Up Front and Personal

Reflecting on the First Year of College

by Stephanie Guzmán

The college experience seemed daunting. This time last year I was preparing to walk across the stage and become a graduate of St. Joseph H.S., Downtown Brooklyn. I would be leaving the familiar hallways, friendly teachers and fellow students who knew my first and last names for a college of thousands. My mind thought of the worst. Were the rumors true? Were the professors going to have no pity, assign essays that required dozens of pages, pull all-nighters and learn to run on pure caffeine? I found out that the answers to these questions were all yes. However, I soon discovered the advantages of being a college student and the personal growth that came along with it.
As a college student, I was able to engineer a schedule that only required me to attend classes for six hours, twice a week. For most students, this set-up would seem perfect, but for someone for whom the word relax wasn’t a part of her vocabulary, this was not the case. I had been attending school for eight hours a day, five days a week for over a decade and had been a member of various extracurricular activities. Even after giving my studies plenty of attention and working a part-time job, I had too much time on my hands. What was a person with a type-A personality to do? Volunteer!
I assisted a fashion stylist, became a part of an organization that had awarded me a scholarship (N.Y. Women in Communications), became a tutor for elementary algebra and returned to the Brooklyn/Queens Catholic Forensics League as a judge. I also volunteered for She’s the First, whose mission is to sponsor the education of young girls in developing countries. She’s the First was the involvement with the largest impact.
I had wanted to be a fashion publicist, thus combining a hobby and a talent. My aspirations changed as I began researching She’s the First. I had been living within the four walls of my immediate surroundings. I was only aware and concerned about what was happening with me, my family and close friends. I knew we were all healthy and seizing every opportunity at our disposal. I discovered that this was not the case for many children around the world but most startling, even in our own country. I can’t stand to know that a child might not be able to go after her dreams because of her social-economic background or the influences in her life, similar to the children we have encountered through She’s the First.
I am now pursuing a double major of public relations and political science to pursue a career as a campaign consultant, combining a passion with a talent. I want to work alongside politicians I strongly feel can change our country’s needs and I want to remain at arms reach of American neighborhoods where children feel as if their lives are dead-end streets.
The rumors were true. The professors had no pity; I was assigned an unbelievable amount of work, pulled all-nighters and became virtually unable to function without caffeine. But I wouldn’t describe my first year of college with just these facts. The personal growth I encountered, my interactions and use of free time has helped to shape my future. This whole experience seemed daunting a year ago, but all I can say now is that I am excited to see what the next three years will bring.

Stephanie Guzmán attends City College of New York.