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Posts Tagged Khadijah Williams

New Year, New Me!

khadijah-85Hey CSO,

It’s New Year’s Day, and you know what that means- New Year’s Resolutions! Notice that revolution and resolution only differ by one letter (the most productive typo ever!). Thus, New Year’s Day is that time to revolutionize your thinking and behavior in order to accomplish your full potential! I had started wording my resolutions as “I will stop this, I will stop that,” but it is easier to keep a resolution if it’s in positive form. So I have worded all my resolutions as “I will do this” or “I will do that.” Resolutions are important to make because you are making a commitment to yourself to improve yourself, and you are telling yourself that you deserve to be the best you can be and are committed to reaching your goals. I am making resolutions to myself because like you all, I want to better myself and my life. If you are with me, you’ll think of some resolutions as well.

Now, I am enlisting CSO’s help to help me change my behavior. Research has shown that you’re more likely to keep your New Year’s resolutions if you tell people about them, so I am telling all of CSO, my friends, supporters, and everyone who reads the CSO blog my resolutions for the New Year so I can stick to them. Gulp…

I could have a very long list but here are my top 9 resolutions for the New Year:

1. I will keep up with my CSO blog. Okay, that was an easy one, but why not start with the obvious?

2. I will start an assignment the week I receive the prompt. Starting early gives me time to really think about the assignment and all its possibilities instead of just going through the motions (or losing valuable sleep with all nighters).

3. I will use office hours as a means to get to know my professors and get their input on my work. Office hours are not only for work or sucking up, they are also for getting to know scholars who are experts and leaders in their field, but who are also human and were where you are now.

4. I will work out at least 4 times a week. Research shows that regular exercise helps lessen stress and frustration, as well as keep off the dreaded “freshman fifteen” (and “sophomore 10….”) Whether it’s yoga, strength training, cardio, or just power walking, I will commit to regular exercise as part of my routine. And I’ll allow myself some time to rest – no overdoing. I am no longer an athlete (sad face) and will stop setting the treadmill at 8:45 when I know I now run an 11(.45…) min mile (true story).

5. I will meditate at least 2 times a week. Although the pace and stress of college make it seem like the last thing I need to do is sit still and do what looks like nothing, quieting my mind and focusing on mindfulness is precisely what I need. It allows me to reflect on what’s going on and just check in on myself.

6. I will plan ahead and organize myself so that I get my important tasks done and done first. I waste so much time on pointless, non-immediate, or mindless activities.

7. I will eat right. No more ramen noodles and 1200 calorie Chipotle burritos, and no more eating out of boredom or stress. Even though Cherry Garcia tastes that much more amazing at 3am…

8. I will get enough sleep every night. Not getting enough sleep makes for a cranky, lethargic Khadijah, so I’ll be in bed by midnight from now on. Ok… 1am, but no later, and 8am wakeup. Waking up and sleeping at a consistent time helps me organize my days and give my body consistency, which helps me perform better.

9. I will hold myself accountable to meeting my resolutions and goals, and I will treat myself once a month if I accomplish all my goals. It is very important to treat yourself in order to encourage and reward good behavior. I find that I do not need to punish myself for not accomplishing my goals because the stress, anxiety, and disappointment are punishment enough.

These are my resolutions, and now that I have published them to CSO, I have to keep them!

Wishing you a happy and healthy holidays and a wonderful New Year.

Your friend from CSO,

Khadijah

What is more important than getting good grades? Reflection

khadijah-85I want to start this blog post with an apology. I have gotten so caught up in the demand and flow of college, that I forgot my responsibility as a blogger. My lapse in blog posts does not reflect how important I think this blog is- what it does reflect, however, is that I need to review my own post on time management (ehem, Khadijah!).

But I also want to thank CSO, not just for how it helps students who are where we bloggers were a few years ago, but also for helping us bloggers. For you see, sometimes, when college life gets hectic, it is so easy, so tempting, to move on without thinking or assessing. College life is fast paced. You blink, and several things happen and pass you by, and you can’t and don’t want to miss a second of it. You get into the grind, and your nose is down low- you have so many expectations, you gotta meet them, surpass them! Yet, I believe that stopping and reflecting is crucial to success. As important, and in many ways, more important than studying those extra hours. CSO assists me and other bloggers in this process by having us, just for a moment, reflect on our experiences in college.

