By Alma Hernandez
I want to go home. How many times have we said this as young adults away from home? I began using this phrase when I transitioned from living in the metropolis of Los Angeles, CA to the small town of Columbia, TN. At first, I was excited, however, once I began school my attitude about my situation changed. Tennessee culture was definitely nothing I had experienced before.
My body was responding negatively as well—the blemishes on my face, a teenage girl’s nightmare. I wanted to go home. It may have taken a while, but I began to have a positive attitude about my circumstances and pushed forward. I was introduced to Union University during Scholar’s Weekend in 2011. Being an introvert, my observation skills began to challenge my thinking about this university. I looked around and realized that there were very few, if any, people who may relate to me and my experiences.
Granted, this was a weekend reserved for a select number of students and I decided not to base my assumptions on that one experience. Because of that weekend, I was able to commit to enrolling to Union and I came back that summer for registration. Again, I looked around and still only saw maybe one or two people that might relate to me culturally. I began to feel unsure of my decision.
Already having committed myself to attending this institution, I arrived back on campus to begin Focus Week, now known as Welcome Week. To my surprise, I was greeted along with my family by a beautiful Ecuadorian RA in my primary language. I began to feel the excitement again of being on this campus. The week continued and I found myself at the student organization fair alone. Immediately, I recognized the familiar face of the same RA who greeted me, and she introduced me to an organization called MOSAIC. I wrote my name down and walked away feeling accomplished.
The semester began to pick up (as much as it could for me), and I began to feel the sense of loneliness I felt when I first arrived to Tennessee. My roommates were very friendly, but being that to my knowledge we had little in common, I wasn’t quite ready to be myself around them. As the year went on, I wanted to go home. I then remembered the student organization fair and hesitantly accepted the invitation to attend a MOSAIC general meeting. I was excited, yet nervous about doing yet another activity by myself. Little did I know how much that decision would affect my professional, emotional, and spiritual growth.
Over the next four years, I served as a general member, Latin-American round table representative, which was also LASO (Latin-American Student Opportunities) president, and culminated my undergraduate career as MOSAIC president. Because of MOSAIC, I have attended events such as Golf and Gala and Union University’s Scholarship Banquet, and contributed to community events such as the Jackson-Madison County Public Library’s Cinco de Mayo celebration and the Jackson-Madison County Food and Arts Festival.
Because of MOSAIC, I became a student worker in both the Office of University Ministries and the Vocatio Center for Life Calling and Career, where I now serve full-time as Employer Relations and Recruitment Manager. I will also finish my Union MBA this September. Because of MOSAIC, I found a church that has helped me grow spiritually and continues to provide spiritual guidance. I felt so welcomed and immediately felt the sense of community that was in Bowld 221 that day; it felt like family, and it felt like home.