I Arrived At Emory University With Just A Duffle Bag and $200. Here's How I Made It Work Out.
Coming to college as a first-generation Ghanaian-American was not easy. I had a horrible freshman year and I felt very insecure. This is how I bounced back.
Getting into Emory University remains one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. I beat all the odds to be here and my experience at this university will always be cherished. Unlike most Americans, I spent my high-school years in Ghana, where I studied at the prestigious secondary school called, Opoku Ware School and I bore the unique number BR204 as my name. I studied general science with the brightest minds in the country. Even though I was never the best student in my class, I managed to finish in the top 10 of every academic term.
Subsequently, it was on the 20th of August, 2016, when my uncle drove my mother, brother and I to the prestigious college called Emory University. I didn't really know much about the school until the Ebola outbreak of 2014. I was in Ghana at the time and Emory University Hospital made headlines because they took care of the American who contracted the disease. I remember my mum praising Emory as the leading global health institute in charge of researching new viral and bacterial diseases that could potentially eradicate our very existence.
On the highway, my stomach churned several times after seeing billboards and directional signs towards the school. It all felt surreal. I really made it! I didn't care if I had the same used clothes and and iPhone 5. All that mattered to me was seeing the school for my first time and meeting new friends.
We pulled up to the driveway across the bookstore and I kept staring through the windows to watch students unpack stuff from their vehicles with their families to begin their college journey. Some had elaborate items such as fancy oversized mirrors, stuffed animals and UPS boxes, while all I had were the list of items required by the university and nothing more.
We pulled up in front of LSM and the Orientation Leader gave us a huge welcome. I was a extremely excited. She volunteered to pick up my stuff with a cart to which she responded, "Oh, just one bag." I felt a little ashamed because I wasn't like the other college kids that came prepared.
This would be the commencement of my reclusive behavior during freshman year. I felt very ashamed of wearing the same clothes and having little money. A mandatory program from CHEM 121 took $100 of my money while Mastering Biology took $80.
I held onto $20 for about two weeks before my brother came to the rescue to support me with more. However, as time progressed, I made moves to help better understand myself and make some money. Here's how it did it.
Working Multiple Jobs
As a freshman, I searched for work-study jobs on Handshake during my second semester. I attained one job during that year and basically saved most of my money. I only earned about $80 in two weeks but it was enough to get me through, since I primarily relied on the school's cafeteria and only purchased stuff that I really needed.
During my next years in college, I reached out to some of my peers who then linked me up to jobs that were actually not available on Handshake. Later on, I worked as an office assistant for Emory Housing and as a library desk service worker at the Woodruff Library. Through these jobs, I was able to make about $450 in two weeks to actually make sustainable budgets and save money.
Before the semester was over, I would start applying for summer and winter jobs to keep the steady flow of income. I worked at certain stores such as Marshalls & HomeGoods and Burlington just to keep up. Once during spring break, I worked as a dishwasher at an African restaurant. It actually taught me a lot about decision-making, customer service and troubleshooting more than college ever did.
I also invest in the NYSE as a side hustle. Moreover, I plan on monetizing this blog to bring in some income as well. There are other ways or side hustles such as tutoring and babysitting which are known to be huge money poppers.
Saving money is an essential skill that everyone, especially college students need to master. It can help you plan for your events, budget your responsibilities and allow you to cruise through in case of unexpected emergencies. I am not saying this to prevent you from living your best life and going out to events, but to inform you that saving money can help you allocate the necessary funds to certain activities or hobbies.
Throughout college, I had plan a A, B and C to save money and I just kept a checking account for my expenditures. I managed to open two money market accounts to save money and gain some interest. One money market account was my designated Plan A while the other was my Plan B. My plan C was to keep some money in the New York Stock Exchange. I invested some of my savings into dividend stocks and blue chip companies such as Apple, Facebook and Merck. I rarely used money from my Plan C and recorded it as "forgotten money", thus allowing me to just focus on my Plan A and B.
I pretty much lived a minimalist lifestyle in college. Even though I saved a considerable amount from working many jobs, I desired to mainly purchase items that I needed and not what I wanted. It made a budget where I allocated money to my savings, investments and bills. I kept whatever money that was left to purchase things I felt were necessary.
I would encourage you to also buy things you want as well. If there's a new makeup line, sneaker, concert ticket or even a car, go for it! But only do so after you have made your checks and balances beforehand.
I would really emphasize on this part because I internalized my stress and financial situation during freshman year to the point where I felt having fun and enjoying life was unnecessary. It is okay to be broke in college but it is not okay to give up just because everyone around you looks wealthy or satisfied. Looks are very deceiving and someone may be from a wealthy family but may desire to live a minimalist life just like you.
College is about focusing on yourself, working on your personality and undergoing maturity. It is also a place to network with people and have life-long friends. Please still connect with people of different backgrounds irrespective of race, gender, religion, social status or academic discipline. You have no idea how having so many friends and acquaintances from different backgrounds can help you during your time in college.
In conclusion, do not compare yourself to others. Everyone in this world has their own personal battles, thus do not look at what people are going through or how they are living and feel bad for yourself.
This is what I did freshman year and I have had huge regrets. Be proud of yourself, no matter the situation. Even if you are from a rich family, you are not supposed to look down on anyone but understand differences and find a common ground by bridging the gap.
Take chances and find friends who can help you along the way. But most importantly, be yourself! If you like wearing the same color t-shirts everyday and that makes you happy, do it! If you prefer wearing suits rather than going casual, do that as well. Do not look for the approval of others before living your own life. There's only one life to live so make it count.