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Being a Haitian College Student in America

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Often enough, I think about the days where I did not have to explain who I was to others, the times where people did not seem to question my identity, the days before I moved to the United States. It's true that even I did not know who I was but, as the questions started becoming more prevalent, so did my self-reflections. When looking at others, I always try to see myself. This helps me assimilate and find commonalities that make our interactions run smoother. But as I got older, it has become harder to see myself in some, but I have been able to understand these relationships through our differences. Not only do I enjoy learning new things about my Haitian culture, but also I'm always inspired after learning about other cultures. That's the beauty of life for me.

This adjustment started at the peak of my adolescence, when I moved to the United States. After introductions, I had to explain who I was and why I did not fit their expectation of a Haitian girl. I'm often referred to as the "white Haitian" or the "light-skinned chick." Haitian-Americans that had never stepped foot in Haiti were telling me that there was no way I could be from there. Americans also found it hard to believe at times. There were times that I wished this question would not be asked, but as soon as people heard my accent, their curiosity automatically led to ask me where I was from.

Through misinformation from the media, Haiti does not seem to have an ounce of beauty; just a black country filled with despair and hopelessness. But truth is, Haiti is a treasure in itself; it's too rich to be poor. Last week, an estimated $20 billion worth of gold has been found on the island. Haiti was always and will always continue to be the Pearl of the Antilles. So for people to doubt my race based on my image is a major unawareness. Native Haitians know that I'm from there and never have a reason to second guess me in any circumstance. But anyone else always has an Oscar-winning performance when I introduce myself as Haitian. My complexion is lighter than most but I've heard my share of ignorant reactions due to this fact. However, over the years, this has allowed me to be more comfortable in my skin than those around me. Explaining myself countless times has made me understand deeper why I look the way I do and why it makes me unique.

Every time someone asks me, "Who are you?" it allows me to learn something new about myself. Through experience, reflection and rhetoric, I am continuously growing and discovering new things about myself. My existence has never been stagnant; every day as I progress into the woman I want to become. Tabula rasa has helped me understand many aspects of my life. Most of the race issues going on in America could be alleviated if more people have a better understanding of this theory.

Today I can tell the world that my name is Aurelie Mathieu and I am comfortable with who I am. If I was not comfortable in my own skin, my confidence could be easily taken away. I'm an aspiring lawyer with big dreams of giving back to the world. Yes, I was born and raised in Haiti and so were all my relatives. I live to be happy and will never do something for negative ulterior motives. No matter where I end up in life, I will always remember where I came from.

By Aurelie Mathieu, Florida State University