New student Artemio Reyes Orta: ‘Find a light in the people around you’

Friday, September 10, 2021

Showing your vulnerability can be difficult.

For Latino men, a lot of times we are taught to be tough. To show strength, and not to share our feelings. So, I have always had problems sharing how I felt with other people. I wouldn’t tell those close to me that I loved or cared about them. And I wouldn’t express if I was hurt by something or someone.

Holding things in, it sometimes felt like I had the weight of the world resting on my shoulders.

But throughout the years, I’ve found that it’s empowering to share your feelings. And it encourages others to kind of let loose of that fear, and build a supportive community by taking ownership over our stories.

I was born in Toluca, Mexico, a 40-minute drive from Mexico City. Growing up, I experienced a lot of trauma — based on classism and racism — from my peers. They looked down on me because I wasn’t wealthy. In school I played soccer to escape them as a way to heal.

ut when I got old enough, I left Toluca because I felt my abilities and knowledge were not being cultivated. It was very frustrating for me to know that I could do great things — but I was just not being seen.

In August 2017, I moved to Los Angeles as an undocumented immigrant. I began taking classes at East Los Angeles Community College, where I studied for four years. I did my thing, worked hard and completed my assignments consistently.

School was going well for me, but the culture shock of being in a new country was hard. Learning a new language, meeting new people and trying to understand my surroundings was stressful and took a toll on my mental health.

And when the pandemic hit, things got even harder. There were many days when I didn’t want to get out of bed. I was always exhausted, and I had insomnia. I sometimes would sleep for just 30 minutes a night.

I got to a point where I broke down: I felt so alone.

That’s when I knew I needed to reach out for help. I decided to go to therapy, and it helped me understand the importance of communicating my feelings to people, and showing vulnerability.

Coming to UC Berkeley this semester I now have a confidence that I haven’t had in the past. It has only been three weeks, but I have already been able to build a real supportive community at Berkeley through on-campus resources like NavCal, the Educational Opportunity Program and Undocumented Student Program.

I am also continuing to get support from a therapist at University Health Services. I have also built strong connections with my housemates at Casa Joaquin Murrieta, an off-campus multiethnic residential community that’s part of the Greenlining Institute’s leadership academy.

As part of the Miller Scholars Program, I will work with an Oakland organization called Soccer Without Borders. They serve immigrant children by using soccer as a safe space to build confidence and pride in their culture.

It’s something that I’m passionate about because, as a child, soccer helped me grow as a person as well.

I’m really enjoying my time at Berkeley so far, and I feel empowered to face anything that comes my way. The community here has been so important for me. I feel support and love from everyone I’ve met.

I feel like it’s always crucial to find a light in the people around you. To never be afraid to ask for help during tough times.

That’s what has helped me the most so far. The weight of the world has gotten much lighter… and I no longer feel alone.”

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Story by: Ivan Natividad