Humans of Oglethorpe

Humans of Oglethorpe: Romina Subia ’23

Romina Subia ’23 is a junior Accounting major. 

I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Christmas day 2000. We moved to Florida about a year later. My parents were first generation immigrants; they left everything back home because the government changed currency, which messes you up as a business owner. It was the six of us, my three older sisters and my parents. We just packed everything up and left everything behind—family, business, everything. And we were privileged—to come to America, you have to have money, and a visa, and jump through all these hoops. 

But my parents were so used to the third-world country system, where you can just kind of finesse your way through everything. And the finances over here are so much different: you might be rich in Ecuador, but it doesn’t translate the same way over here. So they were young, new to the country, and very early on got scammed out of a lot of money. We were actually homeless for a while, in Florida. 

Romina (middle) at the Rio Guayas the year she and her family moved to the U.S.

They started making their own lawn mowing business, and I remember sitting in the van with my sisters while they mowed the lawn. I was just so little, so I actually had a pretty good time. I just remember playing outside with my sisters. But from a young age, I knew that we were struggling—that we weren’t like everyone else. But in Florida you fit in more, because there’s a large Hispanic community. When I was seven, we moved to Newnan, Georgia because my parents had a job opportunity. And that’s where I’ve been ever since. 

It’s vague memories, but ones I remember, because I saw my parents freaking out, or the change of environment. And I wouldn’t say it’s traumatic, because it’s a part of my life story, but as a kid I just knew—that something isn’t right about this. So I remember those moments. I remember living in the trailer park, and turning on the light switch, and sometimes we couldn’t pay a light bill. And even in Newnan we would have those situations. I always had a job in high school—I started working at around fourteen, babysitting, and got a more professional job as I got older. But I grew up paying bills for my parents, helping them out. To this day, honestly, I still do. I feel like a big part of being an immigrant is that family helps each other—because that’s all you have. 

A lot of my life has been watching my parents work their asses off to give me the opportunity of education. And for the longest time, I resented them for it. I was like, why would you bring me here? You don’t know anything about this country, you don’t even speak the language—and you expect me to adapt to it, when you haven’t even adapted? I needed guidance, and that was something my parents could seldom provide for me. Even through college admissions, I felt alone at times. High school, AP classes—they had no idea about any of that. A lot of my life has been navigating by myself. And you have the support and love of your parents, but just to a certain extent. A lot of my childhood was spent translating, and reading their government papers to them, and making my own appointments. Things like that.

I think a big part of growing up was seeing my parents always battle between Ecuador and the U.S. They always longed to go back to their country, so I always grew up with this feeling of Ecuador being this safe haven, this beautiful country. But you’re not there anymore. I feel like I was so resentful as a child because I couldn’t see past why my parents brought me here. All I ever wanted to do was fit in, but I never did. Growing up in a conservative, white town where no one looks like you, speaks the same language, eats the same food as you…that really hurt me as a kid. Because I felt so ashamed of my Spanish culture, oh my gosh. It wasn’t until I got to college that I started really listening to Latin music. And now I’m super proud, but growing up—especially in Georgia—I put on this mask, because people shame you for it. 

Romina at Graduation

Romina with her parents at her high school graduation.

I remember being judged by other kids even as a six- or seven-year-old. So, I’d do anything to avoid someone bullying me. And it wasn’t necessarily outright, but the feeling they gave off, you know? And the Hispanics that were in Newnan wouldn’t accept me, because I wasn’t Hispanic enough. And for the white people I was too Hispanic. I wasn’t old money from the country club. I remember being little and always feeling below everyone. Because that’s how they made you feel. 

I remember feeling like, ‘I have nothing to offer these people’. I don’t have money; I don’t wear Under Armour or American Eagle. So I have to be the best possible version of myself. I don’t have anything to offer these people, but if I am nice, if I’m friendly, then that’s all I can do for myself. I always made sure, as a kid, to make others feel included. 

And it took me so long to realize that there’s beauty in being different. You just need to find those people that don’t judge you. You find those friends that help you survive in that environment. And because of them, I can embrace my culture. And I did that seldomly in high school, but when I came to college, I saw this diverse group of people, from everywhere. 

Oglethorpe is a melting pot. So you really have no choice but to embrace who you are, and where you come from. And if you’re not doing it, people look at you weird—like, girl, what are you doing?! I finally have the room for it. And there are so many people here that have the same story. It’s bonding, and it brings you comfort. You’re not in a bubble anymore.” 

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