A simple question from Chance The Rapper guides Iliana Claudio ’21 along her journey as a Goodnight Scholar at NC State.
The story begins with me receiving the email in class, late that afternoon, that my scholarship decision was ready. My stomach sank and my breathing became short. I logged into the portal, prepared for the worst. I’d like to think I’m an optimistic person, but after countless letters of rejection from schools and scholarships, it was easier to expect myself not to get it.
Desperate for a decision, my eyes immediately averted to the middle of the paragraph, completely missing the first line: “Congratulations Iliana Claudio! The Goodnight Scholars Program and NC State University are pleased to notify you of your selection as a Goodnight Scholar and a member of the Goodnight Scholars Program’s Class of 2021.”
I was freaking out. My mind was running a mile a minute. I thought to myself something like: “This seriously can’t be happening, can it?!” Almost yelling, I said “Oh my gosh!” aloud in class and told my teacher the news I had just gotten. Since I had finished my in-class assignments, I asked her to let me step out. Understanding my excitement, she thankfully obliged.
As soon as I walked out the classroom door, I started to cry. I immediately called my mom. Ironically, as I stood there in the parking lot, crying my eyes out, I was sent to her voicemail. I tried my dad next and he picked up.
“Dad… I got it.”
“I got the scholarship.”
My dad’s not a cryer, but I heard his voice crack.
“That’s great, baby.” The rest of it was a blur, but we were feeling everything all at once: grateful exuberance and joyous relief. My mom received the news next, and she was just as giddy, excitement filling her voice.
The following months were a wave of happiness. After all the goodbyes and an end to a great summer, I was packed with the promises of my proud friends and family. They promised to pray for me, that I would have the greatest time as I began my new “journey.” In return, I promised I’d try to keep making them proud. From moving to a new place, starting new classes, and meeting new people, I was excited and nervous all at once. But August 9th came quickly, and move-in wasn’t as hard as I anticipated. Me and my mother parted without crying (only later did I find out she cried a little on the way back home), and I was looking forward to those three days that would prove to be memorable ones with all the Goodnights at our class retreat. Getting to meet my cohort was a beautiful experience, to say the least. I enjoyed every introduction, icebreaker, activity, and every talk about what was to come for our class.
After the retreat, the fun continued on campus: there were so many activities taking place. From socials to workshops to interest meetings, I was feeling great about the endless opportunities that my new school had to offer! All of this, making friends and getting adjusted to the new routine, felt normal and pretty doable. I thought, “this isn’t too bad, I think I could get used to this.” That may have been true, but it was after that was tough. After week two, classes were essentially in full-force, yet I wasn’t in full-swing. It was all moving too fast for me and I was unready to hit what was being thrown at me. I was feeling a sense of retrograde because by that second week, I was falling behind in my classes, stressed out, and losing sleep. It seemed as if the realization dawned on me that I didn’t feel comfortable in either the academic or social arena, and it was taking its toll. Inclusively, I missed my family terribly. Needless to say, there was lots of crying involved.
This may all sound bad but, in reality, I appreciate the tough adjustment. When I mentioned to someone that I was “struggling,” in my mind, the word was synonymous to “growing.” I learned some tough lessons on being proactive and more practical lessons such as how to study better, but the most important lesson was being okay with not knowing. Coming from high school thinking I had everything “together,” I learned how to give myself a break. I didn’t have to know how to perfectly navigate college, and I definitely needed to understand that I was going to fail. That, I realized, was what I needed to be okay with. Of course, I know that this was the beginning of many future struggles, but they were just growing pains that I needed to go through as a part of my progression.
In retrospect, all the while I was struggling, I realized more and more that I wasn’t the only one who was. Ironically, much of my newfound friendships were strengthened over the common first-year struggle. In the end, it was all laughs because we knew it would get better and we knew that, if anything, we were in it together. Now, with about two months into my first year, I’ve begun to find my groove, carving my name into the smaller communities of NC State that I’ve become comfortable being in, especially the Goodnight community.
The entirety of my first-year experience thus far brings me back to one of my favorite songs by the incredible Chance the Rapper. This song, with its gospel undertones and passionately inspiring message brought me through some rough patches my senior year of high school, and I still reference back to it when I’m in need of the uplift: “Are you ready for your blessing? Are you ready for your miracle?” Sometimes, all I wanna do is sing back.