“Whoa;” the only word I can possibly use to describe my first year of higher education. As a smile tugs at the corners of my lips, images of my freshman year at USC trickle through my mind as memories of challenge, growth and revelation hit me. Like most, my freshman year of college set the tone for how I define my identity, but the opportunities and experiences I’ve been blessed with gave me new perspective in deciding how I want to live the rest of my life.
I previously wrote about how God used interactions with my friends and my campus ministry community to reveal foundational truth: I am His daughter, and only in Him will I ever reach my potential. At the end of first semester, I realized that God had been asking me, through quiet time and epiphanies from friends, to give him control. After a few attempts, I quickly learned that my walk with Christ is really a daily journey adventure. I now see that the more of myself I give Him, the more of the true me He gives back, with interest. The book of Mark, studied comprehensively this semester, tells us to “Lose life to gain life;” this is done when I trust Him to show me how a life lived chasing after Him will bring me things better than what I gave up.
I was born in Nigeria, reared in an Atlanta suburb, mentored in the city of Atlanta, and am now being redefined in Los Angeles. I spent most of my grade school years in a predominantly-black school system, and though I grew to love it, I always felt slightly out of place with my peers. Experiences during my freshman year revealed that my objectivity came from the fact that traditions and values of my first-generation Nigerian family were at a slight disconnect with African American heritage. Learning the difference between race (a social construct) and ethnicity (nationality, self-identification) allowed me to see why I was really dissatisfied with black stereotypes, within and outside the community. It was actually an Asian American ethnic studies class, as well as the reality that black students are about four percent of my campus population, that allowed me to own my cultural identity.
Yes, I’m a black woman, but more personally, I’m Yoruba, Nigerian, and above all, a Christian child of God. I have a new-found passion for social justice when it comes to matters of race, culture, and identity politics. I get to live them by co-leading a new ministry for my school’s black student body with a team that’s just as racially diverse as my campus. More opportunities for me to serve the global community seemed to open up when I embraced my cultural identity, and I’m so excited to see where God can use them to take me.
I came to school knowing that I would change my print journalism major, but wasn’t sure where to go. I knew I wanted to stay in the media/ story-telling industry but didn’t want a major that was too specific to one aspect of it. After extensive research, I made the decision to become a Communication major, a program that takes a more liberal arts and theory approach to discovering the media industry. I couldn’t be happier in this major, because I get to see more careers that combine my top interests: art and design, intercultural relations, and story-telling and identity.
Community, in and out of the Trojan Family
College is understandably one of the strongest sources for lifelong-friends. My freshman year brought me more than I count in ways that I thank God for daily. My best-friend from grade school attends the University of Georgia and it seemed that being nearly 2000 miles apart made us closer than ever. Even when we couldn’t talk regularly, little things like checking in on each other gave our friendship a true foundation. At school, God sent me two best friends that literally lived right next door to me, and the three of us were lucky to have each other so close by. It was 2 a.m. conversations and soy-chai-tea-latte chats that strengthened us, even as we grow individually. My other newfound family came from classes and organizations, especially my school’s InterVarsity, which became a strong point for my much of my spiritual and personal growth.
Naturally, I grew in more ways than I can recount in one article. Thus I’ll share a few tips on how to make the most of coming into any new experience:
– Do be open-minded. As typical as this sounds, one would be surprised to see how much
you can learn by interacting with others who seem to be nothing like you. A dear friend
of mine has a personality that’s practically my opposite, yet a perfect compliment.
–Do not assume that the people you meet the first week will be your only friends.
Random encounters and campus events have a lot of potential for introducing you to
amazing people. Even though I did meet two of my closest girls within days of moving
to campus, the rest I would meet in the coming months, and by February, I found myself
becoming closer to people I’d never really talked to in my first semester.
– Coffee is amazing; but it should not be where you spend most of your money. I am still
attempting to take my own advice on this one.
– Do not be afraid to change your style. College allowed me free reign to wear more
daring outfits, as well as find new styles that allow me to express myself in different
ways. Still, I kept a fair “uniform’ of leggings, sandals, sweater and scarf…
Yup, freshman year was a great foundation for the rest of life. I’m so excited.