College Essay: Raising my voice and gaining confidence

Magda Abdi, Hiawatha Collegiate High School
I started to realize that my uniqueness is what I had to contribute to the classroom, to my friends. I didn’t need to be the same as everyone else.

On a humid day in June, I landed in Boston, feeling tense. I was away from home, away from my family. I was scared.

I took my first step toward the grounds of Boston College with a desire to improve myself, but what I didn’t know was that this experience would be the opportunity to become more confident. Overcoming my shyness gave me the ability to rise up against any challenge.

I had always struggled with silence. I didn’t start talking until I was 3 years old, and my challenge became more difficult when I started to go to school. Then I was in front of the most judging and brutal audience—my peers. It wasn’t a problem when casually talking to a friend, but when I had to answer a question or speak in front of the class, I went blank.

As the years went on, my shyness began to turn into an insecurity. I felt more difficulty interacting with people, especially people I didn’t know. I thought that they were judging me, the way I talked, the way I looked, etc. I always thought that people were seeing me as a liability, another person to include in conversations and activities. So I preferred for most of my middle school years to not really befriend people and to avoid challenges.

This changed at the beginning of my freshman year when I started to believe in my abilities and take chances without the fear of being judged. This helped me to take advantage of opportunities, for example, being approached and signing up for a college readiness program. I befriended people easily because I pushed my anxieties aside. By changing the way I thought about myself, I began to be more social.

My second year in high school, I started to take on my challenges head on and tried to not be so afraid of rejection. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try something new. My school was offering a program for a select group of students to take pre-college programs in local and national colleges. 

At first, the idea of leaving my family even for a small amount of time made me very nervous, so I wanted to do a local program. I decided to talk to my mom. She was also nervous, but encouraged me to go to a national college. 

“I want you to fly away,” she told me. This was surprising because my mom was always overprotective of me.

“So, what are you thinking on where to go?” asked Estrella, my program coordinator. It was a few days after the talk with my mom, yet I still had doubts on whether going out of state was the right choice for me. I surprised myself when I agreed to fill out the application for the Boston College program.

The program was difficult at first. It was hard to make friends, since I had come a day late in the program. The other kids seemed wealthier, smarter and more worldly than me, which was really intimidating. I felt like I didn’t have much to contribute to the discussion. This, combined with the fact that I had felt really homesick, made me feel sad. But I decided to not let it get to me, and I started to feel better about the experience.

I made friends, and I started to realize that my uniqueness is what I had to contribute to the classroom, to my friends. I didn’t need to be the same as everyone else. When I had this mindset, I felt like I made the most of the trip. 

I left Boston College feeling content in that I had overcome my shyness. I interacted with people from all over the world, and I intrigued and surprised them with my knowledge of obscure pop culture references. This experience will have a lasting impact on me, and it gives me confidence in handling life’s challenges.

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