Personal Stories by The Carolina Hispanic Association: Paola Gilliam

One of my favorite things about UNC, is the Latinx community here. I have loved being able to be part of such a diverse, motivated community. As a Mexican-American, meeting people of different Latinx backgrounds has helped me understand how diverse our experiences are in the US and it has helped me learn more about different cultures.

Before coming to UNC, I had met very few South Americans or even Central Americans. It has been really fun and interesting getting to learn about the differences and similarities between regions, and of course I have loved trying the different foods. I have also met Latinxs of different class backgrounds, races, parentage/family experiences, language abilities, immigration status, etc.  All these things make us so different and yet there is still something that connects us. I think that understanding and recognizing this diversity is really important because it helps us be more inclusive and recognize the different issues people in the community face so that we can better direct attention and resources for those issues.

Another thing about the Latinx community at UNC, is that it has helped me learn so much more about the resources and opportunities available to me. As a first year at UNC, I was very lost when it came to what to get involved in, different opportunities offered by the school, the resources and services offered by different departments, and pretty much anything beyond going to class and work. Through my involvement in different organizations, the Latino Mentoring Program (offered by the CLC), taking Latinx or Latin American oriented courses, and just getting to know more Latinxs at UNC; people have helped me learn about the different ways I can get involved, different opportunities,and how to prepare for life after I graduate. I have gotten to learn about programs like Carolina United, received support and guidance from Latinx professors, made great friends, tried arepas, and (according to my family) improved my Spanish (they might be lying though so don’t test me). It’s great to have people that want to support you and see you succeed and to have people that you can look up to, support, and see succeed as well.
Even though I know that there are issues in the community and that it is not all friendship, love, peace, and unity; I am so grateful to be able to have found such a supportive network and I look forward to continuing my involvement in the community as well as continuing to try to improve on the issues we struggle with.

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