Within the parking lots filled with luxury cars, sea of Louis Vuitton bags used as backpacks and salmon colored Vineyard Vines polos and khaki shorts, are undergraduates who come from, and still grapple with financial hardships. I fall into this category.
Regardless of the wealth I’m surrounded by, I’m still proud of where I come from and who it has made me as a person. I will never, ever catch myself being jealous of someone else’s material things or the numbers in their bank accounts. It’d be nice not having to worry about my own bills, making sure my classes align with my work schedule since I can’t afford not to work and be able to call one of my parents whenever I need money. However, that’s not the case for me. Yet, there’s a beauty in it.
People who come from where I come from don’t make it to Wake Forest. Or Chapel Hill. Or Duke. Or Davidson. Or even the community college across Charlotte because they have to work to help out with bills. To say I made it to college at all is something that doesn’t align with the statistics and odds that tell me that I should be standing in a welfare line. However, I’m here. I’m at college, not just any college, but a top 30 college.
This isn’t to toot my own horn, it’s to exemplify how growing up in poverty has its merits, especially coming to a school overflowing with privilege, wealth and naivety to how being on your own works. I know how to fix a lot of things myself since I grew up not having the money to pay someone to do it. I know how to set budgets and plan out how to pay bills. I appreciate everything that I have more because I busted my ass to get it myself.
So yeah, I’m still proud of my closet filled with mostly off-brand clothes that I bought myself. I’m proud of my 1996 Camry that I bought, paid the taxes and registration fees on, pay the monthly insurance on, keep up with repairs on and keep gas in myself. And I’m proud of anything else that I own that I worked hard for.
With all of this said, it’s important to address my more affluent peers. Even though I talked about the beauty in struggling, it’s nevertheless still a struggle. While you can’t help what socioeconomic status you’re born into, you can help whether you flaunt it or not.
I’m not saying don’t buy the nice things that you have, I’m saying don’t constantly brag about it in the faces of people that you know wouldn’t be able to afford those things.
Don’t constantly talk about the ease of your life, such as all the times you called your parents for an excessive amount of money and they put it in your account, while a poor student’s parents can’t even afford to come visit them at school. Those things, whether you realize it or not, exude an elitist attitude that’s meant to make people jealous of you — and that’s not cool.
To my poor peers, don’t ever feel out of place. You made it to an elite university with a system of classism placed in your way. You worked 10 times harder to get in, and work 10 times harder to stay in. Regardless of how much money you don’t have, you still walk across the same stage to receive your degree when you graduate as your more affluent peers. You belong, and don’t make anyone make you feel differently.