Reflection is important to success.  College is more than academics and partying, it’s discovering who you are, what you love, who you want to be. It’s not to be molded into the perfect image of middle class society, although it may seem that way. For me, in particular, it has helped me come to terms with my past, and look at what  I have done because of, and not merely despite my past. Reflection helps me understand how it still affects me, and how it gives me strength. Reflection allows me to process what I am going through in college- what study strategies don’t work for me? Do I enjoy my classes? What do I love and hate the most about being at college? Am I happy with myself, with who I am now? Why am I here in college? What do I want? Are my expectations mine, or someone else’s?  Am I ok with that? Sometimes, it’s simply meditation, sitting and staring off into space in my room, on the grass, or it’s talking with a counselor, with friends, with parents, with adults. It’s writing in your book, your journal, or a diary. There is no right way to reflect, but it’s important that you do it, in your own way.

College is such a life changing experience, that it requires processing. Reflection can be spontaneous, it can be planned, as long as it’s regular. Reflection helps you grow and mature. It grounds you in a time of hectic uncertainty and organized chaos. I sound all new-agey, but trust me, try it, you’ll think it’s great or your money back.

So CSO, thank you for providing this forum to reflect on our experiences in college. Not only does it provide a great resource for students who want to go to college, but it is a great resource for us bloggers as well.

Yeah, it’s corny, but do what makes you happy. Seriously.

khadijah-85

Major choices- I didn’t really think it was terribly important; after all, the most important thing is doing what you love and being comfortable. But that’s exactly why choosing a major, or department, is so important. I had been decided on Social Studies since freshman year. As an honors major, it’s challenging, it’s prestigious, it’s interesting, all my friends were doing it, so of course I’d do Social Studies, right? I thought I picked a major for the subject matter and the interdisciplinary design, the readings – the most defining theorists of our time, you know, the ones that those annoying know-it-alls like to slip into conversation? Anyway, I was completely set on Social Studies. But then, during sophomore year, I realized I didn’t feel quite comfortable in Social Studies. I realized that it didn’t meet my personal and academic needs. I realized that I was in Social Studies just for the prestige, but in my heart, I was a Sociology major.

It was hard at first to give up the allure of Social Studies. I moved back and forth- I felt I needed to prove I can do this major, the hardest social science major at Harvard. Will I still talk to my friends, who are staying in Social Studies? After much deliberation and conversation, I declared Sociology, knowing it was the right place for me, but my love affair with Social Studies wasn’t over. I wanted to take the 2nd semester of Social Studies 10, the introductory required class for Social Studies concentrators. I couldn’t take it unless I was a concentrator. Rules are rules. So I tiptoed, quietly, into the office of the undergraduate director of Sociology, within the tall white imposing building, 6th floor. I rode the elevator in nervousness, replaying my spiel- I believe this course will help forward me in Sociology. That’s what I’d say… I was worried that he would think that I wasn’t set on Sociology, that I was considering staying in Social Studies. The director knows my name, greets me with sincere enthusiasm. I feel worse. “So, I would like to take Social Studies 10b, spring semester, but I need to be a concentrator, so I would need to switch from Sociology to Social Studies- But, I wanted to hear your perspective, if it’ll mess up anything, like taking classes next semester, I won’t do it. I asked to take it but the Social Studies undergrad director said I must be a concentrator to take 2nd semester.” Would he grill me why?

His reply, I didn’t expect. “Sure, just remember to switch back to Sociology by the end of your sophomore year so you can take the junior tutorials.” Was it really that easy? “Really, you don’t mind?” “Doesn’t bother me, you should be able to take whatever classes you want. Now, you wanted to talk to me about your research paper?” We then spent the remainder of the appointment talking excitedly about my research project, with him totally getting what I wanted to do and asking challenging, but helpful questions and providing lots of resources.

