With only nine months of post-grad living under my belt, I’ve been able to stand back and give thought to how my college experience has led me to where I am in my life right now. Emerson College was the perfect school for me. In the months leading up to my high school graduation, my family and I were unsure if I’d even be able to attend due to the steep cost of a private institution and the fact that I did not receive financial aid.
Since I was the first of my siblings to go off to college, the application process was completely new to my family and I and unfortunately, our understanding of financial aid was insufficient and inexperienced. But I knew Emerson would enhance and challenge my life in so many ways. Despite the burden of student loans (which I will be paying for two decades), I knew I made the right decision the second I walked onto campus during freshmen orientation and met people with similar passions and ambitions. But, this story is not about my massive student loan debt. This story is about how important it is to immerse yourself meaningfully in your college and local community.
Going to school in the heart of a major city provided an abundance of professional and academic opportunities, urban adventures, and personal experiences that would not have been possible for me if I had attended school elsewhere. For my classmates and I, college wasn’t just a four-year academic experience filled with papers, exams, group assignments, theses, and presentations (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course). Our four years were about extending our experience beyond the limits of our classroom doors and campus.
My experience at Emerson allowed me to elevate and challenge my passions for social advocacy, theatre, and education, and a lot of that blossomed from my constant extra-curricular involvement on campus and in the city of Boston. From my three-year leadership role as President of Emerson Peace and Social Justice, to my part-time job at New England’s largest homeless shelter and internship at a social justice fundraising cooperative, I was deliberate in what I devoted myself to. I tried my best to be purposeful and to never lose sight of my goal of having my work positively impact people’s hearts and minds. With each local activist, community member, and passionate peer I met, I believed more strongly in my conviction that community change is in fact possible – we just need to work together to effect that change.
Above all, my immersive extra-curricular experience at Emerson solidified my passions and augmented my perspective on how to achieve my goals – no matter how idealistic they may seem. This is the very reason I couldn’t just do just one thing. I was also well aware of the fact that I couldn’t do it all – nor did I want to.
Within my first week at Emerson I experienced many harsh but necessary reality checks that untangled the superwoman complex I came into college with. It was incredibly humbling to be surrounded by such hyper-focused, on-the-go, tenacious college students. My idealistic and naive desire to “change the world” was being challenged – for the better. Don’t get me wrong, I was still idealistic, but through my involvement with on-campus organizations and local Boston nonprofits, I was learning how to balance that wide-eyed idealism with practicality and realism. My superwoman and “doing it all” attitude was quickly deflating and I was much more cognizant of viewing and carrying out my advocacy and community involvement through a more mature, mindful, and inclusive lens.
Yes, my internships, part-time jobs, recurrent volunteer opportunities, campus organization membership, and on-campus leadership duties had me over-involved throughout my four years of college but I don’t regret that one bit. Sure, there were many lost nights of sleep, papers that could have been written better and proof-read more carefully, and social occasions I could have taken part in more, but I don’t think I would have learned the impactful lessons I did if I hadn’t extended myself in the way that I did.
I am incredibly thankful that I took advantage of as much as I could while at Emerson. I’m now working for an organization I have greatly admired and looked up to for years and am beyond thankful for the lessons my college and community involvement taught me. I’m also tremendously grateful that I was able to attend college in the first place. Everyday I am mindful of recognizing how fortunate I am – debt, stress, and all. So, thank you to my Emerson and Boston community for helping me improve, inform, challenge, and personalize my passions in life, and pushing me to be my best self in the process.
Photo by Emily Long