What I have Learned as a Black Female At a PWI- College Advice
I struggled with writing this post for a full week because I couldn't clearly put into words exactly what I wanted to say to every young black female out there. I wanted this post to be some sort of inspiration, a guiding light, that little post you always read when you struggling at your PWI but then I realized how crazy extra that sounded and just sat down and wrote. For the longest time, I was ignorant about "HBCU's" and "PWI's". The acronyms meant nothing to me (an international student) and even though I cannot fully understand just the black experience, I can relate to some extent how being in a PWI has shaped who I am today. You might be wondering what the heck these acronyms mean and if you don't go to school in the United States they might just be letters. A PWI is a "Predominantly White Institution" and by its name, it basically means a university whose population is mostly white. An HBCU, "Historically Black Colleges/Universities" are Universities whose population is mostly black and that were created as a response to the oppression black people faced when trying to apply to universities that did not take "colored" people.
As an international student who currently attends a PWI, and with the casual arrogance that most Nigerians are bred with, I never considered myself black (Blog post on this soon too). I just always thought that I was international... I could never understand or relate to the black experience, but boy how that has changed. I quickly became immersed into my college and began to realize how different the black female experience was, especially at a PWI.
Because I am a black female, I am somehow less intelligent and incapable of contributing anything useful to discussions and if I am included it is usually because of a need for "diversity" not for who I am. It wasn’t until the end of my first semester of freshman year that I finally learned to push past the barriers and regardless of how I was seen, be myself. I became involved in everything and anything on my campus. I began to lead initiatives to create a difference and tried really hard to pave new ways for other black females who wanted to be more than just the token black girl for diversity.
Along the way I have met some KING women at my university who have in some way learned to master the black female experience and they wrote a few words. I hope some of these words are relatable and make some sort of difference in your life.
Attending a PWI has been such a journey. Since I have been in College, The nation has seen an increase in aggressive race-relations, the departure of a phenomenal president and his first lady, and personally, a big change in who I am and how I see myself. Aside from learning about my field of interest, I learned how to love myself as a young black woman. I have been humbled by this experience and I hope you allow yourself to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. We have seen a lot in this past decade. I had to shed numerous mentalities. Sometimes the chapters we write in life are simply a witness account of experiences we never anticipated and those are the pages that foreshadow a better path. Hang in there. Stay motivated. Surround yourself with people that will better you and allow yourself to feel the parts of life that you may not have acknowledged before. Stay Golden.
Being a black woman is not without its daily struggle. It's only magnified while attending a PWI. Personally, I wouldn't choose any other experience though. Yes, it would be easier to be surrounded by all faces just like mine, but life won't consist of just faces like mine. I appreciate educating others on the magic of being a black woman. It takes time but I am comfortable in who I am. The only way I was able to do so was accepting everything I am as a person and as a woman. Once I was able to stand firm in me, things fell into place. Just be open to all things around you. The most uncomfortable thing to do will be the very thing that reveals the rest of you.
I chose a PWI because, in reality, this is my world, diversity throughout. I have classes where I may be the only black female or the only female at all. My major is in Industrial Technology, not many women would think to chose this major but I'm ready to complete the challenge. My advice to you would don't go into thinking you're the black college girl. Go into college thinking "I'm going to show everyone what I can change for the better! " Reach out to different organizations, make friends in ALL your classes, learn others culture and come together with different students on campus. Students who want to reach a goal to make an impact while we're there. Build relationships with people you'll never think to, those are the ones that'll impact you the most. It's all about networking, who do you know that can help you, of course, you'll return the favor. Everyone's ultimate goal is to GET THROUGH COLLEGE so why not help reach our main goal. Throughout college, I have learned how to communicate effectively and work twice as hard with a smile. You are capable of anything! From attending classes (somewhat on time), attending multiple meetings, hanging out with friends, work, and studying and doing homework all in one week! Just know it's possible, a planner will be your best friend each year.
I attended predominantly white schools my whole life so I thought that going to a PWI would be relatively the same, but when I came to college I realized how much of a minority I really was. That drove me to become more involved to show that I am not a minority, that I am equal. It also gave me the opportunity to become close with other strong and determined black women that could understand where I am coming from. Discover your passion and talents and try to become involved with those things at your university. If you believe in something whether it be your major or your dreams, don't let anyone tell you it's not possible. With hard work and dedication, you can make anything happen.
LOIS (pictured above)
My College Experience as a young black woman has been Metamorphic and Transitional. I've grown so much in the short 3 years that I have been in college and I’m still growing. In high school, I thought I had my life all planned out. However, my college career has been filled with uncertainty, confusion, set backs, ups and downs, and periods of feeling lost. But I’ve learned, failed, succeeded, met amazing people and I’ve grown. If there is one thing college has taught me, it is that it’s okay to not know. At 20 I’m focusing on 3 things in addition to getting into Nursing school and Graduating: Dreaming Bigger, Believing Harder and Working Smarter.
Attending a PWI, I had to learn that there is a world of possibility that I am not being exposed to and resources that aren't being presented to me. I figured out I am capable of so much more than I was led to believe. I know now that my dreams don’t have to be neat or traditional, they can be complex and “crazy”. I'm learning that I am boundless and my future is bright. If I dream bigger and believe and work for those dreams, nothing can stop me. A dream without faith will never be a reality. But where does the faith come from when the world makes you believe, as a black woman, you aren't enough? It comes from self-affirmation, self-care, self-knowledge, and a community of genuine support and love; the type of positive energy needed to grow and succeed. While attending Institutions where it is easy to slip through the cracks as just another black girl, I decided it's not enough to fill a seat, pass, and graduate. I want to be a student who never stops learning, a Teacher, and a Leader. I want to make a mark. My Advice to young Queens coming into college is the same advice my sister gave me, but with a twist. “Believe it until you Receive it” and the confusion in the middle is O K A Y! It is okay to be unsure, you will figure it out. The Journey will be hard and confusing. Some lessons and opportunities are more difficult and hidden than others but it can also be life changing if you grow through it, learn always, study what you are passionate and interested about. Remember to laugh more, love harder & live life fully.
"I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass- Maya Angelou.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post and you got some thing or two out of this. I also hope to see you make the most out of your PWI experience and even if it ever gets hard... know you are stronger than any adversity.
Let me know in the comments below what your thoughts were on this post? I cant wait to read your beautiful comments!
PHOTOGRAPHY BY- CANDIDLYCREOLE