Julianna Wells, a junior political science major from Oak Ridge, NJ (Passaic/Morris Counties), shares this first-person perspective on how joining the The United Latino Association at Rowan University helped her rewrite her experience and find a home away from home. In addition to her major, Julianna will earn certificates of undergraduate study (known as CUGS) in Spanish, public policy and public relations and the news.
For the entirety of my life prior to attending Rowan University, I lived in a predominantly white town. As a Latina, this experience came with its own challenges. I never saw anyone who shared my own culture, my own language, or even looked like me. Needless to say, it was a very sheltering experience. At times, I even experienced harassment due to my own ethnicity. I would receive anonymous messages telling me I would end up selling drugs and mowing lawns in my future. I was even told to go back over the border. Yet, besides the harassment, all I ever wanted was to feel less alone. So many people value having at least some friendships and connections that share the same culture and backgrounds. With that being the thing I craved all those years, I was looking forward to starting my life on a college campus and meeting a whole new world of people.
Once I finally left my hometown and came to the Rowan University campus, I was determined to rewrite my experience. It was at the student organization fair where I met my home. The United Latino Association caught my eye as it was the only Latine organization I saw as I combed through the rows of tables. I wrote my name and email on their sign-up sheet immediately. From there, I attended a handful of events and made the decision to run for their electoral board.
As a result, I was the new treasurer for the last academic year and couldn’t have been more grateful for that opportunity. Throughout the year, the friends I made in this organization were no longer just friends, but family. From meeting those who share the same cultural background, to learning how to dance to Latin music better, to even bettering my own second language, my life on campus and in general had been forever changed. Due to how sheltered I felt in high school, I didn’t have too many friends but this was no longer the case at ULA. For every event I attended, I felt l a bit closer to home.
What’s more is that with being on the board, I was able to help this organization grow and prosper, myself included. I saw our family go from just 30 members to around 160 members. I think my favorite memory with all of the members was when we all came together for a dance night to learn salsa, bachata, cumbia, and other dances that people wanted to share. I have loved my time being a part of this organization and board so much that I decided to run for president for the upcoming academic year, and I won! The shy, alone Latina I once was prior to university was now a figment of my imagination. It has been practically mind-boggling to reflect on the difference between my experience from high school to my experience at Rowan University all because I was able to join just one organization. Needless to say, ULA has become my home away from home.
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Written by: Julianna Wells, junior political science major
Story edited by: Valentina Giannattasio, junior dance and marketing double major