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This is a guest blog entry written by Monserratt Navarrete Vega. If you want to read more stories, visit

Hi! My name is Monserratt Navarrete Vega. I go by Monse, mostly. I am a First-Gen student, daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico, and I am majoring in Mechanical Engineering. I am currently a junior. I am from the Inland Empire (IE), specifically Fontana, CA. I have lived in SoCal my whole life.

My freshman year was the first year USC had fully transitioned in person. I had spent half my junior year and all of my senior year of high school online. So, already transitioning fully in person was hard. I have a twin sister who I have shared a room with my entire life. She decided to commit to UCLA, instead of USC, so having to be apart from my literal other half was another challenge. I remember my first night staying at the McCarthy Honors Dorm. Although I was extremely excited about starting a new chapter in my life at USC, I also felt this sadness about having to live an hour away from my family. Although an hour away is not bad at all and I can visit them on the weekends, the idea of not living with my mom and sisters anymore was a situation that made me feel extremely lonely. It was a challenge I fought for my whole freshman year.

Of course, classes in high school are extremely different from college classes (actually not really but that’s how it felt my first semester). My first semester I was a Biological Sciences major Pre-Med (before I switched to engineering), so I was taking rigorous weeder classes. As someone who previously hadn’t experienced the rigor of a college class, I struggled a lot at first. However, meeting people in my classes led to us having study group sessions where we helped each other manage our time and stay organized. Office hours offered by professors also extremely helped me. Having the opportunity to ask my professor questions I was too afraid to ask during lecture increased my confidence.

Starting from the college application process, it was all very new to me. I did not have anyone who could really support me on how to navigate the process, which only increased the difficulty. Applying for FAFSA was another process where I had to figure it out on my own, since I could not really ask my parents for advice on how to successfully fill out without any mistakes. It took
my family quite a while to understand the aspect of college, on how USC charges for tuition and that college classes are more rigorous than high school classes.

Culture shock was something I definitely started experiencing from my first day on campus. I grew up in a city that is predominately Hispanic, so I was always surrounded by ‘people like me’. This was not the case here at USC. USC as a PWI (predominantly white institution) really put me out of my comfort zone since I felt like I really did not belong.

During my time at USC, I met a lot of people who attended private schools or whose parents had gone to USC before. And when having these conversations, I never knew how to reply or relate to them. It put me in a position where I felt like I didn’t belong since I wasn’t “like them”. Being able to connect to my culture at a PWI was extremely hard for me at first, but eventually in my sophomore year, I was able to join a club that helped me find MY community where I am also able to express and indulge in my culture; Grupo Folklórico de USC (GFUSC). Once I joined, I was able to dance traditional Mexican cultural dance that helped me connect to my Mexican culture at a PWI.

Don’t worry, USC has a place for everyone! You will find your community!

Viterbi Voices