Reflective Essay: Jonathan Oh

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Reflective Essay: My First Semester in Trinity College and Change


I was very annoyed when I got my schedule for 2013 Fall semester in Trinity College. I literally didn’t get any of my first choice for my classes. Especially, I was a bit disappointed about my seminar because I wanted to take “Law on Street” as my first year seminar since I am going to major in law field. However, later I read the description of “Color and Money” first year seminar, I changed my mind; it sounded very interesting. Briefly, it was the class about the relationship between races and social classes. Awesome! I was very excited. I thought I knew well about race diversity and social class. I am from Boston, which is racially very diverse, and I have a lot of friends with different racial backgrounds. I was very Americanized and thought I knew enough.

The biggest reason why I chose Trinity over other schools was that I wanted to experience traditional American higher-education. I did have some great education back in Boston, but I really wanted to experience traditional liberal art college. I wanted to experience “white” culture of America. I was afraid if I would not fit into that culture, but I really wanted to live in a different place. Fortunately, I somehow was getting along with people in Trinity. I couldn’t find anything wrong through my naïve eyes. My first semester went by a quick.

The first year seminar, “Color and Money”, was “shocking”. All the data and books from the seminar were mind blowing. I had a feeling that racism still exists but never “learned” in an academic way. Since first year seminar is one kind of writing classes, I had to learn how to analyze and write down the topic logically. I read professional articles and several statically data about racism and social class differences in college campuses. I had to interview some students about their real life experiences in Trinity. After the analization, I realized that there is still some separation on the United States of America and even in such a prestigious college, Trinity College. It was the first time I ever “understood” the relationship between race and social class, not just felt.

The biggest fact I learned through “Color and Money” seminar is the relationship between race and social class. I knew there were some relationships between race and social class, except I never thought about it enough before. During the seminar, it was clear how so many data indicates financial gap between whites and non-whites. For example, throughout interview transcript analyze of Trinity Student about their race and social classes, I learned that more than 70% of the non-white students get financial aid while less than 25% of the white students get it (Dougherty). I learned that one of the reasons why non-white students cannot hang out with rich white kids is that non-white students cannot afford the trend, such as famous brand clothes. The seminar woke me up and taught me the fact that there is still a social, financial gap between white and non-white.

Understanding racism changes my entire idea. In my school in Boston, it was not easy to clearly see racism since majority of the students were non-white. However, after I moved into Trinity College, in which more than a half of the students are white, I started to see: how “physically” non-whites and whites have distances. For example, I never realized that there are “white students” tables and “minority students” table on the dining hall before. I never realized that there is almost no non-white students on the fraternity before. I never realized that people tend to hang out with the same race as theirs before. I started paying attention why that is happening. I started trying to apply studies I learned from the class, such as “Racial Identity Theory”, which explains how individuals start forming emotional connection to their ethnicity (Tatum). Before the Color and Money class, I barely realized the existence of racism between students: the seminar woke me up.

Eventually, even my way of thinking changed, too. I have been finding myself reacting totally different from the beginning of the freshman year. For example, whether it’s a joke or not, I get offended when someone uses the term, “local”, negatively. In Trinity College, the term “local” means much more than just neighborhood because people living around Trinity College are mainly minorities and relatively poor. The term “local” is basically a gentle way to mock minorities, just like “n words”. I found myself avoiding the usage of those terms. I used to not understand why some minorities are mad at whites. For example, when I watched the “Skin Deep” video, in which both white and non-white college students gather around and talk about their life experiences (Reid), I did not understand why some minority students were really angry at white students and the society. The “Color and Money” seminar has helped me to understand racism so much that I changed my way of thinking toward racism; I even started being by their side.


A big change in life can transform one’s point of view. When I decided to come to Trinity College, I knew something inside of me would change. However, I did not my entire life value and attitude toward racial and social classes would change this quick. Not only improving my writing skills, the seminar “Color and Money” has taught me how America still got some social problems to solve and how I should react to them. I am now really glad to Trinity College (even though I still complain how I didn’t get any of my first choice classes) not letting me take “Law on Street”. It was the best second choice I have had so far.



Work Cited

Tatum, Beverly Daniel. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Other Conversations about Race. New York: Basic, 1997. Print.

Frances Reid, Skin Deep (Iris Films, 1995)

Dougherty, Jack. All Interviews. 18 Nov. 2013. Raw data. Trinity College, Hartford.