for not fitting in with the culture at Duke. At community college, I feel at home.

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