A PWI Experience: Finding New Opportunities and Avenues!

JANAEJanae`

Age: 22
Major: Broadcast Journalism at University of Maryland- College Park, currently a Grad Student at Ohio State
Hometown: Pine Hill, NJ

 

Why did you choose Maryland?

I fell in love with Maryland from the first moment that I stepped on the campus. I just had a feeling that this was my next home and I was correct. I visited the campus on a tour and I thought their was something in the water because every student I talked to seemed obsessed with it. I really feel like I found myself and found my passion while I was here.

What was first semester, freshman year like? What was the adjustment like?

The first semester was interesting. I lived in a predominantly White dorm, Centreville Hall. I was in the Scholars program. Most of the students on my floor wanted to stay in and hang out with each other or play mario kart. I did make a few friends but I was also the only African American girl on that floor which was a HUGE adjustment. I was used to diversity and while that existed to an extent on my floor I did feel disconnected from the Black community. Eventually I found my niche through RHA (Residence Hall Association), I started attending BSU (Black Student Union) as most Black freshman do. I got involved pretty early on and started making friends outside my hall and that made the adjustment much easier.

Janae6Would you say you found your social niche?

Yes I definitely found my Niche(s). I wanted to take every opportunity that Maryland had to offer so that I could have the full college experience. I worked with the Residence Hall Association to represent on-campus terps and plan events, I became a campus tour guide to convince other incoming students to fall in love with my school. I became a Resident Assistant, and then a Orientation Advisor and I even pledged a sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. I loved joining so many things because I created different diverse social circles and I really think those made my college experience.

What is it like being a black female at a PWI?

Pros:I was really able to explore Black beauty on this campus because of some of the inspiring mentors and Janae4upperclassman that I met.

I actually had a lot of African American female mentors and professors. My associate dean of the journalism school is African American, three of my journalism professors were African American women of color, my Higher Education mentor was a Black woman. So I was able to spend the last 4 years growing and learning from women who inspired me and made me believe that I could be successful in Higher Education too.
Cons:

It was hard at first because I was placed in a predominantly White Residence Hall so I didn’t really meet other African American females and males until the end of my first semester.

Janae7What kind of activities or groups were you a part of?

University of Maryland Orientation

University of Maryland Department of Resident Life

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Residence Hall Association

Maryland Association of Black Journalists

College Park Scholars

Students Helping Honduras

Janae2

What is your favorite thing about Maryland? Any dislikes?

I love the fact that it is so huge it creates so many opportunities and avenues to meet new people and learn from those people and explore their cultures, backgrounds, ideas, and minds. I made friends from my freshman orientation 4 years ago up until my last semester senior year and those are connections I will always cherish.

I honestly don’t really have any dislikes. I will say that I am an African American female who graduated with Straight A’s  all four years with the only 4.0 in my graduating class and I feel like that was never recognized financially. What I mean by that is I feel as though extra scholarships or grants through the school would have been really helpful over the last couple of years and sometimes it’s frustrating that athletes get full rides and students who excel academically might only get an email saying Congratulations on making Dean’s list.

What opportunities did Maryland afford you?Janae1

Maryland helped me find my passion for higher education. This school opened so many doors for me to study abroad, to travel to other universities, to connect with celebrities and major companies, and it allowed me to make some of the most amazing friends.

Would you say you enjoyed your experience at Maryland?

I LOVED Maryland. I am a huge advocate for Maryland and I probably always will be. I loved my time here because I spent the last four years excelling academically but also enjoying my experience outside of the classroom and the mentors I found at Maryland helped me make sure that I didn’t waste away my four years but actually spent them finding myself and what I was passionate about.

Janae5What advice would you give for others trying to decide on college?

Go to the school that feels like a home. You spend four or more years there you want to make sure that you choose a university that gives you a feeling of comfort inside. I found that at Maryland and I hope that all students attending college find that too.

 

Want to reach out to Janae? Follow her on Twitter @jjanae or Instagram @j_janae!!

Advertisements

An Ivy League Experience: History, Inspiration & Friends Across the Spectrum!

KIKI

Kiki introducing Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee

Kiki introducing Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee

Age: 21

Major/Occupation: Political Science/African Studies; Yale

Hometown: Washington, DC

Twitter: @kikiochieng

 

Why did you choose Yale?

I chose Yale because I wanted to go to a university that valued the mind, but also valued cultivating the spirit. Yale’s focus on liberal arts is meant to encourage students to expand their minds beyond regurgitating some facts and to learn how to think deeply and critically. I also wanted to go to a school where I could feel not only inspired by esteemed faculty, but also where I could feel inspired by my peers.

