Sometimes I like to think back to what I was doing this time a year ago. This time last year I was starting my second semester of my senior year and gearing up for a rocky college process, that would leave me hopeless with dwindling confidence. After I got told I wasn’t good enough to attend many of the schools that I applied to, I began to believe that I wasn’t good enough. I began to think that all the hard work I had done in high school was worth nothing, worse that I was worth nothing. Talking to my fellow fellows I have realized that so many high schoolers feel like this at the end of senior year. If I have learned anything this year it’s that where I go to school does not define who I am. I cannot let a committee of eight people tell me what my worth as a human is.
This year nobody cares where I am going to school and they care even less about the name of the school that I will be attending. I am just lucky to have the chance to go to university. I have met so many people here that have tried for their bac (the final high school exam in Senegal that determines if you can go to university or not) multiple times, but have failed. This sometimes drives them into poverty or drives them to make decisions like taking a boat to Italy, risking their lives.
I have learned this year to take pride in my accomplishments. My accomplishments from this year will be mean more than an A on a test and cannot be measured. This year I came into a community where I could barely communicate, I had to re learn how to talk, how to eat, how to clean my clothes, and wash myself. I have become part of a new family and part of a new community. I now have 6 siblings how call my “Jaja” (big sister in pulaar). I am helping my mom create a small community garden and there will be no one to give me a grade, but I already feel more accomplished this year than I ever did in high school.
My family and community here doesn’t care what things I accomplished in high school or how high my ACT scores were, they care about how hard I try to learn pulaar or how much time I spend with them. They have made me realize that the world is bigger than the name of my university. People at home have tried to tell me this, but I always thought they were just saying that to make me feel better. Now it is so clear. I am proud of what I did in high school and I am proud of my accomplishments that I have had this year and a year ago I don’t think I could have said that I was proud of myself.
So thank you to my Senegalese family and my American family for helping me regain my confidence and help me realize I am worth more than an acceptance letter. When I do finally step on my college campus I will be ready to face every challenge with a new confidence and clear eyes.