The Academic Outsider

Throughout my life, I have been thrust into environments and situations that are new and unlike anything I have ever previously experienced.

Entering into these new situations has caused me a certain level of anxiety and insecurity. I have had to learn to work through these feelings in order to become successful in the new challenge. The winds of change have, from time to time, brought me into new situations where I have felt out of place. When I remain gritty and I am determined to succeed, the transition to a new chapter becomes easier. Each of us handles life’s challenges differently.

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In the articles “Taking my Parents to College” by Jennine Capo Crucet, and “Scholarship Boy” by Richard Rodreguez, two young people are faced with the challenge of entering a discourse community. The article published in the New York Times entitled, “Taking my Parents to College”, talks about the feelings and experiences that Jennine Capo Crucet had starting her freshmen year of college. Capo Crucet writes about how out of place she felt as a first generation college student. College, like most new environments, is a discourse community. Being a first generation college student made Capo Crucet feel even more alien then students whose parents had previously been through college.

For Capo Crucet, things slowly got easier as she progressed through the semester and became more part of the college community. As she transitioned into this new independent phase of life, she found herself moving away from the co-dependent life she had previously had living at home. Another example of how someone handled a new chapter in their life was illustrated inRichard Rodriguez’ excerpt “scholarship boy”. Rodreguez wrote about his early education experiences where he faced adversity as a child of an immigrant family. He is now a journalist best known for his contributions to PBS.

“Scholarship Boy” is an excerpt from the book Hunger of Memory. “Scholarship Boy” is a term the author used to describe how he felt alienated from both his classmates and his family. This memoir targets a wide audience, primarily students and people in academia. Rodriguez tried to address a problem of feeling ostracized as a child whose life’s goals differ from the achievement of his parents. This excerpt gave insight into a young student choosing a life path that doesn’t follow in the footsteps of his parents.

(p.19) Rodreguez says, “He cannot afford to admire his parents. How could he and still pursue such a contrary life? He permits himself embarrassment at their lack of education.” This statement is a conclusion that Rodreguez reaches when he makes a decision of who he wants to be as a student. He no longer feels as though he can have the best of both worlds, but instead must choose.

He is also hoping to inspire low income, immigrant children with the message that they, too, can dedicate themselves to achieving success by sticking with their education. Rodreguez makes a decision that he will be a good student and make his education a priority. This article related to a time in my life when my academic journey started to look very different from those around me. I was in the eighth grade I returned to the school I had attended from kindergarten through the fourth grade. Joliet Public School is a K-12 school in a small town in Montana. I was in fifth grade when I became what they referred to as, home bound, which basically meant I was unable to be in school due to extenuating circumstances.

Three years later I received the news that I was going to be able to return the school with the people I had grown up with. I was excited for my life to go back to normal. Unfortunately, eighth grade would be nothing like what I had remembered things being like in the fourth grade. I had amazingly passed all of my placements tests, which was a feat considering I hadn’t had any education for the years prior. I walked into the first day of 8th grade confident that things would be back to normal since I already knew everybody. But to my dismay, within five minutes of walking through the classroom doors, I was becoming fully aware just how much time had really passed.

I walked over to where my old best friends sat and they greeted me with smiles and empty condolences about how much they missed me. They promptly turned back to each other and continued their conversation. They talked about track and volleyball, sports that I had never played since they didn’t offer them in elementary. Then the teacher handed out pieces of paper with our names on them. On my paper it had my class schedule, locker combinations and other similar things that I had no idea what it meant.

Then we were released to go find everything. They assumed everyone knew what was supposed to go in your gym locker. I didn’t even know how to open a locker. Every task was another reminder of just how much I didn’t know. Those first few weeks were some of the most difficult.

I had to learn my way around each class, develop militant study habits, make new friends in a small pool of peers, and fill in the gaps that the time away from school had left in my education. I missed out on four years of my life and I knew I didn’t want to miss out on any more. I worked tirelessly to catch up socially and academically. I joined every extra-curricular activity available and was even elected class secretary/treasurer. The year continued to get easier.

By the end of my eighth grade year, my hard work had paid off.At my eighth grade graduation ceremony I received several academic and athletic awards along with recognition for making the honor roll every quarter. I learned how to persevere through a struggle that seemed eternal, and with that, came a new found belief that no challenge was impossible.