My name is Aiyana Bartolome. I’m mixed Hispanic-Filipino and I was born and raised in Aiea, Hawaii. I’m currently a Junior studying Electrical and Computer Engineering with a minor in themed entertainment.
I’m no stranger to imposter syndrome. Even before college I would constantly have to remind myself that I deserved the things I had. I started ironically saying things like “Do you know who I am?” and I think over time I tricked myself into believing that I really did deserve notoriety and respect. When I got into USC I went around bragging and boasting about it. But as soon as I got here I changed my tune.
I was at a party once and I met another girl from Hawaii that didn’t go to one of the prestigious Hawaii private schools. We felt a kinship since finding another Hawaii public school kid was a rare occurrence. “Okay, but how did you get in? Like I play soccer,” she asked innocently. “Oh, I’m hispanic so they probably needed me for their diversity quota,” I replied, only half joking.
But then my anxieties managed to take a step further. Was I even Hispanic enough to be a “diversity admit”? I was mixed. I grew up in Hawaii. I only spoke english. Not only had I fallen into believing that I only deserved to be at USC because of my race, but I convinced myself I didn’t even deserve that. My ironic high school catch phrase taunted me. Do I even know who I am?
Luckily, I joined the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. I bonded with the other freshmen on the New Student Advisory Board and had honest conversations with the SHPE president, Arynn Gallegos. She was mixed with filipino too. She was studying electrical engineering too. I had heard so many personal accounts of imposter syndrome before, but when she shared her stories I finally felt like I belonged. And the more I looked back at everything, the more I felt love and acceptance from everyone in SHPE. I never had to explain my background or justify my identity. They let me join not just their club, but their community without so much as a second thought.
For the first time I didn’t see others’ accomplishments as things I didn’t do. I looked at the upperclassmen and alumni from SHPE and felt truly affirmed that if they could do it so could I. Their accomplishments were things that I didn’t do yet. The confidence and self-esteem I’ve rebuilt still has a ways to go, but I feel secure in my growth knowing that there really are people here that know what I’m feeling, and want to help me succeed.