"With humility and patience, I learned a whole new language and set of customs."
Rubén, Haverford College
Hometown: Franklin Park, IL
I grew up with a foot in two worlds. One in the Sierra Madre, in a village I have been physically and emotionally connected to since infancy. The other in the land to which my parents migrated in search of opportunity. However, my mom was driven back to Mexico with my younger brother and me due to a chronic illness that disabled my abuelita. Lack of educational opportunities in Mexico and the bittersweet gift of citizenship confined me to the United States with my madrina once elementary school began — finally ending a history of migration inherited from my family.
As the eldest son of a newly immigrated family of six with little economic or social capital, success necessitated developing a strong work ethic, the curiosity to explore new opportunities, and the humility to seek advice. Without friends or family in college and working long hours in warehouse, factory, maintenance and janitorial jobs, I never envisioned myself attending college. I was fortunate enough to catch the attention of an overworked but dedicated counselor who encouraged me to apply to the QuestBridge scholarship program. Albeit skeptical that such a program could truly provide what it promised, I dedicated myself to the application with a sliver of hope that it would fulfill my ambitions.
QuestBridge opened the door to Haverford; however, the cultural divide I experienced upon arriving stunned me. Disembarking the plane in Pennsylvania that fall, I was in disbelief and perpetual anxiety — which remains with me — that I had misread the fine print on the scholarship and feared it would be revoked. I struggled in the unfamiliar environment, feeling confused by the bureaucracy, intimidated by the distinguished professors and wealthy classmates, and ignorant to the way the system worked; how I imagine my parents felt upon their arrival to America. My culture was suddenly absent and I was pushed to negotiate contradictory values and customs. Frequent dismissals and compounding micro-aggressions gave rise to insecurities in my own abilities and professional aspirations.
Determined to make the most of my opportunity, I learned to adapt to this new setting dominated by members of a different social class, although I continued to feel an outsider. My transition was a difficult one and I needed to depend on others’ generosity and help to build a community for myself and a new home of professors, friends, and mentors that believed in me and inspired confidence in myself. With humility and patience, I learned a whole new language and set of customs; questioning elders lost its taboo, accepting help was dissociated from shame, and I even adopted using a table knife with my meals. With the help of this newfound community and the lessons and support of my migrant community, I flourished academically and recognized the endless opportunities I had.
As a medical student at Harvard Medical School, I recognize the indisputable role QuestBridge had in getting me here. Thanks to QuestBridge, I and many other intelligent, sedulous, and passionate students have been given the opportunity to contribute at our full potential.