|The Columbia cohort at the school board meeting.|
I can honestly say that March 3rd was the best day of my life. That was the day that I went to my Columbia interview and earned the scholarship that would change everything. I remember going home early that day to change my clothes and mentally prepare for what was to come. My previous rejection for the University of Pennsylvania Social Justice program made me a bit nervous for what was to come, but I felt more prepared and experienced when I went into the room for my Columbia interview. Don passed out cards with numbers that would determine our speaking order—I ended up being the first speaker. I was still anxious about my interview, but I went in the room and did my best. When I came back in, I didn’t know what to expect. I was 79% sure that I’d get in, but there was still a part of me that remembered getting rejected from Social Justice. When I finished my interview, my mom assured me that she was proud of me regardless of the outcome. I waited for hours watching other people leave the room for their interviews and waiting for the interviewers to make their final decision.
Don Gosney and the panelists entered the room shortly after all the students finished and announced the students who will go to New York. My name was the first called. At first I didn’t realize that they had called my name, but when I realized that I’d be going to Columbia, I started crying. I was so grateful for the opportunity that I couldn’t help my tears of joy. Don took me and Emily into a separate room and told us about the program would expect of us. After the short meeting, I went home and celebrated with my mom. When I was home, I began pondering the meaning of my scholarship. Not only would it benefit me, but it would also benefit those around me. It would make the people close to me proud, it would show my community a figure to look up to, and give me the opportunity to help others get the same experience that I would get.
After a few mandatory events, it was time for me to finally go abroad. I had been away from my parents before, but at the time, I wasn’t ready for the experience. This time, I had grown and matured, so I was much more prepared to leave my parents and be on my own for an extended period of time.
During the first week of the program, we went to tour different Ivy League Universities. I found that visiting each college was beneficial because I got a sense of the campus’ atmosphere, a glimpse at the different majors, and I saw the different personality of each university. The dinners we had were also useful because the students were extremely honest and I was able to talk to admissions officers and other campus representatives. After visiting all the campuses, I think it’s a lot harder to decide which one is the perfect school for me because all of them were so brilliant and offered so many different opportunities. I was considering colleges on the east coast before, but after visiting all the gorgeous top-tier institutions, I feel like there’s no way I’ll be going to school in California—the East coast offers so much more! Being around the different campuses and hearing from the students made it easier for me to picture myself on those campuses. Whereas before it was just an elusive dream, now it seems like it can be a reality.
Throughout the week of my college tours, my anticipation to go to New York grew greater and greater. By the time we reached campus, I was almost bursting with excitement and I couldn’t wait to set up my dorm and meet the people I’d be living with. After a quick goodbye photo, I raced into Hartley, my new home, and met the most amazing Residential Advisors, Megan and Rebeka. They were so excited when I arrived and showed me to the room that would be mine for the upcoming three weeks. I’d always heard horrific roommate stories from my family, so I was surprised to find that everyone was so friendly everyone was. I remember Lulu being the first person to introduce herself to me and telling me little things like how much she liked to sail and how her life in Connecticut was and I remember feeling so lucky to be around girls who actually had passions, hobbies, and interests instead of someone from all the creepy stories I’d heard in the past.
The day I settled in seemed to last forever, but the next day would be my first day of class. I remember going to the building for my Business and Economics class and seeing this weird old guy telling people to take the stairs. Little did I know that the weird old guy would be my professor and my class was only one flight of stairs up from the entrance. I went into class to listen to my goofy professor talk about random facts and I found myself thinking “What does this have to do with economics?” I soon found out that everything is related to economics—from the rain patterns in Cameroon to the supply of potatoes across the globe. I learned that if someone wants to make money, all they need to do is think outside the box and have a little bit of luck on their side. Of course, I also learned basic economic terms and discussed the crash we saw in 2008 which will provide background knowledge for the economics class that I’ll be taking in the following year. But this class offered even more than that. It taught me skills that I’d need for my future college career like speaking up for my beliefs, explaining my ideas more clearly and powerfully, and not being afraid to ask questions when I didn’t understand the material.
But not everything was peachy keen, there were some times when I cried, some times when I felt left out, and some times when I just wanted to be near my mom. I chose to power through these times and try to enjoy my time in New York to the fullest. Just as my trip wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t perfect either. I made plenty of mistakes throughout my journey, but they were mistakes I learned from. Being on my own made me reexamine my character and pay attention to the flaws I usually don’t notice. I learned how to be a better problem solver, I learned to communicate better, and I learned to value my opinion.
After coming home, I’d say that I’m still the same person, but I’m a better version of myself. The ILC has given me more confidence in my abilities and more motivation to succeed and I hope to bring this experience back to those in my community so they’ll be motivated to apply and get the same experience that I was awarded. After taking a bite out of the Ivy League experience, it’s hard for other schools to compare. I couldn’t imagine going to college anywhere else but the east coast. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this has truly been a life-changing experience.