I built my St. John’s narrative by declaring Legal Studies as my major and Government and Politics as my minor. However, what threw me for a loop was the overly challenging curriculum. I struggled with understanding the different concepts of Federal and State laws and using various research methods to assess political issues in America. As far as I was concerned, I was not reaching the academic standard that my parents and community had set for me. I knew my grades weren’t like the next student, and I started to believe that I wasn’t good enough to achieve academic success.
My main obstacle was building confidence in myself to reach my simple goals “girl, you need to get A’s”. I honestly didn’t believe my seniors when they told me college was not at all like high school, they were not lying. I know that I’m not the elite student that can learn something one day and be tested on it the next. I realized that a key component to academic excellence was the overall mindset of myself as a student. I had to learn who I was as a unique student and accept it. That meant I needed to accept that it was okay to spend my entire day in the library studying for what some would consider to be an easy exam, or to start a 5-page paper 4 weeks early because I couldn’t afford to start it the night before. Learning is meticulous and I had to find a process that worked for me as an individual. My academic standing needed to reflect my personal determination to succeed as well as my individual way of pursuing success. Once I made this determination and effected the required changes. I was able to improve my academic record and made the Dean’s List for the remainder of my time at St. John’s.
As these principles manifested in my academics, I extended them outside towards my extra-curricular activities as I became the President of the African Students Association. Through my cultural organization, I had the pleasure in using my platform to be a primary resource for the African students coming from different states or their home countries. Furthermore, my involvement with multiple ethnic groups on campus was recognized by the university as I was presented with the Gold Award for demonstrating exemplary leadership through my organization. Overall, staying in touch with my roots and interacting with other cultures was not the deciding factor for my eventual career choice.
Being a product of immigrant parents, drove me to do well in everything. However, being surrounded by international students from Africa, Europe or the Caribbean put me directly in line with my choice to be an immigration attorney. My mother was an international student in Greece and two of my aunts had graduated from Umass Boston after coming from Nigeria. Additionally, at St. John’s I was constantly surrounded by many international students from Nigeria who resembled my family and community in so many ways. I watched them slave in the library and lab at every waking moment and thankfully, if they caught me slacking off, they dragged me to the library with them. They reminded me regularly that all the financial aid in the world could not equate to the sacrifices my parents made to get me at a university in America. Thus, my passion for focusing on immigration stems from my desire to take cultural values from my own life and use them as a stepping stone to create more opportunities for all individuals and families who take on an adventure like my parents, my aunts, and my friends at St. John’s.
Over the course of 4 years, I felt more connected with my own heritage and committed to building a better America for the immigrants who raised me and the rest that will add true purpose to this country as history has continuously shown us. I believe they did their due diligence, so it is now my turn. But I know I would not have been able to get to where I am or figure out where I am going if I did not first figure out how to succeed as a unique individual.
Jacqueline Abraham recently graduated from St. John’s University, New York. She exudes self confidence and brilliance as she prepares for law school. Jacquei would appreciate your feedback in the comments section of this article.