For a college freshman, a year of challenges

By Kelvin Nuñez

Hamilton College

My feet first learned the campus in late July.

Despite an already long year, I still had some pep in my step.  I had fulfilled my dream of enrolling as a freshman at venerable Hamilton College in New York.  College was supposed to pick up my spirits.  After all, it was another important step of a lifelong journey in pursuit of knowledge.

So, began the first semester for the graduating class of 2024.  We were tired and emotionally wrung out. 

 In some ways it did, but I quickly found out that I was indeed a freshman — too green for my own good.

Amid a raging pandemic and having to deal with problems at home, Kelvin Nunez wondered whether he would survive his freshman year at Hamilton College in New York. / Photo provided by Kelvin Nuñez

This unforgettable year started in late January with the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, a Philly sports legend, and my boyhood idol.   

Each major event thereafter seemed more surreal. A viral disease that started in China turned into an epidemic, which then quickly became a global pandemic. 

My high school graduation was far from typical. Yet, members of the Class of 2020 understood the situation and took it all in stride.  And yes, we were very disappointed on that special day in our lives.

Nunez quickly bonded with like-minded students at Hamilton College.

I was shaken to the core as waves of protestors hit the streets of Philadelphia and other major cities across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death. The killings of Breonna Taylor and Ahmad Aubrey also made headlines, but what weighed heavily on my heart was the unjustifiable deaths of other minorities that did not garner the same national attention.

Starting college was stressful to say the least. I was hit from all directions – school life, situations at home, and mental health issues brought on by the pandemic.

As a student of color, I found that the  pandemic heightened my anxiety as there were times that I did not feel safe on campus. 

At times, I had doubts whether I would make it through that first semester.  Despite the challenges, there were some positives

For one, I was inspired by the unity of black and brown people on Hamilton campus in the face of  inequalities and racial injustice.

As a first-generation college student, my freshman year was one of disappointment, but also one of determination. A determination, like most things this year, was tested but never wavered.

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