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Woman reveals tone-deaf things ‘people who grew up with money’ asked her at school

‘When you don’t have money, it literally affects every aspect of your life and will traumatise you forever’

Amber Raiken
New York
Monday 03 April 2023 17:48 BST
Related: Thai students protest in front university as PM visits

A woman has revealed some of the tone-deaf things that “people who come from money” have asked her while she was in school, as part of a viral TikTok trend.

Jess, @spottieottiejess, started off by reflecting on her freshman year at her university in a video posted to TikTok last week. She noted that her family had a low income when she applied to school, so she got a “full ride scholarship” to Boston University.

She went on to explain some of the “crazy s***” that people said to her, including how she was told that she had “so much work experience for a freshman” and that she’d been “working forever”. After sarcastically expressing her gratitude over this comment, she shared another experience where her peers asked her to join them at a fancy restaurant in Boston, and she told them she couldn’t afford it.

However, she said that they didn’t understand her remark, as she recalled that her peers responded to it by making a claim about her body.

“They literally looked me up and down and said, ‘Girl you can totally afford it, you’re so skinny,’” she explained. “They thought I meant the calories, that I couldn’t afford the calories. They didn’t think I was talking about money.”

Speaking to The Independent, she expressed how isolated she felt at college because of some of the tone-deaf things that her peers said to her.

“When I first attended Boston University, 10 per cent of the student body was in the top 1 per cent of America. I was incredibly fortunate for the opportunities BU granted me, but it was difficult to assimilate,” she said. “I was constantly shocked about how what I thought was considered wealthy was nothing compared to these students.”

In her video, Jess recalled how one of her family members was “bitter” about her scholarship and told her that she was “very privileged”. She also said that this relative claimed that the “real oppressed people were the upper middle class”.

She noted that while she currently has a “nice apartment”, now that she’s finished school, she still felt like people didn’t realise “how truly traumatising” it was to live in poverty. More specifically, she said that she “gained 50 pounds her freshman year because of a binge eating disorder”, since she wasn’t “used to having access to food in a dining hall”.

In her video, Jess reflected on how she cried everyday during her freshman year because she didn’t have health insurance. She also noted how she differed from her roommate, who she said wore “Gucci flip flops” when using the communal showers.

“When you do have money, you don’t think about it. When you don’t have money, it literally affects every aspect of your life and will traumatise you forever,” she said.

She continued to point out her previous choice of words, like “finna,” and how someone accused her of “appropriating the way that people speak”. After explaining that she “grew up poor in Atlanta,” she said that she spent the next year and half changing the way she spoke, because she “didn’t want to be seen as insensitive”.

She then recalled how a friend complained to her about a job where she worked for her father, after doing an interview with his company. Jess pointed out why this complaint wasn’t appropriate, considering the job she had at the time.

“She got the job and complained every single week about how she had to work six hours, and it really pissed her off that her dad wasn’t giving her more time off,” Jess continued. “And I was sitting there, like working 56 hours…at a gas station. I just couldn’t be friends with wealthy people.”

The TikTok user then said she felt embarrassed about going to a university with people who used different types of words and “vocabulary” than she did. She also recalled her first day at business school, where students said that their parents worked as “biomedical engineers” or successful “real estate agents”.

When it was her turn to say what her parents did, Jess said that her mother worked at a grocery store, to which her peers awkwardly responded with, “Oh, very cool”. She went on to confess how her finances throughout her childhood “constantly broke [her] down” at her university.

“I was in survival mode for four years,” she said. “I don’t remember any of my college education, which is very sad, because of poverty. And yet people are going to tell me that I’m the one that’s privileged because I didn’t have to pay anything for school.”

She recalled that while her peers talked about going on vacation during winter breaks, she said that she was working during that time. Jess also claimed that while people have called her a “gold-digger” for now wanting to “mary someone who’s wealthy,” this is ultimately a choice that ties back to her childhood.

“I grew up in extreme poverty,” she said. “And I made it. So yeah, excuse me for wanting to have better for me and my kids. Cause I grew up in a house where there was no food.”

She noted that when her peers sarcastically welcome her to adulthood, she noted that she would prefer that it over her childhood. “I was literally fending for myself at 16,” she explained. “This is actually pretty nice, I would never relive my childhood, ever.”

She then noted that during Covid, her school gave her and some other students money to help them “survive”. And while she said those students felt bad about taking that money “from people who really needed it”, Jess utilmtely felt like they were the ones who needed it.

Jess concluded her video by acknowledging what she’s learned from going to school with people who had more money than her.

“I had to realise that I didn’t have enough money that I thought I did, when I truly realised what wealth was,” she said. “If you’re poor in university, take all those f***ing resources, y’all. Take all of it. Ride them. You’re the one that they’re talking about when they say they need to give it to people that need it.”

Speaking to The Independent, Jess discussed the most peculiar thing she learned from these experiences with her peers in college. “I realised when talking with wealthy people at my university was that their consequences were not the same as mine,” she said. “With money, I observed that they could basically buy their way out of most mistakes, so some of them were careless about how their actions impacted others. If I made a mistake, my opportunities could literally be over in an instant.”

She also reflected on how her video went viral and some of the kind comments received from people who could relate to it.

“I really loved how cathartic and healing the space was under my comments section for viewers to share their experiences with poverty or attending a wealthy institution,” Jess explained. “I would hope that the biggest takeaway from the clip would be that there is strength in community.”

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