My sophomore year of high school was when I officially decided that I would attend Howard University. I literally wrote as one of my goals for that year, “attend Howard University and major in Journalism.” From that moment on I spent more of my free time than I’m willing to admit watching YouTube videos about everything that had to do with HU. My high school career was motivated by that one goal: get to Howard. I remember asking on Tumblr that year if it was too early to put “HU20” in my social media bios. A girl from the class of 2015 messaged me after and said “enjoy where you are now, once you get here shit just gets real.” When I first read it I took it nonchalantly, but it stuck with me and, now, I’m beginning to understand what she meant.
Both of my parents are Howard alumni, my mother of the School of Communications, my father from the School of Law, my answer to “how did you first become interested in Howard?”. Thinking back, they never really pushed the idea of going to Howard on me. I’d like to think that they just made Howard so much more accessible for me to learn about and then I fell in love with it on my own. I went to my first “Howard Event” at BisonFest, a freshman send off in Atlanta for the class of 2019 (Alumni were invited, so I went with my parents). I distinctly remember being anxious about going, not only to the event, but to Howard. As we were leaving, my dad asked “Are you afraid you won’t be ‘Black’ enough [for an HBCU]?” That was a valid question that did make me think a little bit, but that wasn’t it. I wasn’t sure if I would like Howard once I started to actually get involved with it.
I was going through some rough drafts that I never got around to finishing, and I wanted to come back to this one. I'm now exactly one month away from being done with my first semester at Howard. I knew at some point I wanted to write about my experience thus far but didn’t really know how to approach it and wanted to give myself more time to figure it out. It has definitely been interesting to say the least, nothing that I think came as a surprise, and I am certain that I made the right choice. However, looking back on fears that I had finishing my senior year of high school and beginning my journey here at Howard, I want to be real about the Real HU.
I was confident in the fact that I would have trouble finding my place in Howard’s social bubble. I think this is more due to the fact that I expected to find the same support system that I had back home and this process of “finding my tribe” has yet to live up to those expectations. I’ve definitely had great times and met great people, but I still felt like something was missing.
I’ve been trying to find my thing. The thing that I am passionate about and willing to make a defining aspect of my college career. The mistake that I realized I was making was that I was trying too hard to find that thing instead of just going with my instincts and allowing myself to naturally find that thing and become the woman I’m supposed to be. I was trying too hard to fit into who I thought Howard may make me and was extremely hard on myself when it just wasn’t working. When I stopped looking, I realized that the opportunities that I’ve been blessed with thus far are ones that I didn’t have to force at all and are undoubtedly setting me up for great things.
Howard breeds success, which is undeniable. But I felt like I was put before unrealistic expectations of who I should be. I couldn’t bridge the gap between who I was in high school and who I’m becoming now that I’m in college and began to question a façade that Howard sometimes portrays. Even though I'm a freshman, being exposed to successful people made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough or that there was something I was doing wrong.
In my three months here at the Mecca, I definitely see how this school makes all its students stronger people and most importantly, that while Bison share the "Howard experience", no one's path looks exactly the same. Howard is teaching me to be confident and unfaltering in making choices that I feel are best for me. I am beginning to lose the need to explain myself to others or second- guess my decisions. I no longer believe in mistakes, I now see them as opportunities to learn and adjust my approach. And above all, Howard has shown me that the woman I aim to be isn’t something I have to mold myself into, she already exists.