Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beulah Agbabiaka

Congratulations on being awarded the Golden Bell Award! You all truly deserve it for the fantastic work you do in our community. I have officially just completed my first semester at Columbia University and I am beyond excited and relieved. It has been very difficult at times, but that makes my victory all the sweeter. Being at school 3000 miles from home (or 2901.34 miles via I-80 East according to is definitely a roller coaster--enough of a roller coaster to make one want to figure out that it would take them about 43 hours driving non-stop to get them home--but it's completely worth it. Being in New York makes me feel like I'm at the center of the world and there is always something amazing going on. I've seen a board member on the Federal Reserve give a lecture about our current economic state, I've seen jazz greats Jimmy Heath and Bobby Sanabria give lectures for the Jazz Studies Department, I've been to the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Natural History as well as to every borough in the city besides Staten Island, I've been to the Jazz Standard twice (a famous jazz club) and I learn so much in class every single day.

Being a Political Science and Jazz Studies Major is amazing at Columbia University. There are so many opportunities! In the Poli-Sci Department there are guest lectures from world leaders all the time, the Political Science Student Association hosts "Pizza with Professors" so there are small get-togethers (capped at 15 people) with professors to talk politics outside of class, and some of the great minds in politics teach our courses. In the Jazz Studies Department, we have world renowned faculty, private instruction in our instrument, we're placed in performing ensembles, and there are opportunities to "gig" in the city once you are advanced enough. I literally feel myself getting smarter every day and I know that the opportunities afforded me at an Ivy League university in a major city are contributing to that. Unlike my classmates from Middle College High School, my AA degree in Math and Science and my Certificate of California in Forensic Criminalistics don't do anything here in terms of helping me finish faster, but I took that into account when I applied and I think I made the right choice despite that fact. My advisers (one is my general adviser and one is specifically for jazz studies) have been really helpful in making sure I understand what I need to graduate in four years with everything I want to do and still study abroad. It's going to take a lot of hard work, but my education at MCHS and my summer study here in the 2010 Presidential Powers course help me feel sure that I can handle it.

While Columbia College and the engineering school of Columbia University are much smaller than the UCs, finding a niche is extremely important to maintain sanity while here. It was definitely a struggle for me at first, but extra curricular activities really helped me find my place. I volunteer for the Double Discovery Center tutoring program for high school students in Harlem and Washington Heights, I'm on the Multicultural Recruitment Committee and the Undergraduate Recruitment Committee (so if you ever come to Columbia for a tour I might be your guide!), and I'm in the Black Student Organization and I'm on the planning committee for Black History Month at Columbia. I try to participate in anything fun on campus like playing the bass for this years Christmas musical and a really great extra curricular poetry class offered by the MFA program in Creative Writing. For me, fun things include student activism and while I didn't get to participate in Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Columbia this semester, I plan on getting involved next semester and being part of the change I want to see (while maintaining my good grades of course).

This semester I focused on music for all of my classes outside of the Core Curriculum and PE and my schedule was University Writing, Iyengar Yoga, Literature Humanities, Jazz History, Music Fundamentals, Ear Training I, Jazz Bass Instruction, Jazz Ensemble, and Poetry Writing Through Radical Revision. I never expected to be graded on my private bass lessons in college, but it was definitely great motivation to practice regularly! My schedule was difficult, but I'm glad I chose to focus on music this semester to get my feet wet in the department as well as study subject matter I was familiar with to boost morale when it started getting really hard around midterms. Next semester my schedule will be a bit more difficult since I'm adding Political Science to the mix, and I won't have an easy PE class to fill up space. I'll be taking Frontiers of Science, Literature Humanities, Race and Ethnicity in American Politics, Salsa Soca and Reggae-Music of the Caribbean, Diatonic Harmony and Counterpoint, Ear Training II, Jazz Bass Instruction, Jazz Ensemble, and hopefully another extracurricular writing class. Next semester will be extremely difficult, but I'm confident I'll do well--even if that means spending every weekend in the library!

While every school has flaws, I can't be enough of a cheerleader for Columbia or enough of an advocate for higher education in general. The opportunities I've been blessed to have here thanks to the support of my family and my ILC family help illustrate for me how important it is for all people to have access to these opportunities, and exactly what change I want to help affect in my future career in politics. Getting a taste of world class education this semester and seeing what I have and haven't been prepared for is helping show me what type of education policy we need in all places to make sure all students are ready for college, which is one of the areas of politics that I'm most passionate about.

I'm definitely rooting for some future lions from the WCCUSD!

Roar Lions Roar!!!

Beulah Agbabiaka

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