Lessons from Junior Year

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Ruth Tekleab Mekbib ‘19

Contributing Writer

My junior year was challenging, but it was also the most rewarding year of my Smith career. What made it challenging was balancing my time and setting priorities. The extracurricular activities I participated in made these efforts rewarding. If you would like to hear more about this and how to make the best of your junior year, please continue reading!

The summer before I started my junior year at Smith, I made a list of everything I wanted to accomplish in the coming year. I got the idea from an interview of Yosef, a young boy from Debre Markos, Ethiopia who recently got accepted to Harvard and MIT. He talked about his work ethic and his advice for students who want to become successful.

He said, “before you even embark on your journey to school, make a list of things you want to accomplish and how to do them and look at this list every day.” And so, I picked up a pen and wrote down all the things I wanted to do the coming year. I’m not going to go in detail of what I wrote on my list (if you want to see it email me ;)). These included: managing my time better, going to office hours, making valuable connections and avoiding distractions.

When I gotto Smith last fall, I put this piece of paper on my wall in front of my desk, so I could motivate myself to achieve the goals I had set  everyday. I arrived two weeks before school started because I was an ISP leader and I got to meet so many talented individuals (shout-out to the Class of 2021!). Shortly after that, classes began and my normal routine as a Smith student began.

The classes I took my junior year have enlightened and challenged me beyond my imagination. What really helped me was taking classes that I’m deeply interested in with professors who love to teach their material.

I have been fortunate enough to take four classes with my advisor, Professor Payal Banerjee, in the Sociology department and I came out from every one of her classes with a great sense of understanding about the world. These classes were Beyond Borders, Theories of Society, Gender and Globalization and a seminar titled Global Migration in the 21st Century. In all honesty, these classes challenged me quite a bit, but they were also instrumental in shaping the way I viewed the world. I became an informed individual who doesn’t take anything for granted. Take classes you’re interested in with great professors, you won’t regret it!

Another integral part of my junior year were my extracurricular activities. I had the honor of serving as President of Smith Model United Nations (MUN). The role gave me the opportunity to work with a group of students who were interested in bringing awareness about global issues. We held different events throughout the year and even got the opportunity to participate in the Five College MUN conference at Mount Holyoke last March.

I was also actively involved in advocating for creating more internship and job opportunities for international students on campus. My dear friend Hilda Nalwanga ’18 and I applied for the Presidential Innovation Challenge Grant in October, and were fortunate enough to become recipients of this grant. Along with a few others, we held different events throughout the year to help international students shape their careers.

In collaboration with SACSA, we founded SACSA Careers, a space where students and alumnae can communicate and learn from their experiences. Along with Patience Kayira ’20,  w We organized a trip to Harvard Business School where about 20 students participated in the annual Harvard Africa Business Conference.We had the opportunity to connect with powerful individuals who do great work on the African continent. Although it was difficult at times to organize events and collaborate with others, I came out from this experience with life skills and a renewed hope and determination. Creating change is not an option but a necessity.

Overall, my junior year was one I’ll never forget. Looking back at that piece of paper on my wall, I am happy to share that I met most of the goals I set and hope to do the same for senior year. I hope you take with you some helpful lessons as you prepare for your next academic adventure.

Thank you for all the people who made it possible for me to call Smith my second home and who have supported me. I’d like to give a special shout-out to the graduating seniors who have been a vital part of my Smith experience. Thank you Meseret Haile ’18, Bezawit Habtesellassie ’18, Hilda Nalwanga ’18, Priscilla Semphere ’18 and Nikki Okondo ’18 for your continuous love and support. Congratulations on your graduating!