College Beat: The Beginning of a Journey

By Alondra Reyes
Midshipman, United States Naval Academy

“Are you sure you want to do this?” That was the question that multiple people asked me as I expressed my interest in applying to the United States Naval Academy. As the daughter of two Mexican immigrants, I knew very little about the military and college process. However, I did know that I needed to find a way to college. As I prepared for interviews with officers and state representatives and trained for fitness tests, I learned more about the military and shared it with my parents. Even though it was a new adventure, neither one of us knew what would happen, they still pushed me forward.

Although there are no military members in my immediate family, my parents instilled values of discipline and perseverance in me. This presented itself my freshman year when I struggled to find my place at USNA. Like everyone else, Plebe Year was difficult for me. For the first time, I was not in a diverse environment. I had culture shock. I missed my family and their loudness, I missed my mother’s cooking and the smell of especies. For the first time I was not surrounded by people who looked like me or shared life experiences. I could not depend on my parents to understand because it was a whole different world.

I felt isolated from the people around me and the people back home. I would cry to my parents and eventually, my father told me to “get up and do something about it.” He refused to let me pity myself when he knew I could do so much more. So, I began to walk out of my comfort zone and introduce myself to classmates who have now become some of the most amazing friends. I have also encountered amazing mentors here at USNA who have pushed me to talk about my experiences and share my family’s story.

Due to the push of one English teacher, I wrote a paper for extra credit, which gave me the opportunity to speak at the first Diversity Conference at USNA and share about my heritage and my parents. In October, I shared the same story with a larger group at the second Diversity Conference.

Along with that, I’ve had many more opportunities for professional and military development. This past summer, I was able to spend a month in San Diego, California, immersing myself in Navy and Marine Corps communities. I also traveled to Israel to study Arabic and learn about the culture and people of a diverse nation.

As I near the end of my first semester of my sophomore year, I appreciate how far I have come thanks to not only my family and friends in Mississippi and Mexico but my many mentors at USNA. I pinch myself because of how far I have come: a daughter of immigrant parents who made something out of nothing, building a foundation for a road of success ­­that I hope to continue paving in the military and the civilian world.

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