Senior Spotlight: Christian Rivera

A thousand roads to walk on

Juan Zuniga-Mejia


TRIGGER WARNING: This article mentions an abusive relationship.

Photos courtesy of   Ely McClelland

Photos courtesy of Ely McClelland

Fourth-year Christian Rivera has dedicated his education at Whittier College to exploring the possibilities of both his English major and Art History minor. While some students struggle finding a major they belong to, Rivera’s struggle was different. “[I struggled] locating myself in the major,” said Rivera, recalling a class he took in the English Department called Major British Writers to 1785, where he studied dense works of English literature. After taking more classes within the Department, Rivera started to feel more confident about himself as an English major. “[It wasn’t] a natural talent, but a natural interest in the [English Department],” said Rivera.

His growth as a student also affected his Art History minor. Rivera originally enrolled in the minor for the “fashion side” of art. After being influenced by a class on colonial Latin America, he realized, “Hey, I like art, but I can’t produce art.” His focus became the production of art, the history of artists, and the meaning of the works. “I stepped away from the fashion side and kind of went more towards the production side,” said Rivera.

Now, he looks forward to what path his studies and skills can lead him down as he prepares to turn his tassel this May. 

When first applying to colleges, Rivera was hesitant to apply to Whittier College because he was born and raised in the city of Whittier. Rivera first looked at California State University Long Beach (CSULB). After attending Whittier’s President’s Reception for Admitted Students event, where Rivera was able to tour the campus, he was introduced to more of what the College had to offer.

“[The campus] was very quiet and it was very homey,” said Rivera. He compared CSULB to a “college you’d see on TV,” while Whittier had “so much style [and] so much history.” There was an “obvious” sense of community within the College, where Rivera felt he could belong. After his tour, he felt that “maybe growing up in Whittier and going to school here means something . . . I’m proud of my city, and I’m proud of this school and what it has to offer.”

That pride extends to the diversity in Whittier, both in the City and in the College. “I always knew there were different people, but coming [to the College], specifically, you get to interact with those people,” said Rivera. Whittier, to Rivera, is also a lot safer compared to other cities in California. “It’s homey, for sure. It’s a place where — if I ever have a family — I would settle and raise a family here,” said Rivera. Still, since the city is so small, he hopes to travel and see more cities, while having Whittier as a “city to come back to.”

After graduation, Rivera will be taking a gap year. “I feel like I need a break, but I also don’t want to take a break,” said Rivera. While exploring graduate school and consulting with his advisor and other mentors, Rivera decided he would take a break from academia to pay off school debts and explore his options. “I definitely want to use my degree somehow,” said Rivera. He hopes to intern in writing departments of various platforms.

“[I want to get] my foot in the door somehow . . . even if I have to answer phones for Universal Studios or Cartoon Network,” said Rivera. He would like to test his skills in magazines, books, or TV in order to further develop his skills as a writer through other types of writing. “I want to do something . . . [in] production,” concluded Rivera. When asked what form of writing he is most interested in, Rivera said, “Definitely creative writing specifically to a younger generation . . . I feel like my  experiences would tailor more to a younger crowd.” Rivera also believes his experiences in college, such as his experience in an abusive relationship relate to an older generation.

He described himself in said relationship — with a partner not from the Whittier community — as being “dumb in love.” Rivera was not aware his boyfriend’s behavior was abusive until he read the questionnaire from a WC InSTALLment. “Every single question [it had], I said yes to,” said Rivera. “The last thing on that flyer was ‘if you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you, unfortunately, are in an abusive relationship.’”

While first in denial, as Rivera thought about his relationship, he realized it was true. “For the most part, [he was] not trusting me to go out by myself or manipulating [me] . . . to feel bad when I would go out,” said Rivera. “He made me feel guilty for doing literally anything without him.”

This sort of emotional manipulation included making Rivera feel guilty about posting on social media when it was not about his boyfriend. “If I would have gotten out of that [relationship] earlier, maybe I would have grown a little bit more,” said Rivera, “but, you use those experiences and grow from them.” Now, he is able to use that experience to know how to better himself for future relationships.

If Rivera was to meet his first-year self, he would tell himself to explore more. “Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to be who you are, especially at this institution,” said Rivera. He has been able to use the experience that he has had at the College to grow.

Reflecting on his younger self, he would assure him that he could succeed through the journey. “Just go for it,” he said. From the challenges Rivera faced, both in academia and in his personal life, he came out on top with a positive attitude, using his experiences to better himself.