Maria's #WeBelongInCollege Story
Last updated January 27, 2021
Maria felt out of place as a civil engineering major. As a Hispanic woman, she didn’t see anyone else who looked like her in her classes. She tried attending an event for people in her major, but immediately felt judged. At this point she started to question if she belonged in college at all.
She then joined a campus organization that allowed her to meet other Hispanic women in her major and started to feel more reassured about her college journey. Through this group, she gained the confidence to stick with her studies, and encourages other students not to give up just because there may not be many others that look like them. “You have the capacity to do just as well as anyone else.” Read Maria's #WeBelongInCollege story below.
"My story began during my first semester at a University after transferring from a community college. Transferring from school to school is not easy, especially when you do not know anyone. Everyone at the University already had their ‘group’, whether those people were in their major or not. Finding people and becoming friends with them in my major was not easy. I am majoring in Civil Engineering and finding hispanic engineers in my major was very difficult. I received an email from the SWE Program, Society of Women Engineers, inviting me to join their program. I thought to myself that this is my chance to find some friends. I attended their first meeting, and I went with a guy friend because I did not know anyone else. As soon as I stepped in, I felt like I did not belong there. I was the only Hispanic woman who attended, and I just felt judged. You do not see a lot of hispanics majoring in engineering, so I just felt out of place. Nobody spoke to me and I felt sick to my stomach, so I did not try to engage in a conversation. I left the meeting early because I felt like I shouldn’t be majoring in engineering. That was the only meeting I attended, and never went back. I felt like quitting or even changing my major, but I thought to myself that quitting was not an option. In the next couple weeks in between my classes, I went into this welcoming resource center, called El Centro, mainly for Latinos but anyone can join, and I met some hispanics in my major. It felt good to find people whom I related to on so many levels. In that same resource center, I had gone to do some homework, but I was struggling. This random guy comes up to me and offers his assistance. He was such a nice guy. A couple days had passed, and I had spoken to my siblings about what had happened to me when I attended the SWE meeting. One of my siblings mentioned an engineering program for hispanics, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). It sounded like the perfect environment, so I spoke with the director of the program, and made me feel welcomed so I attended their first meeting. I came to find out that the same guy who helped me at the resource center was an engineer as well. I felt relieved to know that I just made a friend. I felt welcomed in the program and like I had chosen the right major. He introduced me to other women in my major which was awesome. I no longer felt alone or felt like quitting. I told myself that even though I am hispanic, I can achieve anything that any other human can do. No race is better than the other. I changed my mindset from I can’t do this because I am a hispanic woman to, I am an empowered woman who can achieve anything I set my mind to. I had found my group at the University and for once in my life, I felt like I was meant to be there. I belong in college as a Civil Engineer. Nothing is impossible and you are not alone. There will always be someone who you can relate to."
Maria was a recipient of a $1,000 #WeBelongInCollege Scholarship. Meet the other #WeBelongInCollege Scholarship Winners!