Cornell Engineering student RahmaMy parents came to the United States, like many others, for the opportunity to give their children a better life. They always emphasized the importance of education and the idea of seeking out knowledge was ingrained in me since birth. The American Dream that my parents had thought that I was getting was not the reality. Going to a Title I school in the Bronx meant that my school lacked funding, resources, and programs that would push me to be successful. With my parent’s support, I was able to seek out opportunities that would allow me to seek higher education. Through the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), I was able to come into Cornell Engineering.

Once in college, I was lost. I didn’t have a direction of where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. It was only after seeking out opportunities, experiences, and perspectives was I able to have a glimpse of what is possible with an engineering degree. Meeting with my NYSOP advisor, attending alumni panels in Diversity Programs in Engineering (DPE), and networking with upperclassmen in clubs really opened my eyes to the different paths I could take. My college experience consisted of me constantly seeking out information that would help me. I was able to make informed decisions that would then help me build professional relationships and connect with like minded people.

While this was great for my professional and academic development, being Muslim is integral to who I am. Joining the Cornell chapter of the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association (MECA) allowed me to feel comfortable in my skin and gave me a community to rely on. I was able to meet lovely people who have now become my close friends. Being able to find people outside of your classes, school, and major is really valuable because it allows you to leave that bubble of academia.

Reflecting on my experiences, my best piece of advice is to seek out communities and relationships you want to build and become involved in. Through these connections and outlets you will be able to flourish and find the necessary means for your path to success. If it wasn’t for the community I found in The Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI), DPE, and MECA, I would not have gotten to where I am today.

~Rahma, information science, systems & technology