 

What was first semester, freshman year like? What was the adjustment like?

Fortunately, my first semester of freshman year was a relatively smooth transition. I spent my junior year of high school living abroad in France, so I was fairly used to being independent and structuring my life and schedule on my own. My high school, Sidwell Friends, also prepared me academically for the rigorous course load.

 

Would you say you found your social niche?

I’m a very social person and love to meet new people. I participated in a pre-orientation called Cultural Connections freshman year. The program places an emphasis on the diversity of experiences of traditionally underrepresented students and issues related to racial identity. While Sidwell was very diverse, I didn’t have the opportunity in high school to engage with many minority students, so college was a welcome change. Furthermore, as a first-generation African, it was very important to me to engage with the African community on campus. I feel a deep affinity to that side of myself because my parents strongly reinforced my heritage growing up through introducing me to various aspects of their culture, making sure that I stayed in touch with my large extended family and through annual trips to the continent.

I also joined a sorority during the second semester of my freshman year, which was a lovely opportunity to meet girls from different backgrounds from all over the country. One of the things I love about being in a sorority is that you have the opportunity to meet people from different cross-sections of campus with varied interests. Moreover, the focus is on getting to know other people. I think that there are few spaces where you can have that kind of physical and intellectual diversity simultaneously.

 

What is it like being a black female at an Ivy League?

Having attended predominately white schools for my entire life, I knew more or less what to expect from Yale. Growing up, my teachers always encouraged me to perform my best and believed in me. That mentorship and guidance was essential to establishing my confidence in the classroom. When you believe in yourself, you can trust yourself in a way that allows you to take more risks. Know your worth.

The black community at Yale is incredibly kind and welcoming and I have always felt like I have a network of big sisters and brothers to rely on. I try to do the same for the younger students, so that they always feel that someone is looking out for them. That can mean a number of things – insuring someone is staying on top of their schoolwork or simply making them a big bowl of jollof rice, jerk chicken or sweet potato pie when they’re missing home.

I think it is important that black students – particularly, black women – learn to utilize the power of networking. Having access to opportunities sometimes boils down to who you know. We should become more comfortable navigating spaces that are unfamiliar to us considering that board rooms today still remain overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male. Some people are intimidated by what they see as institutions that weren’t designed to include them, but you can’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and to reach out for help and guidance on your academic life and career. And when you’re at the top, don’t forget to pay it forward, so that you can cultivate your community.

As a black woman, I have often struggled with the feeling that I have been put inside a box. When people see me, they sometimes make snap judgments about my identity, which may stem from the media’s tendency to speak about black women as a monolithic entity. Even within the labels of “black” and “women”, there is such rich diversity in terms of personality, appearance and experience. Don’t let other people decide your identity for you and challenge people who put you inside the box. If you encounter ignorance, don’t necessary shun the person, but take steps to engage with him or her to help them understand your perspective.

 

Kiki and the Reverend Jesse Jackson

Kiki and the Reverend Jesse Jackson

What kind of activities or groups were you a part of?

Extracurricular life at Yale is very vibrant, so I feel like I’ve done everything under the sun!

I have a strong connection to the Afro-American Cultural Center (often lovingly called “The House”) where I serve as the Head Peer Liaison for incoming black freshmen students. I am a member of the Intercultural Affairs Council (which directs Yale’s diversity efforts at the undergraduate level) and the Title IX Advisory Committee (which helps spearhead ensure that we have a safe campus and a culture of sexual respect). In the past, I also worked as a Communication and Consent Educator to help combat sexual violence on our campus and direct people towards resources at Yale.

I love to write, so I write poetry and short stories in my free time. I also write occasionally for campus publications like the Yale Daily News and Broad Recognition, a feminist magazine at Yale. Outside of campus, I’m the associate editor of two online publications – Ayiba Magazine and Fair Observer.

I just stepped down as the President of the Yale Undergraduate Association for Peace and Development (YAAPD), an organization devoted to creating more opportunities for youth to engage with peace and development in Africa and to preparing students for careers related to Africa.

I also work at Yale Law School, where I assist with the Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women’s Rights.

This year, I’ll also serve as the Class Day Co-Chair, which means that I get to help select Yale’s graduation speakers. I’m very excited for that role, especially because this will be the third year in a row that a black woman has served as one of the Co-Chairs. I think that speaks volumes about our visibility on campus.

 

What is your favorite thing about Yale? Any dislikes?

