On college move-in day, my family came to help me. During this time, a woman took a picture of us and a few weeks later, an email went out to the students and parents about family weekend in which they included the picture of my family. It was only a few weeks into being at Norfolk State University and they were already accepting me as a part of the Spartan family. That’s special to me because I am a white student attending an HBCU.
This is the kind of warm welcome that I have gotten from the majority of people at Norfolk State. Before committing to NSU, my family and I visited the campus to make sure I would be able to fulfill my potential here; we knew it would be a new and unique experience.
While visiting NSU, I fell in love with the atmosphere. I had visited other schools in which I felt as though I was just another body lost in the masses. When I toured NSU, I felt like I would be part of a family. We got lost trying to find the building in which our tour would start and the students were quick to help us find the correct location. One student even went out of his way to walk us to the correct location. The tour guide was thorough and answered all of our questions.
I felt like I would be able to excel at NSU. I grew up in northern Virginia about an hour from Washington D.C. where I did not experience or witness much of a racial divide or any discrimination. I was lucky enough to grow up in a household in which the color of someone’s skin did not matter.
However, after announcing to family members and friends that I would be attending NSU in the fall, I got mixed reactions. Many family members were just excited that I would be attending college as I was the first in my family to go to college. Others were worried that I would be left out and that the area would be an unsafe place for me.
When I arrived on campus, I was hesitant, but excited. I had heard stories of awful roommates and I was headed deep into unknown territory with no friends. Luckily, the majority of students that I was fortunate enough to meet welcomed me and I was able to build friendships quickly.
As a journalism major, I took quite a few classes that would discuss current events. During these discussions I was able to hear opinions from people whom I might not have heard otherwise. Those discussions impacted my opinions on topics, as I was able to see how those issues affect people firsthand. Everyone was respectful. We would present our side and, sometimes, agree to disagree.
I learned that many students had preconceived notions about white people attending HBCUs, which often stemmed from the idea that they were on scholarship for being a minority. While here, I was able to give another perspective on the issue and show that not all minorities are on scholarship because they are a minority. While I am here on a scholarship, it is merit based and has nothing to do with my skin color.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this experience to anyone who is considering it, but come in with an open mind. Know that your beliefs and thoughts will change as you experience what it is like to be a minority. You’ll experience the same events that impact college students daily, but do so from a different perspective. You are going to change, as I did, but I believe it will make you a better person.
And, after all, isn’t that what college is all about?