I realized then that I wasn’t just picking a disciplinary major- I was picking a department. I was picking my peers, my advisors, my professors, the undergraduate director- this major choice wasn’t in a vacuum. The ease of conversation, his desire to help me figure out my desires and mold them to what classes I would take, I didn’t feel I had that in Social Studies. In Sociology, I was supported, I was challenged. It was only then that I was comfortable with my choice. I have finally broken up with Social Studies, and will not try to take their tutorial next semester, but will move forward wholeheartedly in Sociology.

Remember, CSO readers, whatever you do, make sure you do it because you truly want to, and do it because you know you’ll thrive. Prestige can be a seductive thing and can blind you from what really matters. I found an academic home in Sociology and I can honestly say, I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

Plus, it turns out the Sociology department at Harvard is the top 5 in the country, so who cares! :D

Oh great, here we go again (sophomore year)

khadijah-85Ok, so honestly, first year, freshman year, you will probably get your butt kicked. Seriously- different environment, high expectations, you’re on your own- even if you’re a beast academically, you will get your butt kicked. Even if you are a social butterfly, you would have to adjust to peers who seem like they have so much money, they don’t know what to do with it, and be kicked in the butt by your empty, angry wallet, or work hours and hours to afford a burger from the overpriced restaurant down the street (but those burgers are soo GOOD). Class matters at Harvard, (so many of my black peers at Harvard come from private school, high income brackets, or another country) and so does race - “the black experience, the poor black experience”(everyone turns to me- share your wisdom, oh poor black girl). Not obviously, of course, but definitely more than I expected. I was and am sometimes disillusioned, and to top it all off, I had more work than I knew how to deal with. Although I know this is a crazy thought now- I thought I was going to fail out of Harvard, be a disgrace to low-income, homeless and black females everywhere, and I thought I was a failure socially. Shouldn’t I be the social butterfly? It’s only a few papers and exams, why is this so difficult? WHY so much reading? I don’t want to see my report card. No. Intro Economics, I’ll pretend it doesn’t exist.

So, since I’m still posting, you can see that I did make it to sophomore year. And oh my goodness, I finished my first semester of sophomore year! And you know what, it was harder in many ways, but easier in many other ways. First off, those 300+ pages of reading a week, it’s doable, it really is. The papers, I’m figuring out my formula, and I’m using it to try to work on my papers. I’ve had to ask for extensions, but you know what, this time I knew what I needed, I hadn’t a clue before.

Basically, what’s easier about sophomore year is this awareness I now have. I’m aware of my own rhythms- I know never to do heavy reading late at night, and I know I must start a paper on Friday because it’s not getting done during the week. It’s just not. I know that 9 am class, even if I get up at 8 am every day (including weekends) should absolutely be considered cruel and inhumane treatment under the constitution. I’m aware of the importance of time management, looking at the syllabi and talking with professors in September- “So uh, I have 3 papers due within three days, may I turn in my paper in December on a different date?” Yeah, you can do that! (Ask, you never know, professors are pretty nice typically). What makes sophomore year different than freshman year is that you know better who you are, and you know your strengths and weaknesses. You get into a routine, you find your clique of friends, you’re more comfortable turning on and off the social butterfly (or keeping it off indefinitely, if that’s your thing).

So I promise, even when your butt gets kicked freshmen year, and your gpa makes you cry, it will get better. Your feelings of not belonging, of being a failure, the doubt, is all normal, and trust me, it won’t always be like this. Sophomore year, you’ll look back at your freshman self and wonder why, instead of cranking that paper out and getting the crappiest grade, you didn’t simply ask for a day extension. It will get better, because you’ll not only know yourself better, you’ll know how to work with, not against, your natural self. And with knowing yourself better, everything else begins to fall into place.

Year 2 is only better!

jesse-85Finally back at Harvard! It feels good to come back to old friends and already start making new ones. Year 1 was amazing but I can already tell that year 2 will be even better! The first week of my Sophomore year went by really fast and I wanted to let you guys know that it’s never too early or too late to get involved in organizations at your school! It doesn’t make a difference if you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior: Get Involved!!

Check out this video to see how the student activities fair went and how my House’s Sophomore Outing went.

