Humans of Wellesley College is a biweekly social media column profiling & spotlighting Wellesley students, faculty, and staff, modeled after Humans of New York. Our goal is to enhance our sense of community by bringing unheard, personal stories to light. I was a contributing photographer and interviewer in Spring 2018, and helped revived the project in Fall 2020 to foster a sense of campus community during COVID-19. That year, we published 29 in-depth interviews 60 photographs/quotes. Below are a few students that we spotlighted.
“I was born in Caracas, parents are both Venezuelan, they were born and raised there. I have a lot of cousins; my dad has 6 siblings, my mom has 5 sisters. I have over 30 cousins combined...I grew up with a bunch of my family, there were always a lot of people in my house. I went to an all-girls Catholic school from 3 years-old up until I was 15. Then I moved here due to the socio economic crisis in Venezuela in 2016. I moved to Weston, Florida with my aunt and lived with her for a year. Then my mom and my dad moved here...I went to high school, and now I’m here.
The film I made during quarantine was very cathartic because it was about how I felt during the immigration process. And I hadn’t even talked about that with anyone...When we were brainstorming for my class, I had just dreamt about a girl on her bike, screaming, with the sunset in the back...we had discussions where we’d explore ideas, and my teacher asked me, ‘When was it time that you wanted to do that? Go out and scream like that?’ And I was thinking about it, and realized that I felt like that not that long ago.” (1/2)
-Ana, Class of 2024
“My mom and my grandma are the people I miss the most, right now especially. I was calling them everyday over the summer, which was a new development, just checking in on them and asking about what’s happening in Zimbabwe...I have never felt the need to be in touch with my family everyday or to text my mom everyday. But over the summer I got into that habit, which was really nice. If we didn’t talk everyday, then we were like, something’s missing. And then you’d just call to say, 'Goodnight.' Or, 'Hope you had a great day.'
I learned how to get vulnerable with people and to let them know, 'Hey, this isn’t a great week.' Usually, when I’m going through stuff, I don’t want to bother other people, I'll think that it's too trivial. But having those conversations everyday, my mom could pick up on my mood and be like, 'What’s happening?' And I would have to tell her, because I couldn't hide it- she already picked up on it.
It was helpful to have that support that I previously starved myself of, because I thought people had things to do. And I think that’s what I’m going to take away. It’s okay to let people know if you’re not doing fine.”
-Vicky, Class of 2021
“I was homeschooled from kindergarten through 10th grade…My birthday is in September, but the school cut off date was in July- so I would’ve had to wait a full school year to attend elementary school. So my mom was like, ‘Well, she can’t go to school now, and she really wants to learn. Why not homeschooling?
When I was in eighth grade, my parents said, ‘If you want to, you can think about attending school,’ so I toured some high schools. But I felt like I had more freedom when homeschooling…I was not just sitting at my house the whole time. I did ballet, or helped out at church, did Girl Scouts, stuff like that. I could choose the activities I wanted to do. I was really into theater at the time, so I could do theater at different high schools. Or spend more time researching or reading books about a specific topic I was interested in.
The reason I even thought about applying to Wellesley was because I got a scholarship to do a summer program in New York City. And before that, I had never thought about going outside of the Midwest (where I’m from) for college. But when I did that I was like, ‘I’m smart, I’m fine with social skills. Maybe I can try expanding my horizons.’ So I ended up going to Wellesley.” (½)
-Eleanor, Class of 2021
“Living away from my parents when I was young affected the way I thought about family at the time. When they came back to China to get me when I was 5 years-old, I didn’t recognize them at all. We had taken a flight back from China to New York. And I remember going from the airport to our apartment and sitting in the back of my dad’s car, and thinking that I was being abducted. I was so scared, I was like, ‘Who are these people?’ I was too young to realize it at the time, but the reason why they sent me back was because they were working so hard and they didn’t have enough money to pay for childcare, which is super expensive here, but of course I didn't know that.

