Rachel McOwusu graduated from NMU with a degree in Social Work in May 2014. A McNair Scholar, Rachel is now attending Columbia University in New York City, working toward a Master’s Degree in Social Work. Earlier this year she sent us an update on her new life in the Big Apple:
Rachel writes, “I’m done with my first semester of grad school and I ended up with a 3.78 GPA which is my highest GPA ever! At Columbia, you have to maintain a 3.0 or you get kicked out so you can understand the pressure all the students are under. Our workload is too much but it’s not impossible because I survived the first semester. My field placement (clinical) is school-based at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation which is in a low-income school district in the Bronx. I work with middle and high school students. At first I hated it because it’s so dirty and the students are disrespectful beyond belief but after getting close to some and talking to them, it’s all about having someone they can trust give them some attention and encouragement because they lack that at home. Many of the students I see self-harm, they are depressed, victims of abuse, and sometimes come to school hungry and go home hungry. It’s very tough but I do love what I do and the students always tell me they hope I don’t leave.
“I live in Manhattan and the early commute to the Bronx three times a week is such a killer. We have classes twice a week and I usually walk to school. I truly miss driving everywhere in Michigan. I am still getting used to the trains and buses (I have a love-hate relationship with it), it’s definitely convenient but sometimes crowded, dirty and smells horrible. But my favorite thing about living in New York is the amazing food and always having something to do. It also helps that I’m a Columbia student because I get lots of discounts and free incentives. I have been awarded three scholarships so I basically live here for free and just pay for my tuition. I am a student ambassador at Columbia and the first year representative for the Transnational Caucus and the Criminal Justice Caucus and will be taking over as president next year.
“The longest paper I’ve written in grad school so far is 36 pages – I don’t think I would have been able to do it if I wasn’t prepared by the McNair Program. I am actually trying to get my little brother to think about applying to be a McNair Scholar at Wayne State University when he becomes a sophomore.
“I am applying for a $10,000 grant for a grass-roots project anywhere in the world this summer called the Davis Peace Project. Thank you so much for everything and I miss you guys so much!”