My name isn’t pronounced the way you think it is. I get a slightly different story every time I ask, but my parents usually say they chose the pronunciation “Dee-yah-nah” because it meant that my name would be pronounced the same way in both English and Spanish. They failed to account for the fact that no English speaker would ever guess that my all-American name was pronounced in any way other than “Die-ana.” They usually joke that this was their way of contributing to multiculturalism in our country.
Having known many of my high school classmates since the age of four, everyone knew the right way to say my name, as well as the harsh response they would receive if they ever slipped up. The first week of class was always difficult with new teachers, and my principal without fail always said it wrong, but, generally speaking, my name wasn’t something I thought about all that much.
Then I realized that in college, other than the one other student from my high school, not a single person would know how to say my name. Over 1300 freshmen would be reading my name on Facebook as Die-ana and inevitably call me that for weeks as they struggled to remember the multitude of names they were adding to their phones.
Before school, a close friend of mine suggested that I just switch to Die-ana. After all, 20 years from now it’s more likely that I’ll still be talking to friends from college than from high school. It would make introductions, Facebook invites and number exchanges easier and thus, my college experience easier. As Bulldog Days quickly approached I returned to the same internal debate over and over again — should I stick with the name I loved and deal with the pain of constantly explaining it, or should I adopt the name I had grown to hate?
We’re told even before we begin applying to college that the four years we spend seeking our undergraduate degrees are a fresh start, a chance to become somebody new. The introvert can become an extrovert, the athlete a musician, the party animal a weekend library frequenter. Forget what you did in high school. Try something new.
I thought that maybe Die-ana could be that new person for me. She would join a new sport and miraculously be good at it. She would become fluent in three new languages. She would become an engineer even though math and science had always been her weakest subjects. Die-ana would be so much better than Dee-yah-nah ever could have wished to be.
But, when I thought about it, I didn’t want to be Die-ana. Maybe it’s cliché, but I embrace the fact that I’m Spanish and that there are languages in this world other than English. I guess my mom’s belief in multiculturalism has been engrained in me.
So I ended up sticking with Dee-yah-nah. I also, so far, have stuck with the same person I was in high school. Obviously, by virtue of living away from my family in a new city I’ve grown up a bit, but I haven’t made a huge effort to completely revamp my personality, style or extracurricular pursuits in any way. And I think that’s a good thing.
All of us ended up at Yale because someone reading our application or interviewing us in a coffee shop thought that we were doing something right. In most cases that “something right” was also something we absolutely loved. Why leave that special part of us behind for the sake of the overly hyped-up college dream?
If you have a burning desire to become a new person in college, stop and think about it. There’s something to be said for holding onto who you were before coming to New Haven. Sure, no one ever tells you that you should stay the same. But you became that person in high school for a reason and it got you to where you are today.
It may sound silly, but my name is a big part of who I am. It’s been annoying at times to constantly correct people. But I’ve developed a standard line of, “It’s Dee-yah-nah. Spanish mother, it happens,” and that communicates a little part of my life as efficiently as possible.
I was Diana in high school and I’m still Diana in college. Hopefully you read it correctly that time.
Diana Rosen is a freshman in Pierson College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .