My First College Experience
I quickly walk to the first class of the day with relief that I did not lose myself among all the buildings. Although they are beautiful, they look exactly the same. I find a seat at the front of the class, exactly where I want to be. As I sit, I keep repeating to myself: you deserve to be here. The teacher then asked all the students to briefly introduce themselves and explain why we had chosen Constitutional Law as our core government class. There was nothing intimidating about that, we were all in the same boat: aspiring lawyers. Then, as we are handed our text books, Professor Brown dives right into the First Amendment of the Constitution. A handful of students are more than eager to give their opinions on cases such as Schenck v. United States. We hadn't even received our textbooks yet, and all these students were practically quoting the Supreme Court Justices on the case. I sank right into my seat, and all the feelings of encouragement melted away and were replaced by fear and anxiety.
I had been accepted to the Junior Statesmen program of 2007 held at Stanford University, but I was still pondering whether or not I was good enough to be there. My friends and family, my mentor and teachers believed I was more than capable, but I wasn't sure if I could compete on the same level as students who had been receiving the best secondary education money could buy. I was afraid and out of my element.
Several of the land mark cases we had begun to study were confusing. The opinions of the court were in a language not comprehendible to the average human being, let alone to this immigrant student from Brazil. I wanted to quit. Then, we entered the section of Constitutional Law regarding freedom of expression, in which Johnson v. Texas took center stage. Is burning the American flag constitutionally protected or not? The sparks of fire that incinerated the red, white, and blue colors of the stripes and the stars were repulsing. The flag is a symbol that has meant so much to the world, to its citizens, and to me. The image disgusted me and yet, I was absorbed by the principles of the act. During my grandparents and parents era, simply raising the Brazilian flag in a non-government building was illegal. The freedom to express so much discontent with one's own country in a non-violent manner, in the way Johnson did at the Republican National Convention of 1989, is America’s ultimate asset in the preservation of democracy. I was inspired. This case, like many others, triggered a desire not only comprehend the language of the Supreme Court Justices, but to argue and debate on the constitutionality of their decisions.
In the first exam I earned an A-. I felt proud of what I had accomplished. However, I shocked myself with the second exam. I received a perfect score. I began to realize that I am capable of competing with students who have had better opportunities and advantages than me. In fact, I am the fortunate one. While my school does not have many of the resources available to affluent suburban area schools or private and elite schools, I still acquired a good education while simultaneously having the exposure of several different cultures and people. My background has helped me understand compassion and hard work, and gain an understanding of how far determination can take me. Junior Statesmen of America enabled me to see that I am strong and competitive, but most of all no- I am no longer afraid.