Paola is a junior transfer student from Northwest TCC. She’s a psychology major and graduated from Timber Creek High School in 2014. I interviewed her in the Stella Russell Hall in the second-floor lobby on Nov. 1. We were sitting in a comfortable atmosphere on the couches at about 7:55 p.m.
Hannah: Where were your born?
Paola: “San Salvador, El Salvador.”
Hannah: Tell me about what it was like growing up there.
Paola: “I’d like to say that it was fine, but unlike here we had a lot of economic difficulty and stuff you don’t really face here. I guess because the cultures are very different.”
Paola: “You know how people here are racist, because of skin color. While over there people are racist in the ways of whether you have a dad or you don’t, your family has money or your family doesn’t, or you’re pretty or you’re not. Kids are usually pretty honest, but they also don’t learn from their parents what they should or shouldn’t say. I guess it was kind of hard to a degree to grow up in a place where people would always comment something negative about you instead of something positive. That overall and there was a lot of danger where we lived. You’d never know when people were going to be killing other people outside of your house. I don’t think it’s a place where you want to live.”
Hannah: How did that make you feel?
Paola: “It really didn’t make me feel anything just because I trusted my community to a point. I didn’t trust it all the way but I knew that they knew who I was so they weren’t going to kill me. For the other part I had to learn my lessons to not talk to certain people so they wouldn’t hurt me. It was never my intention to hurt anybody and I never did. There was just a point where I lost my trust in people. That point was somebody calling us in our home on the landline in the house and they were asking my mom for money. People that were actually bad people and we were so scared. They were supposedly from some other country in Central America asking for money. If she didn’t give them they money, they were going to kill us. We had to do all that and after that I just lost all my trust. When people ask me for money or ask my family for money, I’m filled with my doubts and asking myself why they are doing this. Why are they coming at us asking for money again? Even if they have good intentions.”
Hannah: Would you say that it made you a more cautious person?
Paola: “More cautious and also a more anxious person. Before that I was not very anxious like that and it made me really self-conscious about what I do, what I say, what I don’t say, or what I show to people. It made me not trust people.”
Hannah: Did you stay there or did you move? Why?
Paola: “I’m obviously here. Yes, I moved, because my family said so. They had this legal residence petition going on since 2001 and we got it in 2012. I didn’t expect it at all, because my high school years were going really well. I made a lot of good friends and I was gaining my trust in people again. Then they’re like ‘you have to move’ and I was like ‘why now.’ I couldn’t even finish my junior year over there. Here I started all over again. I had to learn a new language and make new friends. It wasn’t my choice, but I had to do it because I was still a minor. I couldn’t decide on my own.”
Hannah Onder: Why did you choose to come to Texas Wesleyan?
Paola: “I think it was because I was looking at my options of colleges to transfer to from TCC. I came to do a campus visit with some TCC people and I really liked it because it wasn’t too big and overwhelming. I liked that the buildings that they had it weren’t all together; it was separate with each major having their own building. I liked that. I also wanted to experience something different like going to a place and being known by my actual name instead of a number. They also had my major so that was cool.”
Hannah: How did you pick your major?
Paola: “Since psychiatry wasn’t an option I had to go with one that was close to it. My major is psychology so I felt like that would open my doors to working with mental health issues, behavioral stuff that people don’t really focus on, learning about the brain, how humans behave, how our personalities are different from each other, and how some actions are not the same in everybody. That major also allows you to get a master’s in different areas. You can do counseling, therapy, and even social work. With a psychology major you can do anything. It is specific but not quite because with it you can do many things. It’s people centered and that’s one of my goals: to help people.
Hannah: Why do you want to help people?
Paola: “I’ve been a person that hasn’t received that much help. I always had to do everything by myself, if not then with people that don’t really give me accurate guidance. I want to be that person that helps others, people that are actually lost, that don’t know what they want to do.”
Hannah: Are you staying on campus or commuting?
Paola: “I live on campus, because my home isn’t too close to here. I can also do more things when I’m on campus other than just going to class.”
Hannah: What are you looking to do here on campus?
Paola: “I’m already involved in the Psi Chi meetings. I am volunteering with Psi Chi and being an active volunteer with them. I also have a job on campus. My job, my classes, making more friends, being more outgoing, and learning better social skills are all benefited by me living on campus.”
