When I first arrived at Case Western Reserve University back in 2012, I had no idea what I was in for. I came here when I was 17, and I chose to enroll mostly because of the scholarships I was offered. I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into choosing a college because I knew I couldn’t afford to live on campus anywhere, and I was looking for something affordable. I loved learning, but I knew my education couldn’t put a strain on my family and me financially.
I never thought of myself as disadvantaged in any way until I came to CWRU. Over the years, as I spent my life savings on tuition, the gap between other students and me seemed to widen. Each semester I struggled more and more. I was never able to join a sorority or travel abroad or even stay late nights on campus because I always took the bus home. Even professors assumed I lived on campus and had a difficult time understanding why I couldn’t make it to see speakers or meet during office hours. Commuting also prevented me from taking advantage of extra credit opportunities or getting help with assignments. As some of my friends scored high profile internships and applied to expensive grad schools, I was still working the same job to save up for tuition.
Now, at the end of my senior year, I finally feel like I’ve made it. Most weeks, I work well over 20 hours between both of my jobs. I juggle two majors and two minors while making an attempt to be involved in extracurricular activities when I find time. I wake up at 5:30 a.m. to catch the bus to school, which is as painful as it sounds. There have been countless nights when I didn’t sleep because the only time my schedule allowed me to do my homework was at 3 a.m. However, I can honestly say that all of these experiences have built my character over the years.
CWRU taught me that I’m capable of anything I put my mind to. Four years ago, I never thought that I would be accomplishing everything I am today. I’ve learned what hard work is and how good it feels to make things happen for myself. Even though the last few years have been tough, I’m really grateful for the fact that nothing was ever handed to me. I now realize that I didn’t need everything I initially thought I did to be successful. CWRU has forced me to push myself to the limit.
It’s easy to feel like college is one big competition between students—especially at CWRU. I felt like this for a very long time. However, I realized that once I stopped looking at what everyone else had and started thinking about what I truly wanted for myself, the competing stopped. I understand now that it’s not a competition at all. I may have not been given a lot of the advantages other students might have, but I learned how to work with what I was given and to not let what anyone else has influence my own path.