I’m not in Kansas anymore

Lucia Verzola is a sophomore communication studies major

“Where are you from?” There it was — the question I hated hearing and had been asked over and over again during my freshman orientation weekend. “I’m from Kansas City,” I’d respond in an almost apologetic tone, anticipating the surprised and often negative reaction to follow: 

“Wait, you’re from Kansas?” 

I realize Kansas is outlandish to much of the USF student body; it’s no secret that the majority of Dons are from the state of California. So how did I end up so far away from home?  

I didn’t choose USF despite being from the midwest. I chose USF as a result of being from the midwest. 

I am half Filipina and half white. In Kansas, I was largely surrounded by white people and was often seen as the token minority in school. I didn’t like being identified solely based on my appearance, especially because people often assumed I was just Asian. I wanted people to see me as more than my race and longed to meet others who came from mixed backgrounds like me. That’s something you find in San Francisco, not Kansas.

When I moved across the country, I was well aware that I was giving up loved ones, in-state tuition, and the comfort of familiarity. Despite the fact that I had never even visited California, I applied to USF because its program for my major seemed to fit what I was looking for. Living in California was never a goal of mine — that is until I received my acceptance letter. I then realized that San Francisco was an opportunity to begin the next chapter of my life in a very different place than where I had spent the majority of my life.

I had never experienced being among peers who came from so many backgrounds. In Kansas, I was “the Asian girl”; at USF, I’m an Asian girl. Being surrounded by so many other mixed-race students has helped me learn that I don’t have to choose between being just Filipina or just white — I can just be me. I have found great comfort in attending a school where I can learn and grow around such diversity. 

In Kansas, I was “theAsian girl”; at USF, I’m an Asian girl.

I’m slowly growing to be less hesitant about revealing my background, because I know people tend to have negative reactions and make assumptions about me based on stereotypes regarding my home state. I’m not ashamed of being from Kansas. Despite loving San Francisco, I’m always excited when I happen to meet someone from my home state because I’m reminded that I’m not quite as far away from home as it often feels. However, homesickness aside, college is a chance to start over. Journeying 1,800 miles across the country, to a city where I didn’t know a soul, was my fresh start.

There are times when it hits me just how crazy it is that I’m not in Kansas anymore. I have a complicated relationship with being from Kansas, trying to find a balance between where I came from and where I am now. San Francisco is my home now, too. This school prides itself on the diversity of its student body, and I’m proud to be part of that diversity. The unknown scared me at first, but the love I instantly felt for this city helped me overlook those fears. Though I’m far from home, I share an automatic connection with each and every student here: all of us chose USF. 


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