2020 Scholarship Winner Alexandra Manzo Writes About Her College Experience

Alexandra Manzo is our 2020 Carol Phan Memorial College Scholarship recipient and this is Alexandra’s blog entry describing her (very unique) first semester experiences remotely attending Irvine Valley College. After the pandemic ceases, Alexandra will go back to her original plan of attending UC San Diego where she will major in Psychology.

To read Alexandra’s winning Scholarship application submission….go here.  

Alexandra’s First Semester of College……in a Pandemic

If I’m frank, this pandemic has hit me like a truck. For the past six months, I have been dealing with personal challenges that have tested me both physically and mentally in more ways than one. Because of this, it has been hard for me to figure out the best way to articulate the beauty and the struggles of my first semester of college in the most genuine way possible. I keep overthinking what I want to submit, and it’s been making it harder for me to start. I care about this so much that I wanna do it justice, but I also feel that my inability to choose an outlet to describe my first semester has ultimately become a hindrance. Certainly, I can write up a post talking about my life and all of its natural clichés, but that simply wouldn’t be truthful. And if there’s one thing I am, it’s honest. So, in the most transparent way possible, this is how my first semester has gone.

[insert loud screaming here]    [insert student loan debt here]    [insert body dysmorphia here]     [insert crippling anxiety here]     [oh and how can I forget… insert pandemic and really deadly virus here, so all I know how to feel is like a child because I am still living at home with my parents and sibling instead of starting out college in another city and on my own as an actual adult]

Now, to give a little context to myself and the mass conundrum of visceral feeling that I’ve described through the use of cringey internet lingo… My name is Alexandra Sophia Manzo. It’s nice to meet you! [insert awkward handshake matched with confusion from your face here]… okay, I’ll stop now. )

I am currently attending classes remotely at Irvine Valley College while still living in Tracy, CA. Now though this is where I attend now, this was not my original plan. The original plan was to, funnily enough, go to the University of California San Diego. I even accepted my application! But, as all beautiful things do, they must come to an end. So, due to the pandemic and the lack of certainty of the future, my family and I made the difficult decision and decided it would be best to attend a junior college. As a result, I ultimately had to withdraw my acceptance for UC San Diego and the scholarships that came with it. This way, I would be able to live at home to save money in a time where that is not a guarantee. Additionally, attending classes remotely ensured that I could watch over my 11-year-old sister (who is also taking classes at home) while my parents work. So, instead of moving down to San Diego and finally starting my life out there as an adult, I live here. Where is here, you ask? Well, ‘here’ is my home in Tracy, surrounded by places that I’ve gone to hundreds of times, people that I frequently see, and bad memories I can’t seem to shake. EXCITING, I KNOW!

Because of this inability to live the life I had envisioned for myself, very early on in the pandemic, I became suffocated by the weight of knowing that my life wasn’t going to play out as I wanted it to. I no longer had/have a job that I really enjoyed, I rarely have the ability to continue my passion for dancing, and living my life in the exact same home that I have for years. It feels as though all aspects of my life have made it impossible to feel like I’m the age that I am because it still feels like I’m in high school on some long, grueling winter break. And though, in hindsight, attending a community college is what has been best for me and my family, the rippling effects of that decision still haven’t caught up to me. It makes participating in class challenging. Plus, not being able to work through my stressors and anxieties as I usually would through dance, my life feels as though it has been broken up and put back together again really messily. Not all my pieces are there, many of the parts of myself are lost, and the completed puzzle no more so resembles who I am as a person; but more so looks as I imagine a pile of Jenga blocks looks like just after the wooden tower has fallen.

Despite these facts (and many that I am still not sharing because I would hate to drag anybody down to my current level of sadness… yup. LET’S AVOID THAT!) I still think that ability to give advice to others using the knowledge you’ve learned through struggle is important. So, take it from me. A piece of advice that I would give to someone struggling, just like I am, is this:

Fall in love. Now, I know this seems unattainable or impossible, but falling in love doesn’t have to mean with another person. Fall in love with something bigger than yourself (if falling in love with you doesn’t seem like an option amidst the stress of life). Whether that be art, music, reading, cooking, long drives at dawn, the sounds of nature, the way light refracts, or even just falling in love with the notion that you will never run out of this to stop loving. Trying to find even the smallest thing to love will help bring some ounce of joy into a life that may seem joyless. So, I guess that’s my advice. As difficult as it is, try to fall in love with any aspect of life. Because once you realize that you have the capacity to love one thing, it may push you to slowly begin to love everything again. And with that, I say to you…


Alexandra Sophia Manzo

(P.S. (this is more for me) Don’t be afraid to take your own advice. Because it may be darn good, but you’re too fogged up to even realize it.)

(P.P.S As I stated before, I am an incredibly transparent person. I try to be as genuine as possible, which can sometimes pose challenges. So, I hope my willingness to be open helped in any way. If not, I hope my fantastical descriptions of my struggles were entertaining in some way or another. Strange. Therapeutic. And most certainly odd. But, entertaining nonetheless. In summary, I hope a look into my mushy brain provided anything of value. And, if it didn’t, that’s okay too. Thank you for caring enough to listen. Sometimes, that all we need in life, right? A little bit of listening matched with a little bit of love.)


Scholarship Winners

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