No such thing as impossible

khadijah-85I completed my freshman year at Harvard! It was an incredible year, full of challenges, achievements, and lots of coffee! I survived Introductory Economics, Expository Writing, pre-punch, and numerous New England snowstorms (really tough for a California girl like me).

One of my favorite academic experiences deals with my freshman seminar- Communication, Advocacy, and Public Affairs. Our project has moved past the classroom level, like the other projects, and we plan to continue with it during our time here – convince Harvard to implement more public speaking classes and resources. This was also an eye-opening experience for me because as I am interested in policy and advocacy, I get to learn at what it is like to deal with large bureaucracies in real time. This is invaluable experience for me.

Another wonderful part of the past year has been the expanding of my sense of what is possible. There is no such thing as “impossible” at Harvard, and for someone who has lived for years in an environment where “can’t” was the norm, this is an amazing and stimulating environment to be a part of. It continues to be a challenge on so many levels – academically, socially, and emotionally. To be sure, this can be at times intimidating, but as I love challenges, this is the perfect environment to create the me I’ve always imagined but until now, wasn’t sure I could become. It is an awesome experience.

This summer, I am interning at an education technology company in NYC. I am an intern to the CEO, another challenging position, albeit not as challenging as mastering the NYC subway system!

In reflecting back on the last year, I am amazed at the support and encouragement I received from people like you. When times were tough, your belief in me was a tremendous source of encouragement. I am looking forward to my sophomore year and to pursuing a concentration in Social Studies, (Harvardspeaks for major).

I will be profiled in the August edition of Essence magazine. I hope that you will read it and that my gratitude for your support shines through in that article! Again, thank you so much for your continued support. I look forward to fulfilling your hopes for my future.

The most intense 3 hours of my life.

khadijah-85Hurry bus! Please hurry!!

March 31st was the craziest time for me. I elected to get my admissions decisions from Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Williams, and Harvard by email, because truthfully, I didn’t want to wait for mail. Although I got into a lot of schools previously, including Dartmouth and several other amazing liberal arts colleges, these were the schools that would guarantee me full aid all four years, so I was excited and anxious, because they were the most competitive and selective in the country. Because I was in west coast time, I had to wait until 2pm (5pm Eastern time) for admissions decisions for all except Stanford. And for some dumb reason, that day was an early day at school. I didn’t want to wait at school for three hours, so I took the long bus home. I couldn’t stay still. “I find out where I get into today!”  I say to some people I see on the bus often. I try to read, but I can’t. Finally, an hour later, I get near a computer. 12:32 pm. Seriously?! I pace. I pace some more. I worry. I check for Stanford. No. I deflate. I cry. So impersonal! I get a yes from Williams! I feel a bit better. I have to call for Princeton and Yale, because I forgot my online password, and it was very upsetting talking to the Princeton staff. “You know, I can give you your password, but how about I tell you now, so you don’t have to wait.” Ok. “I’m sorry….” Thanks! Bye! And I quickly hang up. By now I’m so nervous. I’m anxious. I’m shaking. This is so important to me. Not just going to college, but saving my life, and soon my family’s. Securing my future. No from Stanford, Princeton, Yale. Yes from Columbia and Williams, but how can I get into three top schools in a row- let alone the most prestigious? Harvard’s up there. I got two interviews. I know they don’t know about whether I’m worth the risk. I’m homeless. I missed a lot of school. Can I handle the change? The work load? The people? I hope I convinced them. I hope my not traditionally-stellar scores will be considered under the lens of where I came from. I hope my optimism is enough to convince them I’ll be ok, I can and will handle the challenges. I hope all the help and recommendations from South Central Scholars, my school, and mentors, are enough.  By now, I’m feeling VERY insecure. I can’t take this.

At exactly 2:01 (5:01pm eastern time), I refresh Gmail. In very generic type- Harvard College: Your Admissions Decision.

“I can’t open this!” I yell to Trisha London, co-founder of South Central Scholars, and Randy Winston, the director of SCS. I was in Trisha’s office, where she and her husband, founder James London, work, and Randy Winston was comforting me. “Open it.” They say. I click. It loads. Sloooooooowly.

