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Tracking COVID-19 at UCLADance Disassembled: Seeing Beyond the Curtain

Opinion: UCLA presents chance for students to explore identity, find family

As UCLA returns to in-person instruction, students should take the opportunity to explore their identities. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)

By Navdeep Bal

Aug. 16, 2021 1:16 p.m.

Finding yourself is a lifelong mission.

But that’s the beauty of it. Your identity is a living, breathing organism that can change and alter at any age.

For many, this is what college has represented – freedom to be yourself without the watchful eye of your parents and hometown. Freedom from judgment, harassment and expectations.

After a year and a half of tragedy and uncertainty, all students, from new Bruins to returning seniors, should take the opportunity to explore their beliefs, their individuality and how they fit in their communities.

The problem is, it’s easier said than done.

For many Bruins belonging to marginalized communities, being true to oneself often comes with dangerous consequences. As the world shuts down, forcing people into isolation, many lost their support groups and were stuck in intolerable and homophobic households.

For others, isolation meant they could finally explore their gender expression and sexuality at their own comfort, away from the judgmental gaze of society.

Both realities illuminate how independence and a sense of community are vital to figuring out our sense of identity.

And college provides exactly that.

UCLA is no utopia. It has the same problems that plague the rest of the world, and it can be equally intolerable.

However, I promise you that you can find a family here. It might not seem like it, but every student is going through the same things you are, from loneliness to self-doubt, alongside all the wonderful feelings of knowing you belong and deserve your spot at this university.

Chloe Rosenstock, a third-year gender studies and sociology student and co-director of UCLA Sexperts, said that it’s OK to join and try different clubs until you find your community.

“A lot of us are worried about how we’re going to be perceived, but I think the glory of going to such a big university is that we don’t really need to worry about that. There’s so many different people – we’re bound to find some that we relate to and that we love,” Rosenstock said.

From connecting with your culture to advocating for the issues that matter the most to you, finding your community at UCLA is a journey that’s worth the payoff.

This luxury might not seem accessible to everyone. For students of color or those from immigrant or low-income households, the typical college experience is not always marketed toward them. The perception of college life means upper-class and white students might feel more comfortable asking for what they need, allowing themselves to make mistakes in academic and social life.

But students can take the opportunity to defy these norms and expectations placed on them. College is a time during which you can come into your own, a place that you are equally deserving of as your peers and a space where you can also ask for help.

“I would recommend just to keep searching for those people and to never compromise your values to fit in with a certain group that you feel like you should be in because I think your group will come to you,” Rosenstock said.

Even in the toughest concrete, a flower can bloom.

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Navdeep Bal | Assistant Opinion editor
Bal is a 2021-2022 assistant Opinion editor. She has been a columnist for four years, covering stories from UCLA student life to California politics. She is currently a fourth-year political science and sociology student.
Bal is a 2021-2022 assistant Opinion editor. She has been a columnist for four years, covering stories from UCLA student life to California politics. She is currently a fourth-year political science and sociology student.
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