The first time I arrived in Indiana, I was afraid, and relieved. I was afraid of failing. I was relieved because I was no longer home. Samuel, an international student from Pakistan, picked me up from the airport and took me to Trippet Hall to meet Clint Gasaway, my admissions counselor. I had only spent a handful of minutes on the phone with Clint, yet upon my arrival, he greeted me with a level of kindness and care only abuelita had ever shown me. I remember seeing Pioneer Chapel for the first time as I looked out the doors of Trippet Hall. That night, I said to myself, “This place is new now, but it will be home. You will make memories and friends. It will all be fine.” Somehow, those words uplifted 18-year-old me at that moment.
I was dropped off at Lambda Chi Alpha. I talked to my mom briefly on the phone and reassured her all was fine. But really, I was scared, so scared.
It was late. It was my first time leaving California in a long time, my first time on campus, ever. My understanding of fraternity life back then was tied to tons of misinformation. David Wagner ’05, president of the house, and Kyle Coffey ’06, treasurer, were busy getting the house ready for the incoming freshmen. They seemed shocked by my arrival. As they introduced themselves, I remember mistrusting them because life had taught me to do so for survival. I wondered when the bad would begin. But this is where the definition of love I know to today began to take root. They showed me this love without even knowing me. They made sure I had a bed and helped me set it up. That was my move-in day at Wabash, how I began my college career. This love kept coming from everyone around me.
Long before I was loved by Wabash, I did not love myself. I did not know how to do so. I never learned this. So, I assumed no one else could love me, especially not Wabash. And I mistrusted a lot, but people at Wabash still loved and supported me, and the professors and upperclassmen became my mentors.
Wabash is a place where you know you will always have a helping hand, someone will always be willing to go the extra mile to be there for you, even after you graduate. It’s a quality that makes the College special.
Back then, I did not always feel like this was true. I didn’t feel like one of “the guys” because of my immigrant experience, multilingual and cultural background, social class, legal status, and sexuality. I kept them hidden from those around me, even myself sometimes. I thought I had to be everyone but myself. And not being you is hard especially when you’re growing up still afraid to show your true colors.
Wabash loves all of us, we are thy loyal sons. Wabash will ever love thee. In Spanish it’s known as siempre te amaré. During my time at Wabash, it was hard for me to see this love, it was hard for me to understand. The love I knew growing up was different. It was not love. It was unresolved trauma disguised as love, handed down from one generation to another.
I want to break cycles, not ride them.
My goal in the coming years is to find ways to show my love for my alma mater with a commitment to acknowledge the needs and serve the Latinx and Spanish speaking students. I often tell my students at Millikin, “You need to lead the change you wish to see in your community.” I trust that if we all listen and find ways to support their vision, we will get to see how great we can be in the years to come.
Until then, I love you, Wabash, siempre te amaré.
Dr. Julio Enríquez-Ornelas ’08 is an Associate Professor of Spanish, literary critic, editor, and writer. At Wabash he was a double-major in English and Spanish and a member of Lambda Chi Alpha.?He earned a master’s in Hispanic Studies and a PhD in Latin American Literature and Culture from the University of California Riverside. He is an assistant professor of Spanish at Millikin University, where he also coordinates the global studies program and chairs the department of modern languages.?“On Love, From the Heart of a Little Giant” is excerpted from his Chapel Talk in September 2022. To see the entire Chapel Talk, visit https://www.youtube.com/c/wabashcollege/videos.