“…We are delighted-”

I stop there!! I can’t read anymore! I scream! I shout! I GOT INTO HARVARD! I GOT INTO HARVARD! I GOT INTO HARVARD! WHO CARES ABOUT STANFORD, PRINCETON, OR YALE? I GOT INTO HARVARD! I play the melodic classical music video given to admits. It seems so Harvard-y.

Then, I call my mom. I tell her the news. She was staying at a shelter in downtown at the time.

The relief, the happiness in her voice. Yes mom, you didn’t mess up. Our trials, our tribulations, the pain, it’s ok now. Because mom, your daughter, your daughter, got into Harvard.

Nice to meet you!

Joe Tavares_85x85It’s always funny when you meet someone and they are totally different than who you thought they would be.  Like when we found out the “Wizard of Oz” was actually just an old man hiding behind a curtain.

I bring up that example because I was in Boston this weekend, and got a chance to finally meet some of the Opportunity Scholar bloggers—Jesse, Khadijah and Duylam.  Like you all, I have been reading about their first six months in college, and feel like I’ve really gotten to know them (Duylam is a born entrepreneur, Khadijah is a time management guru, and Jesse loves burritos). But still, I wasn’t sure what they’d be like in person, and if we would all click right away.

Boy was I wrong!

By the time we sat down for brunch at the S&S Restaurant in Cambridge (definitely check it out if you’re ever in town!), it was like a reunion of old friends. Jesse and Duylam talked about wrestling in high school, Khadijah and Jesse told us how easy it is to get lost in Harvard’s library, and food was a great common denominator too- group bonding over pancakes and bacon always works well! CSO_BostonOS

Jesse, Khadijah, and Duylam also took time during brunch to reflect about how much they have overcome as a group. Even as college freshmen, they have had unique opportunities their childhood friends who haven’t gone to college have not and never will. Yet, with these opportunities have come challenges, and we talked openly about how working hard is always the recipe for success.

As they talked about their first two semesters, I thought to myself about how the three of them are doing something very powerful- they’re serving as role models for high school students across the country to understand the college process better, and giving key advice so that others may follow in their footsteps.

Don’t judge a College by its Cover

khadijah-85One of the most important things in the college process  is visiting the colleges. Even with all the research you have done, there’s just nothing like being there. Often, schools will pay to fly you out. Take advantage of this! The best way to know if you want to go to a school for four years, some of the most important and influential years in your life, is to go there. I learned so much about myself and what I wanted by seeing the colleges in action, so to speak. It’s not just about the academics- your college experience will also include outside the classroom.

My three top choices were in completely different areas. Williams is in the absolutely beautiful, secluded Williamstown, MA, Columbia is in the bustling, culture rich and vibrant, New York City, and Harvard is in the cute little charming town of Cambridge, MA, minutes away from the surrounding Boston area. Academics wise, I couldn’t go wrong. 

I loved that Williams was quiet and secluded, and I believed it would be a wonderful way for me to keep focused on my studies. However, when I visited, I realized spoiled by California’s effortless transportation system, I knew I’d get restless in the sleepy, tiny town of Williamstown. And I felt I wouldn’t get the cultural experience I craved in such a small environment.

That said, Columbia might seem like the obvious choice. It’s bustling with culture – with NYC, the United Nations, Brooklyn, thousands of cultural events, and the teeming nightlife just minutes away, no one would STAY on CAMPUS. It’d be a waste of NYC! And I knew I wanted the choice to stay on campus, that I wanted the college campus experience, and I knew I wouldn’t get that at Columbia. Ultimately, I didn’t choose Columbia because it was too busy and hectic.

Ultimately, I chose Harvard because I liked the “feel.” I liked all three colleges, but ultimately, Harvard felt right to me. I was able to see myself there for four years. I felt comfortable there. There isn’t a way to describe except that it seemed like the right place for me.

No matter how much you read and research about a college, no matter how much you think you know about it, visiting is the best way to know. There are some things you can’t measure in a college guide. I loved Williams and Columbia, but at  Harvard I felt right at the school and in the city.

Sometimes, a step onto a campus is all you need.