How NHI Found Me: A Proud CWS Alumna Remembers
This article is by Aura Oveido, currently a sophomore at New York University majoring in Politics and Latin American Studies, who was part of the 2014 International Collegiate World Series program at the University of Tampa, while attending Tampa’s Gaither High School.
Growing up, I was taught that in life, we get “make or break” moments. These moments were not conceived as mythical possibilities but rather, inevitable shortcomings. Plots or explanations about the notion always revolved around life-changing decisions, which at the age of seventeen seemed pretty daunting. As a lover of planning and organization, it suddenly became scary to think that all these decisions I would make in the following year or so would “make or break” my future. What if I did not do well on my ACT? What if I chose the wrong school? What if I chose the wrong major? The list of questions seemed never-ending some nights, but during others, it appeared as if all my doubts could be summarized into one concern: what if I do not love where I am ten years from now? And it was under these circumstances that the National Hispanic Institute (NHI) found me.
Yes, I do believe NHI found me. Where I am from in Florida, the institution had just begun to develop its presence. I had never even heard of it until, for the first time in my life, a “make or break” decision concerning my future was made by someone else. In 2014, the first International Collegiate World Series (CWS) was being held in Tampa, so my county — Hillsborough County — decided to generously fund one student from each of their high schools to attend. I remember applying for a “summer program” sometime along that school year, yet never fully comprehended what it was I had possibly signed up for. However, a few weeks before the school year ended, I discovered I had been chosen to attend this leadership camp I hadn’t even heard of. I went through all the paperwork, did some little research, and asked a couple questions, but I still could not figure out what NHI was and what I was about to attend in that July. Yet, all I was certain of was that it would somehow relate to the college admissions process and that was enough to make me guarantee the county I would be there.
June flew by, and when I least had expected it, I was already facing my departure to University of Tampa (UT), where the program was being held. I remember being very anxious the whole car-ride to the location: “What if I do not like it? What if I already know all they will talk about? What if I get bored? What if the food is not good?”. Questioning is one of my great abilities, and of course, this moment would not be the exception. Yet, little did I know what I was really venturing into.
I do not want to spoil what the Collegiate World Series is truly about, so I will skip to all the things I learned about myself while doing it. When I started, I was as naïve as one can be about “immersive-disruptive experiences;” I don’t think I had ever even heard the expression. So, as expected, it was hard to understand the mentality of all my peers who had been through Great Debate or the LDZ — even today, I only have a faint idea of what they went through in these programs. I also had never experienced any college-oriented camps or even been in a college campus before.
Hence, it turned out my concern was pointless: not only was I a “newbie” to NHI but also to the content being presented. From this, I learned that in the grand scheme of things, I know nothing, and that is okay. I don’t need to have all the answers, but I do need to know how to ask the right questions. Perhaps, the right questions all along would have been: “What do I know about the college admissions process?” and “What do I think I should know?” I would have soon realized I still had a lot more to learn.
Throughout the week, I experimented with vulnerability. As I was writing my college essay or just getting to know people I now call friends, I came to value the ability of opening up parts of me that I often keep hidden or consider nonexistent. Within NHI, I discovered that I did not have to be strong all the time because in those instances in which I was not, my peers would be there. Also, I learned that there is power in exposing your weaknesses; you stop them from dominating you. The CWS, at least for me, provided the perfect environment in which these underlying feelings could flow without reservations, and for that, I am beyond grateful.
Lastly, the CWS taught me how to deal with those make or break decisions I feared. Yes, I finished the program believing that there would be some decisions that would affect my life more than others. Yes, I still think these decisions could occur in the blink of an eye. But no, I am no longer questioning if I will love my life ten years from now. You see, although the CWS awoke my vulnerabilities, it showed me confidence. I became exposed to a new method of thinking that focuses on the learning that takes place through the process rather than from the results. My success cannot be dependent on what I think in ten years; it cannot even rely on what I might think tomorrow. Every day is a day of growth, knowledge acquisition, and questioning. It’s a new day in which I can look in retrospect and know what I can do better from last time.
And it is not that after the CWS I no longer care about the future. Actually, after the CWS, I understood the future is not the only end goal. My today cannot only deal with my 10-years-from-now self because today alone is an opportunity to learn. Thus, even when I face make or break decisions, I must also think of their implications for the present rather than only those in 2026.
I am far from reaching my full potential as an NHIer. After the summer of 2014, I decided to come back as a mentor, and even so, I am still learning. I do not know how or why NHI found me at the time it did, but I am glad it happened. I am grateful for the person who decided I was worthy of attending the 2014 International CWS. Without them knowing, they decided to make my future a brighter one. Without them knowing, they helped me make my mind a more inquisitive one.