Aakanksha Gupta reflects on her time at the Collegian and UMass

By Aakanksha Gupta

(Aakanksha Gupta)

I will warn you, this article is chock-full of clichés. But looking back, I can say that each of them could not be more true. My main takeaway from my time at the University of Massachusetts is that change happens–all the time. I am still learning to give myself the space and consideration to process and accept change.

In the first semester of college, the main changes I encountered included adjusting to a seemingly more diverse environment, the switch from flavorful to bland food and, finally, learning that the word “wicked” wasn’t used in the same way that Ronald Weasley used it. I’m from India, and while initially, I didn’t feel that culture shock played a very active role at the time, over time I realized that it was pervasive in a much more subtle sense. Sometimes, I still tell myself that I need to be as laid back as my friends here, or I correct myself when I’m about to use the Indian/British pronunciation of a word. Or I remember that I don’t have the faintest idea how football (or why it’s even called that) works. One of the more profound realizations during my first year was that Amherst was sort of a bubble, but that I had lived in an even bigger one all my life. I learned that I didn’t have to just have friends who looked and spoke exactly like me, and that branching out was probably the best thing I could have done.

My second and third years were characterized by struggles with my family, my academic choices, my mental health and music. Three of the biggest changes in my life took place during these two years. I founded an cappella group and learned from them that the meaning of family was alterable and did not have to carry the negative connotation that it always held in my life. I realized how important it was to introspect about my strengths, and that if I didn’t take charge of my life, then it would not go anywhere. I fully understood that, contrary to the cultural norms I was raised around, I should pursue my passions. I am grateful to this University for giving me the opportunity to switch my major, to enjoy studying for the first time in my life and most importantly, for connecting me to people that helped me understand that I am intelligent, and I will go far, even if that is in ways that do not fit the mold that was created for me.

Before I got here, people I knew spoke of America with awe, and one of the most common refrains was “It’s a melting pot of cultures!” One of my best friends pointed out that it was a pot that hadn’t quite been switched on yet: different people coexist, but are a long way from genuinely accepting each other. This notion was solidified for me during my last year in the most jarring way possible. I am still enraged by the political climate here, but I am not deterred. Far from it. In fact, I am all the more encouraged to follow my dream: to use media in a way that is responsible, aware and impactful. For me, this year has been both the most rewarding and the most challenging one yet. I have never felt this much uncertainty about my future, and I have also never felt so certain of myself and of the people in my life.

While I joined the team very late in my undergraduate career, I’m thankful to the Collegian for reminding me of the value of words, and of sheer honesty. Good luck to everyone!

Aakanksha Gupta can be reached at [email protected]