It took around two years to really catch up. At school I’d get in trouble a lot for speaking Chinese to other students. They would always tell me to speak English, but obviously I didn’t know English, so I was put in the English-as-a-second-language class for a number of years. Because of that it was really hard to make friends. I just wanted to be able to communicate with people.” (1/3)
-Katy, Class of 2018
“I’ve skated on this lake. I’m a figure skater, and it was winter, and I was with my friend and I looked at the lake and saw three people standing on it. I was like, 'Is it thick enough to skate on?' I stood on it and I could kind of tell. So my friend and I came back later, and I made her look up on her phone, 'what to do if you fall through ice,' and then I strapped on my skates and scooted around. At first I was really worried that I was going to fall through, but soon I was doing my spins, doing my jumps. It was thick enough to support me. That was really fun. I don’t know why I wasn’t worried in that moment. In retrospect I look back and wonder how I was not terrified of dying.” (1/3)
-Ana, Class of 2020
“Something I tend to hide about myself is that I’m in fact quite vulnerable. I try to have a thick skin, but often it's pretty thin.

I’ve always been insecure about my intelligence as well. Like, ‘Am I actually intelligent? Yes? Question mark?’ I also put a lot of pressure on myself to get good grades, and its taken a long time for me to realize that my self-worth is not based on that. It took me a long time to realize that, honestly until I got to Wellesley. And then I got my first low grade on an assignment and I was like, ‘You know what, this actually doesn’t really matter, IM FINE!’ So I’m glad that I learned that.

I realized that I need to be myself and try to do the things I’m passionate about, and mess up and look for help, and all those things. And if I do that, maybe I can actually do something good in this world. And that’s what’s most important me. Because I’m trying. Im proud of myself for trying. I’m doin’ my best. I’m learning. I’m not perfect. By any means.” (3/3)
-Jess, Class of 2020
“Why do you make art?”

“You have all those reasons that you’re supposed to say, like, ‘it's inspiring to me, it's this cathartic experience, it's very personal…’ My art is very personal but that’s not why I do it, I think. Of course there are more personal reasons, but I’m also very competitive...very...I really am [laughs]. So if I see someone that’s around the same level, I’m like, ’I guess I’m gonna up the ante and practice a little bit more,’ because I put a lot of my self-worth in my art. I don’t know what I would be without my art. When I’m in a car, when I feel like it’s getting kind of dicey, I will cover my right arm, because I’m afraid of not being able to draw [laughs]” (1/3)
-Madison, Class of 2021
“When I first came to the U.S. as an exchange student in high school, I flew from Somaliland to Ethiopia, to Washington D.C, and then to Boston. That was my first time being at an airport. I thought I was in some other country. I don’t know what I was expecting, but there were a lot of people. I freaked out a little bit and I was telling myself, ‘it’ll be ok, it’ll be ok.’ One of the things that surprised me the most were the escalators. I was like, ‘why are people just standing there?’ I was running down the escalators with my big bag. But later on I understood that you’re supposed to stand, and that it’ll move. Because we don’t have those back home. Another thing that surprised me was seeing a lot of women with no head scarfs. All of the women in Somaliland, even those who don’t practice Islam, wear head scarfs; it’s the culture.

When I first met my host family, I was so nervous. I realized I wouldn’t be able to speak Somali because they don’t speak the language. And they don’t practice Islam, so they might not understand why I pray or wear a headscarf. I was imagining the worst- like what if they don’t recognize me at the airport? What if they don’t understand my accent? Will I be able to carry a conversation? What if I don’t like American food, how would I tell my host family? I was nervous about a lot of things. But it went well.

In the beginning they said, ‘Shukri, you are so quiet!’ but inside I was like ‘Mmm no. You don’t know what’s going on in my head’ [laughs]”

-Shukri, Class of 2021
“I’m from southeast LA. The city I live in is working class, and I’m pretty sure we’re 99% Hispanic/Latino. I didn’t know anything different because everyone looked like me, and everyone was bilingual. If I was in the street kids my age would be speaking English to me with Spanish words in-between, and I would understand. But if I were to go to a store clerk or talk to someone older, I knew that I had to immediately speak in Spanish. Because most likely their first language was Spanish and that’s what they felt most comfortable with.

Wellesley was a giant culture shock for me. I was a waitlist student, nervous, and unsure of my belonging. The friends at Wellesley that I have are also from similar backgrounds- are Latinx, from LA, from California or Texas or areas with a big Latinx population. Those are the people I get along with, because immediately, there is a connection. Like, ‘hey, I don’t feel like I belong here, you don’t either.’ And we can speak the same language. There were people from a college mentoring program for people in my area, called CollegeMatch, which is the reason why I am at Wellesley today. So at orientation, I was like, ‘I need to find these people and I need to talk to them,’ because they’re probably going through the same thing that I’m going through.” (1/3)
-Cass, Class of 2020

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