Hannah: Tell me about your job.
Paola: “I work as a G-Force member. We go to high schools to help students to be successful, lead them through the path of going to college, and guide them in what they have to do: taking their exams, taking classes, filling out college applications, and scholarship applications. I also work in admissions and I help my supervisor with any paperwork or important tasks.”
Hannah: Do you feel like doing this job helps with your goal to help people?
Paola: “Yes I feel like it does help me because I’m mostly helping high school seniors and juniors that want to go to college and are willing to put their effort into doing the applications. It does feel good to help them and when they come to you and say ‘look I got accepted in to college, I got so and so scholarship,” and things like that. That does make me feel good because I know that I helped this person go through the process and they didn’t have to do it alone.”
Hannah: What’s your favorite place on campus? Why?
Paola: “I think I have three. My first one is the psychology department because it’s not too big and it’s not too small. It’s my home building and I spend most of my time in there. You meet really cool people there. The professors are cool. They all get to know you and you know them too. I feel like it’s one of the friendliest buildings on campus. My second one would be the library because I also spend a lot of time in there. It’s like a space where I can just zone out of everything and focus on my homework, my job, or something else. I’m focused on what I have to do. My third one would be my dorm, especially because of my bed. I also have a few friends like my best friend there. We spend a lot of time in the study room or the TV room talking or not doing homework when we should be doing homework. It’s a space where I can be with my friends.”
Hannah: What’s your favorite thing to read? Why?
Paola: “I would say online stories of writers that are not popular or unknown. They’re popular online, but they are not known by billions of people. Those kind of stories, because I’m giving them a chance of becoming known to a degree. I’m also a writer. I publish my stories online so when people read my stories it makes me feel good and appreciated. They also have really cool story lines.”
Hannah: What do you write?
Paola: “I write mostly romance stories and fantasy, but my fantasy stories I don’t publish. It’s just the romance.”
Hannah: What was it like moving to Texas?
Paola: “It was horrible. I just stepped out of the plane and hated it. I wanted to take a plane back to my home because this didn’t feel like home. It didn’t feel like anything. Everything felt so weird and ugly. I wanted to go back home because I wasn’t going to fit in. I didn’t fit in until I started college.”
Hannah: Do you feel like Texas is more like your home know that you fit in at college?
Paola: “I feel like it is my home now that I’m at Texas Wesleyan, but before coming here I didn’t feel like it was anything. It was just like a place to live, not a home. Even though I was with my family, it didn’t feel like a home.”
Hannah: What about Texas Wesleyan makes it feel like a home?
Paola: “It feels that way because of my friends and the people that are more accepting. They’re not judging me for no reason. They actually try to get to know me. They’re not just judging by who I am, or who they think I am. In that aspect, it’s more accepting because I have a lot of friends now that I can actually call my friends. That makes it feel like home since I can actually trust people.”
I learned that I’m very fortunate to have grown-up in the United States with the security here. I also learned to appreciate our society a bit more since most people won’t insult you to your face. I can empathize about moving long distances in the middle of the school year, since I moved from a small Pennsylvanian town to the big Texan city in the last two months of fourth grade. At first you feel like you’ll never fit in and nothing will ever be the same, but if you have the grit to hang in there you’ll find your place again. I found mine quicker than Paola did since I started making friends again in fifth grade and found my group in high school.
We both have different majors but we both want to work with people to a degree. She wants to give help to the powerless and I want to give voice to the voiceless. Her inspiration is her dark past but mine was the bright smiles my words brought. We are both writers though. She focuses more on fictional while right now my focus is non-fiction.
We both live in Stella Russell and work on campus. Both of our jobs are helping to prepare us for our future careers to a degree since I write for the school newspaper and she advises high school students. We’re both also working on getting involved in clubs on campus. She’s not quite a full-fledged member of Psi Chi and I’ve been trying to make my schedule work for Writer’s Pen.
We have our differences and similarities as a junior and a freshman but we’re both Rams. We came to Texas Wesleyan from different paths of life with certain similarities and we’re both trying to make our own marks on the path to being a Ram.
Yet we turned out to be the best of friends since day one when our paths crossed.