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FINDING MYSELF BEFORE LEAVING MILLS| Learning about myself in classes

(Dani Toriumi)
(Dani Toriumi)

I’ve heard people say that when you are in college you learn both in and out of the classroom about academics, society and people in general. This was true for me, but I never expected that I would learn about myself in the classroom.

As I started taking sociology and ethnic studies classes here at Mills, I found myself constantly relating to a reading, topic, issue or narrative. If I didn’t personally relate to something, I could relate it to someone from my family and their experiences. At first I thought it was just a coincidence until I found myself purposely trying to fit ethnic studies classes into my schedule, even though I wasn’t majoring or minoring in that department. As a sociology major, it made getting into the classes I wanted easier since I needed them, too.

I thought about how personally invested I have been in these classes and it didn’t take long for me to realize I have never felt such a strong connection between what I was learning and what I have experienced. Sociology and ethnic studies classes don’t teach the same dominant culture my middle and high school books had taught me. These Mills classes had completely different narratives than the ones I studied in order to pass my honor and AP classes. College opened up a spectrum of different perspectives on history and how it is formed today.

During my second year was when I began to really push myself to learn more about who I am and what my personal identity is compared to what society labels me as. Classes like Sociology of U.S. Immigration, Intro to Ethnic Studies, Race and Ethnicity and Raices: Caribbean and Latin America have provided me with the history and knowledge that I was unaware of or missing pieces from. I was provided readings that explained the gaps of history and untold truths that I was unaware of when I was so naively readings my textbooks from high school.

That wasn’t all. These classes challenged me to push further and analyze the ways that people today are treated after this long history of racism, prejudice, injustice and erasure. I was pushed to learn about my family history more and talk to my grandparents and great grandma about their life choices and experiences. I am also challenged every day when I have to critically think about the automatic responses society has taught me to have, and the informed and educated opinions I now have after taking insightful classes. When I am off campus and in a new place, I can’t help but think about how the community came to be and the history that brought all the members together.

Taking sociology and ethnic studies classes have given me a space where I have been able to grow as a person of color and a student, and they have slowly helped me come up with the identities society will automatically label me as rather than the identity as a person of color that I choose.

My mind has been opened in ways I didn’t think were possible when I first came to Mills. I had the idea that I was just going to learn about a certain field, make some friends and then graduate and move on in life. Now I am getting ready to leave with a diverse amount of lenses to see the world through and confidence in who I am, because I know my history more now than I ever have.