At the end of each semester, all of our High Hopes Scholars submit an update reflecting on their past several months of school. The following are a few stories selected from our 2018 cohort.
My first semester was both exciting and challenging in ways I did not expect. I really loved my English Composition class; the intimate class size allowed for more time with the professor which truly helped develop my writing skills. My Math class was really hard–after missing two full weeks of school due to illness, I worried how this absence would affect my grades and GPA. My Middle Eastern Studies class was my favorite–my professor’s passion for the material made the class super interesting and engaging.
My more difficult classes taught me that building relationships with my professors is invaluable, and that I am my only obstacle when I hesitate to ask questions. For my first semester, I wanted to focus on developing good habits with my academics. I learned that my ego should not get in the way of me getting an education. I learned that everyone has the same fear of asking a silly question and being viewed as inferior, but the risk is definitely worth the reward.
My relationship with my BCF mentor is going well. We see each other monthly and she is there for me when I need her. She’s been helping me explore internship opportunities as I look ahead to the summer.
This semester I took Pre Calculus, Chemistry, Chem Lab, English, History, and Freshman Orientation. Overall, I think I did well–I got through my first semester of college and that was a huge accomplishment for me.
My most challenging courses were Pre-Calculus and Chemistry. Pre-Calculus was hard because of how fast the course moved. By the time I began to understand one concept, we would move on quickly to the next concept so I always felt as if I was behind. I decided to get extra help from the math tutors who I found to be really helpful. Chemistry was difficult because it required a lot of work on my own. I leaned on my mentor Michelle, who is a scientist, for help and support. She is very familiar with Chemistry. I don’t think I would have been able to make it through without her. These challenges taught me the importance of asking for help and talking to my mentor.
I’ve become more social at Tuskegee than I was in high school. I think that’s a good thing. But, this semester has taught me about balance and finding when is the appropriate time to work or play. Being at Tuskegee has also helped me become more polite–in Alabama people always speak to each other, hold doors open for each other, and are just generally hospitable, so some of that has been rubbing off on me.
I think I’ve grown this semester because I’ve unlocked a new part of who I am. I’m enjoying my experience so far and look forward to what’s to come.
I enjoyed my Concepts in Politics class the most. I learned a lot about political theory and its roots, specifically the way that political thought has changed across history. The class was taught by a phenomenal professor which reaffirmed my desire to study politics.
I really tried to throw myself into several organizations this quarter to start making friends. I joined the Speech and Debate Club, Cowell Senate (my smaller college’s student government), and I got accepted into a larger branch of student government that advocates and helps write state legislation that impacts University of California students. I plan to get more involved in advocacy work when I return for winter quarter.
My mentor, Robin Packel, is a federal public defender and invited me to watch her defend her first case in federal court in September. I met Robin’s colleagues and was excited to visit a courtroom. My communication with my mentor has been great. I think she does a very good job of meeting me where I’m at emotionally, time wise, etc. She is very supportive. I really appreciate all the effort she puts in sending words of encouragement.
The biggest challenges I faced this semester were studying, time management, and getting used to the college workload. I’m still learning how to study correctly, because at times, I’m my biggest distraction. I’m getting better at it. The workload was also an adjustment. Senior year at Berkeley High was pretty easy, and I got used to the light workload. At first I felt like I didn’t have enough time to finish the work professors gave me, but I was able to turn in all of my assignments on time and earn a 3.6 GPA. I accomplished finishing my first semester with all A’s and B’s.
Socially speaking, I struggled at first with not knowing anyone. I was so used to my small school community. We had been together for so long, they became like family to me. Starting over was tough at first. I was able to meet a lot of new people in my classes, and I got to hang out with some people who went to Berkeley High. This semester I didn’t make many new friends, but I definitely got to know more people. I also learned how to be by myself. I haven’t mastered it. Some days are still harder than others, but I’ve definitely learned how to be alone without necessarily feeling alone.
My mentor Jeff and I are cool. We talk quite a few times per month. It’s not too much or too little, and I enjoy how things are right now. If I have problems with something, he always gives solid advice. I appreciate him a lot. He’s been a good mentor.