Sarae at The Vatican, Rome


Following an after-school snack of Kosher bialys, I joined in as my classmates exchanged laughs about their Saturday Hebrew school teacher—jokes which I could not understand but with which I still harmonized. Afterwards, everyone went to their homes which were walking distance from our school on the Upper West Side. I waited until they had walked far enough to go down the stairs that led to my transportation: a crowded train. When the doors finally opened at 181st street, I ran home to tell my mother that I wanted to throw this thing called a Bat-Mitzvah. She laughed and said no.

Attending a predominantly Jewish elementary and middle school made me want to fit in with everyone else. I was constantly reminded that I was different and being one of very few Latinas made me self-conscious of my Dominican identity. Rarely being around my family only exacerbated the disconnect I felt with fellow Dominicans. My mother never spoke to me in Spanish, we never made home cooked meals, and we rarely attended any family gatherings. Instead, I was taken to tennis and swimming classes downtown. When I was eight years old, my mother explained that she intentionally put me in a majority white school and didn’t introduce me to little cultural norms that the rest of my family shared so that I would be able to “get more opportunities in life.” So, I grew up with this idea that being raised as a Latina girl in Washington Heights meant that I was born at a disadvantage, and therefore had to compensate for that in any way I could. The influences around me made me constantly question my identity.

When I decided to study abroad in England for a semester, all of the feelings and insecurities I once felt about my identity resurfaced. I remember thinking that if I did not feel accepted in New York City, this would be an even bigger struggle while abroad. However, I was deeply mistaken. I have never in my life felt more welcomed and accepted. People greet me with open arms and questions of curiosity about my upbringing and background. I have made friends all from completely different backgrounds that will last a lifetime regardless of the distance. Living abroad has reminded me of my own uniqueness. It has made me kinder to myself, especially the way in which I view myself in the mirror. I have learned to feel comfortable embracing my Latina roots. Most importantly, it has made me realize that one lived experience does not constitute the same experience somewhere else. If I had not let go of the fear of feeling marginalized and invisible in England, I would have missed out on the opportunity to feel heard, loved, and important—things I have rarely felt back home.


Sarae at Disneyland Paris
Sarae at Hogwarts Express