I could spend days talking about the things I love about Yale! It’s a place where students can be just as well-versed in pop culture as they are talking about the crisis in Ukraine or what’s going on in Gaza. Where you can spend your lunch break looking at Rothko’s and Van Gogh’s. Where you can casually grab a meal with one of your heroes – a senator, an actress, an activist… you name it!

But it’s also a place that can feel overwhelming – where people are so hyper-focused on filling their days (and I often guilty of that), that they don’t stop to simply look at the beautiful Gothic architecture or the fall leaves. Competing on “busyness” is the great disease of our generation. We need to learn how to slow down. One frustrating thing about Yale is that students are addicted to email, which is often subtly encouraged by how classes and extracurricular life is structured. This doesn’t set a good precedent for work-life balance and is something that shouldn’t be encouraged. It’s good to stay up-to-date, but it’s also important to unplug. I will be doing more of that as I enter my senior year.

 

What opportunities did Yale afford you?

Yale humbled me but also helped me grow immensely. I go to school with some of smartest, most innovative people in the country. I have learned that it is important to be willing to pick apart your beliefs and understand your logical fallacies in order to grow. For example, I often try to engage with conversations with people at the opposite side of spectrum when it comes to political beliefs so I can understand areas where I might have to do some deeper research to really understand an issue.

 

Would you say you enjoyed your experience at Yale?

I love that people aren’t ashamed to be passionate about the things they love, no matter how arcane the topic might seem to the outside world. The school is older than the United States itself so you can imagine what a rich history and legacy it has. How many places in the world can you take a study break and go see a Guttenberg Bible?

Yale historian George W. Pierson once wrote, “Yale is at once a tradition, a company of scholars, a society of friends.”

 

What advice would you give for others trying to decide on college?

Try to do as many college visits as you can. On a regular weekday, you can see what students are normally like instead of slightly more polished version you might see during an admissions weekend.

Make sure you consider the size of the school. After attending a high school where my graduating class was only 111 people, I knew that I had to attend a small to mid-size school in order to feel comfortable. I love the size of Yale because it’s so easy to run into people you know but the school is large enough that it’s easy to always meet new people or expand your social circle. Being in a mid-size school always allows for some diversity in class sizes – you can do anything from a large lecture of 200 students to a small intimate class of 13.

 

 

Want to get in touch with Kiki? Follow her on twitter @kikiochieng!!

An HBCU Experience: Finding Sisterhood!

LARK

Lark3Age: 21

Studying: English & Minoring in Comparative Woman’s Studies at Spelman College

Hometown: Washington, DC

Why did you choose Spelman?

I was initially drawn to Spelman because I wanted to go to a great school that would be different than the one I’d had for the past twelve years. I knew Spelman’s academic expectations and size would be similar to what I was accustomed but I was curious about how my worldview would change by attending a historically black women’s college.

 

What was first semester, freshman year like? What was the adjustment like?

Initially, the adjustment to college was a bit tricky for common reasons. I had an awful roommate, was confused about registration etc. When things settled down and I got comfortable in my routine I was able to appreciate all that Spelman had to offer!

 

Would you say you found your social niche? If so, how?

I found my social group through my first year hall- my friends and I joke that if you didn’t live in my hall freshman year I still have no

(Lark in pink jacket)

(Lark in pink jacket)

idea who you are. I also made a lot of friends through participating in activities sponsored by our Women’s Resource and Research Center (WRRC). In my opinion, the WRRC is the greatest place to have discussions, meet new people and (as Spelman’s tagline/ theme song says) make a “choice to change the world”. I’ve learned about more social justice initiatives and met my most open minded classmates in our women’s studies department. Most importantly, my women’s studies classes and the people who gather in the WRRC have given me the tools and vocabulary to express my thoughts on the issues I’m passionate about.

 

What is it like being a black female at a HBCU?

I think it’s great. I love the sisterhood I have found and fostered with my friends. Mostly I appreciate the role the homogeneity plays in the classroom. It is wonderfully freeing to be a Black woman in class with only other Black women. This is not to say that we are not a diverse group of students. We do not all understand the world or even the texts’ we study in the same way. Navigating classroom dynamics is less stressful because the microagressions and uncomfortable situations I had to deal with in my independent grade school classrooms don’t exist at Spelman. For example: I have never been asked to be the voice for all Black people or to read the Black woman’s part in a play and none of my professors or peers have made incorrect assumptions about how my personal background helps or hinders my academic experience. My time at Spelman is the first where I have been a part of an inclusive learning environment that encourages, respects and expects all voices to be heard. It has helped me to become a more confident person inside and outside of the classroom. I think the benefits of all girls/ women’s spaces and all Black spaces are extremely beneficial and their benefits wildly underestimated in today’s society.

