In the face of a challenging semester, Iliana Claudio ’21 knows her familia has her back.

If staying up until 4 a.m. in the library to study on the very first day of class isn’t an accurate representation of my semester thus far, then I’m not sure what is. Overall, the semester has truly been pushing me, but I’ve been pushing back. I felt as if I had started this semester stronger than the last, and after returning from Christmas break, I was ready for the challenges and excitedly anticipated what the new semester had to offer. I had been telling myself before the semester started that I simply had to become more focused and proactive in my search for the ever-impending “balance.” I was hopeful in that this semester was to be one of more learned lessons, so that I could be better adapted to take on the rigor that was the academic and extracurricular environment of NC State. And though I sincerely enjoy my classes and wonderful professors, the semester has begun to pick up in speed and demand and I feel as though I’ve simply “leveled up” in the video game that is juggling life as a college student. And of course, with those new demands return the naturally-occurring fears of failure and disappointing myself and others around me. However, interestingly, my being afraid is juxtaposed with a sense of safety that is formed by the wonderful people who surround my life.

I’m so often reminded and humbled that God has blessed me tremendously through the people He has put in my life, especially my family. After leaving for school, the simple things, like telephone conversations with my mother about what she bought at the grocery store that day or what time my sisters got home from school, began to have an inexplicable way of encouraging me. Maybe it’s because I know that I have a place where these seemingly trivial details matter or that wherever they are is somewhere I can run to. Whether I fail or do well, my family loves me and it’s a reassurance like no other. They’re there to celebrate with me when things go right and to console me when they don’t.

I believe that this emphasis on familial support is an integral part of growing up in a Hispanic household. This idea of “la familia” has been instilled in me since before I could even remember. Therefore, before coming to NC State, I had a fairly fixed idea of what this familia was supposed to look like. But through the struggles and adventures of pursuing higher education, I’ve found myself becoming increasingly reliant on the friends that I’ve made here at school. I’ve grown to realize that familia is less about a bloodline or last name and more about kindness and care. My familia at NC State is defined by so much more than the endless laughs we have or the help they provide when I don’t understand a concept in class. It’s about the investment we have in each other’s dreams and, ultimately, about helping each other grow as compassionate human beings. My faith and this familia have caused a radical change in the way I handle my interactions. They’ve taught me to strive for a greater sense of social responsibility, sacrificing for the betterment of others or, as I put it, “breaking your back for people.” Within the Goodnight and greater campus community, I’ve met many who are preparing to do this through their careers and personal lives. Therefore, as my familia here at NC State grows, so too does my motivation to continue pursuing in a way that is always for the betterment of others.

Thus, whenever I’m having a hard time and feeling dispirited about my ability to succeed here at State and beyond, I’m reminded of a quote written on a bookmark that my best friend made in high school: “Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid, courage means you don’t let it stop you.”

With my familia, I am undeniably encouraged.