As a December graduate, I’ve had some time to reflect on my Georgetown University experience. I keep going back to our motto, utraque unum, which means “both into one.” Like this motto, my Georgetown experience has been filled with contradictions — contradictions I’ve had to unpack, understand and reconcile.

With the beginning of my Georgetown career brought a coming-to-terms with the unfamiliar reality of an environment filled with people from starkly different backgrounds. I initially perceived these differences between myself and my classmates as the classic dichotomy between the haves and have-nots.

I couldn’t help but consider the paradox of sitting between the children of CEOs and peers who had experienced homelessness, or the paradox of paying to attend a gala to benefit an organization whose free immigration services I needed, or the frustration of attending an elite university while being vilified by the president of the United States. The contradictions between my peers and me — and the contradictions between my life on the Hilltop and my life at home — consistently made me feel like I was living in different worlds, like there were different versions of myself.

But, upon reflection, I realized these contradictions to be shallow representations of our individual stories. We all belong here, not despite our contradictions but because of them.

My journey to the Hilltop was unconventional. Georgetown had long been my dream school, but before I was a Hoya, I was told college wasn’t an option because I was undocumented — and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program did not exist yet.

Being undocumented has informed every part of my life. Before I even applied to Georgetown, I found myself Googling “undocumented” and the names of universities I hoped to attend. Back then, financial aid for undocumented students was unheard of; rarely did I get positive results in my searches — but I found hope when I typed Georgetown. I found an article in the Georgetown Voice where Citlalli Álvarez (COL ’15) shared her experience of being an undocumented Georgetown student. After an email and a phone call, Citlalli assured me if I got in, my financial limitations would not be a barrier. She was right. Her bravery to share her story made my journey possible.

Since that phone call, I credit people in this community for changing my life and supporting me when my identities and circumstances felt like contradictions. The day after the 2016 election, I struggled to balance my privilege of being in a safe environment with the anxiety of an administration that  vehemently opposed my presence here. As I crossed Healy Lawn in the rain, Scott Fleming, Georgetown’s associate vice president for federal relations, stopped me and said from under his umbrella, “You belong here.” I was stunned. I had only met him once a year earlier, yet he cared and said exactly what I needed to hear that morning as I struggled to be grateful and fearless.

These encounters — and many like them throughout my time at here — reminded me that people and relationships are the greatest gifts Georgetown has given me. Despite feeling like the odds aren’t in my favor, or quite the opposite — that I’ve been too lucky when I read the news and think “that could easily have been me, why am I here and not there?” — Georgetown became my home because of these people who care.

As I close this chapter of my life, I think of the people who made Georgetown a safe, welcoming home — how despite my contradictory experiences, this community made me feel cared for and welcomed. I think of the Georgetown Scholarship Program community that inspired and supported me when I doubted my power; Arelis Palacios, the associate director for undocumented student services who understood all the fears that come with being undocumented and away from your family; the professors who opened up their homes and hearts; and the incredible students who showed me that with compassion and patience we can all make the contradictions disappear and this place home.  

Cristina Velasquez is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.

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