 

What kind of activities or groups were you a part of?

I am a part of the Toni Cade Bambara Scholar/ Writers/ Activist Program. We meet with social justice groups and activists from around campus and the world who share with us about the causes they support. We also organize a conference where students and other activists facilitate performances, workshops and panel discussions that explore the complexities of Black/ African women’s lives. I’m also a member of the Atlanta University Center Alliance for Fair Labor. We work to help our maintenance and cafeteria workers get the wages and working conditions they deserve. We also try to raise awareness in the AUC about the daily injustices workers around the world face. I also volunteer in the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art!

 

 

Studying Abroad in India!

Studying Abroad in India!

What opportunities did Spelman afford you?

Spelman affords its students many opportunities in college and afterward. If you want to do something, and know who to ask, you can probably do it through Spelman.

 

Would you say you enjoyed your experience at Spelman? 

I have so many favorite things about Spelman but what I have enjoyed/ appreciate most is my professors and the material they cover. For example: as an English major, I had a mandatory class this past semester called “Seminal Writers of the African American Tradition” where we read works from James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, Lorraine Hansberry, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Richard Wright and more. It was amazing and pretty standard for most of the humanities courses I’ve taken.

 

What advice would you give for others trying to decide on college?

Try to pick the school that is most suitable for your learning style and will give you the most opportunity to grow. Going to college is such a huge privilege and financial investment but you’re the only one who has to do it. So, pick the major you want to pick and participate in the activities you want to participate in. Study hard. Most importantly: Be open to learning new things about yourself and others.

Want to get in touch with Lark? Follow her on twitter @Lark_T

Making the Most of It

Hello FYM Project Readers!!

 

As promised, the blog is back in full effect as we roll into August! I hope everyone has had an amazing summer and has some great plans as we move into fall!

 

So, as this time of year is generally full of back to school preparations and first day anxiety, I decided the theme for this month will be College Experiences. I’ll be showcasing three amazing brown girls who’ve all attended different schools: An Ivy League, A PWI (Predominantly White Institution) and an HBCU (Historically Black College or University); and we’ll be discussing their experiences and reflections about their respective schools.

Looking back on my own college experience, I can confidently give this sole advice: Make the most of it. When I was nearing the end of my high school days, the only thing I was feeling was trepidation. I had taken the SATs, finished the applications, visited schools all along the east coast, but I was still so overwhelmed at the thought of leaving my familiar little bubble (I had attended the same school since 3rd grade). While most of my peers were chomping at the bit to reach independence and the “college life,” I felt like everything was moving too fast and wished I had a pause button I could press. On college tours everything blurred together, I had a hard time placing myself in any of these atmospheres. How was I supposed to pick one place to be for the next 4 years of my life?? I’ve been around the same people since I was 8 years old, can I even make new friends?? What if the work is too hard? And to top it all off, I had no idea what I wanted to study…I felt unprepared and far from ready.

But regardless how much I pulled back, life kept moving and soon enough I found myself attending orientation at the University of Maryland- College Park. I held it together as I met my new roommates and my family helped me unpack, but that night as I lay in my lofted bed, I was fighting back tears. You see, I’ve never been to fond of “new” and college was just too much new for me to handle. Even though I was in this new environment with hundreds of new people, I still held on tight to my old life. I went home every weekend, my social life consisted of class and seeing my roommates at the end of the day, and every chance I got I called at least one of my friends from high school. Put simply, I just didn’t put that much effort into making the adjustment. I didn’t attend club meetings, or go to events. I even avoided my own hallmates from time to time. Luckily I had some great roommates, and I had made some friends at a summer program I attended. But to  be frank, I made freshman year much harder than it needed to be for myself. It wasn’t until closer to my junior year that I finally ventured out of my comfort zone, and in my last year of college, I experienced more, met more new and amazing people, and learned more about myself than I had in the first three years combined.

I am extremely grateful that I was able to attend college, especially at such a great school,but sadly, I missed out on lot, all because I was too afraid of the unfamiliar. My experience could have been so much fuller if I had just put in a little more effort sooner. So, for my fellow brown girls who are preparing to embark on the journey that is higher education, all I can say is embrace the experience. Really get invested in learning the differences and exploring schools, find what you like, what you don’t, and make sure that wherever you choose feels like it could be home for you. It is perfectly fine to feel apprehensive, after all, this is one of your first major steps into adulthood, but don’t let that fear prevent you from making college everything it can be for you. College is a privilege that you don’t want to squander: go to class, meet new people, travel, party, date, and above all find what your passions are and pursue them!