What I’ve Learned After My First Year in College

When I finally decided on what I college I wanted to attend, I had picked Hampton University, a private Historically Black College/University in Hampton, Virginia. I went to high school day which was held on April Fool’s Day 2005; I had a blast. I toured the school found out some interesting things like Booker T. Washington was one of the notable alumni, The Emancipation Oak on the campus was where some of the first slaves were told they were free, the cemetery that is located on campus was there before the school expanded, and that it’s rumored that anybody who steps on the Ogden Circle will not graduate on time.

June 2005 came and I was getting ready to go to Pre-College, which is the summer school program for incoming freshmen. My mom comes and tell me the day before I leave that she doesn’t think it’s worth paying $25,000 a year to a school, when I could stay in North Carolina and go to her alma mater for much less. I was devastated. The reason why I chose Hampton was because it wasn’t in North Carolina. I had lived in North Carolina for basically my whole life and I was sick of it. So I went to Hampton for summer school and I fell in love with the school, the teachers that I had, and the friends that I made. I wasn’t much of a social butterfly, but I made some friends that I could really see myself hanging out with over the next four years, because I was determined not to go to A&T. I absolutely loved my African American History course because it was the first time that I had been taught about my history other than from my mother and the here and there facts about slavery and The Civil Rights Era. I had found out some interesting things like The Black Panther Party did more than just tote guns around yelling “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud!” They also provided health care to citizens of their neighborhood, they provided breakfast to school-aged children and food to the needy families, and they also provided protection to the citizens of their neighborhoods went he police wouldn’t. My national politics class was also excellent. I even got an award as being one of the top two in the class.

So, the six weeks went by and my mom hadn’t changed her mind on me going to Hampton. She said it was too much for her to be in debt over a school that was no better than the schools in North Carolina. Since I wasn’t getting any financial aid, I had no choice, but to attend North Carolina A&T State University. I was sad to leave Hampton. August 2, 2005, my mother and I went to Greensboro, NC to pay my bill for the fall semester and to tour the school since I hadn’t. We started school August 17. I hated A&T the first couple of weeks I was there because it wasn’t Hampton. It was too big, wasn’t surrounded by water on three sides, and the administration had me running around for the first week trying to get my meal plan straight and my classes registered. My mother said if I didn’t like A&T, then I could go back to Hampton.

I tried hard not to get into the “Aggie Spirit,” but everybody who I talked to kept pulling me back. I had friends who would say, “Natalie, you don’t want to go back there, you want to stay here and get to know us better.” So by the time I got my classes straight and my ID card worked enough so I could get into my building and the cafe, I started to get into the daily routine of being a college student. I went to class about three hours a day and did my homework during the day cause my classes were at night. I would feel so disappointed after the first week because I had to go to class at six while everybody else was out on the yard listening to the band practice or just hanging out while the weather was still warm. It was kind of hard to keep my mind on school work for the first couple of weeks because I had all this free time to just hang out. I would be in my twin sister’s dorm room more than mine. She lived in a better, coed dorm. Her room was considered to be the hangout spot, so that’s where everybody was. The football games were the best part of first semester. Although we sucked, everybody went to the games to watch the band play; after half time it was a wrap, everybody left.

Mid terms are really as bad as they say they are on television. I didn’t stress out too much first semester as I did second semester. It’s kind of harder in college to bring your grade up because you don’t have daily quizzes or weekly tests, you may only have four tests a course. I got comfortable my first semester because I had all three A’s, a C, and an F at midterm. So the classes where I had A’s in, I stopped going if I felt they were pointless. In those classes, I ended up getting B’s in and the C, I managed to get a B in, while the F, I managed to get a C. I had decided that I really liked A&T no matter how hard I tried not to and that I would stay, at least for the moment, because I couldn’t decide if I wanted to return to Hampton.

The social atmosphere at A&T is that it’s a party school. Don’t believe all they hype because it’s definitely not a party school, but people do know how to party. I learned that just because Thursdays are college nights does not mean you have to go out there, especially if you have an early morning class the next day. I went out on my birthday which was a Thursday in February and had a nine o’clock class on Friday. I didn’t wake up until eight forty-five and I decided I wasn’t going to get up because I had to take a shower, put on my clothes, which would take 20 minutes, then walk 15 minutes to class. Doing all of that, I might as well not go. Well, I should’ve gotten up because I had a quiz in that class and to make it up; I had to write a five page paper on Timbuktu and Tobago. I also learned that you shouldn’t hang around the fraternity guys because if you’re seen with too many of them, then you’ll look like a groupie, and you don’t want to look like a groupie. I also learned that they’re a lot of interbreeding within a college setting and that you should be careful of whom you’re sleeping with, and always get tested and “know your status!”

If you’re not a social person, it may not be good for you to get a roommate if you can help it. I went through two roommates before the school was up. My first roommate didn’t realize that she was black and she was kind of off. I think I came across a little bit too strong and her self esteem wasn’t quite high enough to deal with my frankness. My first roommate decided that she would move out, I don’t even think that she was going to tell me. Anyways, the reason why I had a second roommate was my fault. My suitemates and I decided that one night of being totally bored that we would take the keys of another suitemate and go to McDonald’s down the street while she was in the shower. It wasn’t such a good idea, because she didn’t find it funny and called the police on us. Long story short we ended up going to court and in front of the Dean of Students. We had to do 30 hours community service and are on probation until December 2006. So I had to move out of my suite and into another one. My new roommate and I were quite happy with each other, although, we both had a bunch of stuff in an unbelievably small room. We got along great until she took my ID card and lost it. I went off because they cost $20 to replace and I had just bought one the week before. This was the week of finals and she didn’t come back and wouldn’t give me money to buy another one. I kept trying to call her and ask for my card, but she kept ignoring me until I told her I would sell all of her stuff for a dollar until I got my twenty. We ended up having a big fight when we got back from Christmas break and she dropped out of school without giving me back my money. Never let anybody hold your ID card because they cost a lot to replace.

The administrative offices of HBCUs are kind of sub-par. I have heard many horror stories of financial aid offices among HBCUs. I can only tell you of A&T’s. My sister had Teaching Fellow’s Scholarship along with some of the school’s own scholly’s, while I had some of the school’s scholly’s. Well, according to the financial aid officer who was assigned to us, the school accidentally checked the wrong box on my mom’s tax forms so she had to get a transcript sent to the school. Well, they didn’t send us this e-mail until a couple of days before school started second semester, so they were threatening to drop my classes. I was crying for about a week because not only was my scholly dropped, but they lost the check for second semester’s tuition. After going back and forth between Corbett, where the offices were set up for the week, and Dowdy, financial aid, one of the ladies in the front office was yelling at me to call my mother and tell her to fill out a PLUS Loan. I couldn’t get a hold of my mother so she told me to fill out a Sallie Mae form. I knew I didn’t need it, but I didn’t know what else to do, I couldn’t have my classes dropped. I filled it out half way when my financial aid advisor told me they found the check and put the scholly back on. I was cleared. I came to the conclusion that this is why HBCUs don’t get much support from their alumni because of how they’re treated in these situations.

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