Woman who went to a top university on a full-ride scholarship discusses how she was in ‘survivor state’: ‘I grew up in extreme poverty’
An Atlanta-based filmmaker and Boston University graduate has gone viral after sharing her college experience. As someone who “grew up in extreme poverty,” she explains how jarring it was to interact with and be surrounded by wealthy and oftentimes, out-of-touch students.
In response to @venusbleed‘s TikTok, Jess Senquiz (@spottieottiejess) discussed the ways in which “people who grew up with money” spoke to her during her four years of college.
“When I first filled out my FAFSA for my freshman year, my family’s income was $18,000 for a family of four, and I got a full-ride scholarship to a top university that accepts, like, 16 percent of students,” she says, referring to Boston University. “And let me tell you some of the crazy s*** people said to me.”
According to Senquiz, students thought she was lucky to be poor.
“‘Wow, Jess. I wish I was poor because you have so much work experience for a freshman,'” she recalls someone saying to her. “‘Like, you’ve literally been working forever.'”
“And they literally looked me up and down, and they were like, ‘Girl, you can totally afford it. Like, you’re so skinny.'”
Another time, Senquiz says she was invited to have brunch with some girls at an expensive restaurant. Given her financial state, Senquiz articulated her reluctance to partake.
“One time, these girls invited me to this, like, bougie Boston brunch place, and I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t think I can go, ’cause I can’t afford it.’ And they literally looked me up and down, and they were like, ‘Girl, you can totally afford it. Like, you’re so skinny,'” she recalls. “They thought I meant the calories. That I couldn’t afford to eat that amount of calories. They didn’t think I was talking about money.”
Senquiz reveals that in her freshman year, she gained weight due to a binge-eating disorder because she “wasn’t used to accessing food in the dining hall.”
“When you do have money, you don’t think about it. When you don’t have money, it literally infects every single aspect of your life, and it will traumatize you forever.”
The wealth disparity was further made apparent, as per Senquiz, by the luxurious items of clothing some students had.
“I literally cried like every day because I didn’t have health insurance, and my roommate had Gucci flip-flops to take showers in the communal showers with,” she says. “When you do have money, you don’t think about it. When you don’t have money, it literally infects every single aspect of your life and will traumatize you forever.”
In an effort to cheer her up, Senquiz once sent her friend a cupcake after learning she’d just gone through a breakup.
“And she’s like, ‘Did you tell the Uber driver which door to go to?’ And I was like, ‘No, what do you mean?’ She’s like, ‘Well, there’s, like, six different parts to my house. Like, how is he gonna know what door to go through?'” Senquiz says. “And the fact that I, like, barely had money too, and I, like, mustered up those $15 to deliver her something was crazy.”
“I don’t even remember any of my college education, which is very sad because of poverty.”
Senquiz reveals how traumatic her college experience was. In fact, she can’t recall any of her education in that timeframe.
“It just constantly broke me down,” she admits. “I was in survivor state for, like, four years. I don’t remember any of my college education, which is very sad because of poverty. And yet, people are gonna tell me that I’m the one that’s privileged because I didn’t have to pay anything to go to school.”
Senquiz asserts that she wants to marry someone who is financially well-off in order to secure her and her future children’s well-being. This desire, however, has garnered backlash from some students who believe her to be “a gold digger.”
“Sure, because I grew up in extreme poverty, b****,” she explains. “And I made it. So, yeah. Excuse me for wanting to have better for me and my kids because I grew up in a house where there was no food. God made me pretty y’all. I’m gonna capitalize on that s***.”
In separate instances, Senquiz was also accused of appropriating AAVE, African American Vernacular English, and insensitively using the word “ghetto” to describe her upbringing.
“My dad was a drug dealer, and he had, like, six pit bulls. And he would do pit bull fighting, and my dad was in a gang,” she explains. “And someone was like, ‘You can’t say that. That’s like f***ed up.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, what the f*** does that mean, then?’
“I literally fell out with friends because they constantly ate out and I could never afford it”
In just three days of posting, Senquiz’s revelatory six-minute video has more than 7.2 million views and 1.5 million likes. Former and current college students who come from poverty feel seen by how candidly she talks about her own experiences.
“Girl I’m going thru this right now do you have any tips on how to deal of it ?” one user asked.
“the way rich people romanticize being poor too like ‘oh now you’re stronger,'” another said.
“I literally fell out with friends because they constantly ate out and I could never afford it,” someone admitted.
A college experience dominated by a constant feeling of inferiority sounds incredibly taxing. People like Jess Senquiz, however, show us that you are more than where you come from — and you have every right to be here and better your circumstance.
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