Scared. Nervous. Eager.
As an incoming freshman to Boston University, I honestly did not know what college had in store for me. I never truly comprehended the sense of responsibility that would be put upon my shoulders as a college student. Nearly two-hundred miles away from home, the pressure was on. My future would be what I made it to be. I defined my own destiny. I packed everything I could into the car, and my father and I drove off to a place I had never thought I would call home.
All of the fears I had about college were exacerbated by the fact that I was a first-generation college student. My parents did not have the money to pay for my tuition or supplies, so the entire financial burden of a college education was placed on my shoulders. Thankfully, there was help. I was able to join a program called “Questrom Ascend,” which was a program for first-generation and minority students enrolling in Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. This program had students arrive on campus a week before classes began in order to get more accustomed to the environment of such a large university— and to also form friendships. The Questrom Ascend Program smoothened the transition into college and made me more prepared for what was ahead.
As a first-generation student, with my parents coming from Morocco and Puerto Rico, the resources I had available during my transition to college were limited. It was hard to get the necessary textbooks and school supplies during the first couple of weeks. I recognized that this was what would happen during my first semester, which is why I applied to internships in Boston during the summer. I was able to land a position as an intern for the Environmental League of Massachusetts, which was an amazing opportunity to learn and grow, but also make some money to fund my education. Balancing an internship, academics, and a social life has been one of the biggest challenges I have encountered so far. I remember feeling so stressed and tired — coming to my dorm from my internship at 5 p.m. after classes, with an essay due as well as an exam taking place the next day. I barely allowed myself time to relax. However, I do not regret my decisions. College was never meant to be easy, and I am excited to find myself challenged as too much comfort inhibits growth.
The city of Boston has offered me many incredible opportunities that I will always be grateful for. I have been able to meet amazing people as well as faculty and also intern for an organization that I had never thought I would have the opportunity to intern for! However, it is easy to find yourself stressed about academics and find yourself in sad places. I remember that during my first few weeks of college, finding friends was hard. When you are also first-generation and may not have the amount of money that other people have, it can be even harder. I am so grateful for the resources that Boston University has offered me!
As I reflect on my first semester of college, I realize more and more how much of a growing experience a college education is. You live on your own, and your time is not as structured as it once was. You will find yourself with a lot of free time, which is why it is important to manage your time wisely. During my first semester, I was able to volunteer for Boston Partners in Education, a nonprofit organization that tutors students within the Boston Public Schools, intern, and balance academics and a social life. In hindsight, I wish I had taken my own advice and managed my time more effectively! With so much free time, I thought I was able to do it all. However, I was not prepared for the level of stress I was about to find myself under. DO NOT overwork yourself! There is no need to dive in — there will be time to do it all during your four years at university!
Being a student at Boston University has definitely been a learning experience. I have been able to take courses I never thought would interest me — and falling in love with them! I have also been able to explore such a diverse city and experience vibrant cultures within Boston. I look forward to seeing what the second semester along with the rest of my college education has in store for me! I am so grateful for people like Burcak Cakir, who constantly inspires me to recognize my self-worth and what can be accomplished with hard work and dedication.
Ahmad Perez is a freshman at the Questrom School of Business at Boston University in Boston, Massachussets. He is currently majoring in Business Administration and Management.