Surviving to Thriving: Daniela Londono's Story

A smiling young woman with glasses and curly hair
Daniela Londono '24 reflects on her time at Holy Cross before graduating later this month.

Editor's Note: On May 24, 751 members of the Holy Cross class of 2024 will walk the commencement stage. Each path to the stage is unique. As we celebrate the class, HCM asked several seniors to share their journeys in their own words. Listen and read their uncut narratives — how they got here and what they’re taking with them — as they reflect on the Holy Cross chapter of their life.

Listen to Daniela Londono '24 read her refelection.
Audio file
A student wearing a cap and gown stands with her parents, one who is holding a small dog, and her sister, who is holding a stuffed animal.
Daniela Londono '24 at her high school graduation with her parents, sister and dog.

I am a first-generation college student; this identity heavily shaped who I am and my college experience. I had no previous knowledge about what college is, which only contributed to my sentiment of college being an abyss. I had already made it further than expected, and so I entered college in survival mode as my father’s constant words, “You are not expected to graduate, so prove them wrong” echoed in my mind. My only goal was to be first and graduate. I had no intention to join any extracurriculars, gain any leadership experience or develop different relationships. I strictly aimed to make it through to the next semester — and the next.

I noticed a hidden curriculum that various of my classmates were aware of and so I felt a feeling of estrangement. Imposter syndrome took a toll as I did not even understand the basics of how to communicate with professors in office hours or how to navigate college in general; I was lost and felt like I did not belong. A feeling of discomfort washed over me whenever professors asked a question. I knew the answer, but doubt filled my mind as I watched those around me confidently raise their hands only to say the same thing I was thinking.I spent the beginning years of my experience just wishing I had their confidence.

My parents did not understand. My friends were my support system as we all navigated an unfamiliar world together. I remained the quiet, shy student who simply aimed to survive college for the early stages of my experience. I made no connections with professors and watched as many around me began to obtain leadership roles.

Daniela Londono at the 100 Days Ball with a mentor
Daniela Londono '24 found many mentors within the Holy Cross faculty and staff. At The 100 Days Ball she posed for a picture with Taryn Randall, Program and Events Coordinator for Student Involvement.

Eventually, I took a leap of faith my third year. I had never bothered to consider signing up for a leadership role, until I finally did. Unfortunately, I did not get it; however, due to certain circumstances, the spot opened back up and I filed it. It was my first-ever official leadership role and I made the most of it. My confidence grew. That same year, I also started creating my first connection with a professor, whom I remained in contact with even after taking her class. The following year, I went further with that leadership role and added an additional one. I became comfortable in my place at college. That feeling of survival and estrangement cleared out. I became confident in answering questions and participating in class. I no longer hid in the shadows, but rather started to shine some light on myself.

I finally left survival mode and began thriving. I was able to take advantage of these leadership roles. As I reflect on this, I think to myself that the high school version of me would have never thought that this was possible. But I did it. I began attending office hours. I asked questions. I grew connections with students. I led a meeting. I attended dinners. I began to wish I had more time left in college so that I could have more time to be involved. I started so late, but not too late. 

Not only did I notice it in myself, but those around me saw my efforts. I was nominated for an award, and although just a nomination, I was never more proud than I was at that moment. Senior-year-of-high-school me would have never pictured that moment happening, but it did. It was a testament to my growth.

From surviving to thriving, I did it. I proved them wrong. I am the first in my family to graduate, but I will not be the last.