Thriving at an HBCU (Historically Black College & University): Zoë Shares Her Spelman Journey

Sep 8, 2022 | Featured, Main Blog | 0 comments

Spelman College became my home in a short amount of time, it happened during the first few months of my freshman year on campus. Now as I begin my sophomore year at this illustrious Historically Black College & University (HBCU), I think about how different my life would be if I had chosen not to come “home.” Almost two years ago, when college acceptances started rolling in, part of my dilemma was choosing between an HBCU vs. a Predominantly White Institution (PWI). All my life, I attended PWI elementary, middle, and high schools, and all my life, I have also heard about the HBCU experience. The HBCU experience shared by my mother, Spelman Alumna Class of ‘89, and all my “aunties” (her best friends) who have also experienced the gift of an HBCU education. My mother and her friends have always assured me that HBCUs are a place every Black person needs to experience.

Spelman is the birthplace of “Black Girl Magic” and is indeed the gift that keeps giving throughout one’s lifetime. But while my mother and my aunties continued to share their experiences with me, all I could think about was what I thought was my dream school, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). So, on March 19, 2020, when, ultimately, I received a college rejection letter from UCLA, it felt like my whole world crumbled. I was lost; I had no idea what path I wanted to follow considering the unexpected rejection. Fast forward to April of 2021, decision time, and I had narrowed my choices down to Spelman and Emory, both located in the city of Atlanta, Georgia. I decided to settle my dilemma. I would go to Atlanta and spend a day touring Emory and then visit with family friends attending Spelman that evening.

When I toured Emory, I loved it, yet it still felt like my heart didn’t connect. Yet, when I walked through Spelman’s gates with my friends, my heart felt an instant connection. I cannot express how happy I am about trusting my gut feeling about the college that would prove to be a good “fit” for me. I knew without a doubt that this was the place for me. Jump ahead to August 2021, it’s time to leave Dallas for my first year at Spelman. Parts of me were still very nervous about being far away from home. When I arrived on campus, but this time as a student, I was excited but, of course, my head was filled with questions and doubts…“What if I hate it here?” “What if I don’t make any friends?” and even “What if I made the wrong choice?” Little did I know Spelman would become a place that felt like a second home to me, a place where I would meet my lifelong friends and my family. A place that feels like I am attending a big family reunion that never ends. I genuinely believe Spelman is a true gift; it has already given me so much.

Being at an HBCU has enriched qualities in me that I genuinely think I would not have obtained at another institution. In the curriculum alone, so much of what I learn is tailored to African American history and connections to everyday Black culture, a lot of which I was never taught in my high school classroom. Each class allows us to learn about a topic and then connects that topic to being a Black woman in American society. In terms of community, HBCUs work hard to make you feel like you are a part of one big family. Spelman is a part of the Atlanta University Center (AUC), home to Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University and Morris Brown College. Together, all four schools believe in so many traditions that help connect you to the entire AUC community. These traditions provided me with an instant sense of belonging within my first few weeks on campus.

Lastly, in terms of friendships, Spelman has given me some of the best friends I never knew I needed. These friends are not only my roommates, but the people I choose to spend all my time with, laugh with, and cry with. The young women and young men I have met have become my lifelong friends and family in just a year.

All in all, attending an HBCU has taught me how to love myself. It has nurtured me in a way that a PWI could never do. It has shown me that I am more than just a number in a classroom; I am a brilliant woman with so much to say. It has shown me that I can be successful, and my confidence in who I am is what will drive that success. There will never be another time in my life when I will be surrounded by people who look just like me. So, choosing to place myself around people who look like me for four years is the best choice I could have made when selecting a college. The Spelman sisterhood remains strong even beyond the gates of Spelman, and for that, I am so glad that I not only chose to attend an HBCU but that my HBCU was Spelman College.

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