As cliched as it sounds, it would be an understatement if I said that my first semester of college was not what I expected.
Academically, I made the first semester freshman mistake of taking Calculus I even though I just took pre-calculus this past summer before the Fall semester and Microeconomics principles even though I never taken an economics course in high school. I thought I could handle the workload, but when I got there I realized that the topics were more complex than I thought and that background knowledge from high school is essential to understand the material. I struggled to do well in those classes only to withdraw from both. Luckily, the courses I took over the summer are going to take the place of both classes until I replace them.
Socially, I became a rising celebrity on campus among students and faculty that mostly everyone either knows or have heard of me. During the first week, one of the faculty newspapers did a story about me and my I’m First scholarship that they posted along with a picture of me on the university’s main website, Facebook student run newspaper, and electronic newsletter. I had made an extremely large group of friends from my summer program and from joining the “Screaming Eagles” marching band, but the article boosted my popularity to such a level that people, who I did not know, actually stopped me to say that they read my article. I’ve befriended so many residential assistants, professors, upperclassmen, and peers that hundreds of people know me personally and possibly more know of me. If networking is an important part of the college experience, then I’m making great strides in getting my name out there by joining clubs and talking to people.
Though the portrayal of college is that students are in isolated bubbles focused solely on academics, the political unrest of police brutality cases have shaped my experience of this semester. There have been student protests, panels, and events on campus in the wake of Ferguson and the grand jury, and Boston has been up in arms protesting the verdict. As an African American male, it’s been hard to find interest in studying business oriented courses like economics and calculus when you’re hearing stories that remind you that if I wasn’t in college then what’s the possibility that could have been me. Especially as a New Yorker from a “low income” neighborhood, the likelihood of being stopped by the police or killed has been very high since I grew up hearing about cases stretching back to the 1970s happening in New York alone. I’ve gotten involved in some of the student protest happening on campus, in Boston, and have writing an article about it for a news organization I’m a contributing writer for called Elite Daily. The combination of my involvement, deep conversations with faculty and peers about social justice, and an elective class that encourages intellectual and spiritual discussion about aspects of Boston College and humanity has inspired me to reevaluate what I want out of college and how to gain it.
I don’t want my college experience to be worrying about getting a 4.0 and finding a high paying job that I may hate. The original point of going to college was to become an intellectual thinker who can apply what he learned to any situation and can contribute to making a better society with their education. Next semester I’m going to take more classes that allow me to think intellectually about a topic and discuss in a larger group. I’m taking a sociology class to learn more about the behavioral patterns of the people in my community, two English classes to see how my writing can influence society, and will take more classes to learn more about my history as an African American in the future.This may have been a challenging semester and arguably the worst timing to start college as a minority student, but they are memorable experiences that will shape my decisions from here on. My academic “failures” are successes because it is a sign that I have not found my calling yet. While it’s been a rough experience, college is definitely worth the hardship because you get to know who you are as a person in times of difficulty. The only thing left to do is finish this semester off strong, lick my wounds, and go through the gauntlet with a different strategy and more armor.