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New and returning students give mixed opinions on Howard’s culture

Freshman, transfer and continuing students reflect on Howard’s culture as the new semester commences citing imposter syndrome, new adjustments and feelings of inferiority as some of the biggest challenges.

Welcome Week closed out with a silent headphone party on the Yard, the music may have been in the headphones but the party was the opposite of silent. (Photo by Eliana Lewis)

Students concluded their first week of classes with many excited about the school year, while others are still trying to create their own unique individual college experience amidst navigating Howard’s campus culture. 

Despite the festivities of last week’s Welcome Week at the onset of the school year, many students feel the pressure of stepping out of their comfort zones in order to find their sense of belonging on campus, as well as an innate desire to excel in their academic careers. 

“I feel like Howard is a really good place for people who are extroverts, but if you are more on the introverted side, it can be a lot harder to find friends here,” Oluwadamilola Adebiwyi, a junior TV and film major from Chicago, said.

Adebiwyi’s way of finding her communities involved joining organizations, talking to people outside of class and making an intentional effort to go to various events. “If that’s not really your thing it’s a lot harder to find your group of friends here,” she said.

Nia Williams, a senior chemical engineering major from New Jersey, transferred from Syracuse University, a predominantly white institution (PWI) last fall. As a transfer student, she found the culture shift to be a bit of a shock.

“At first, I would say it was a little bit difficult and a little bit nerve-wracking,” she said. “Coming from a PWI can be a little bit of a shock.” For Williams, the key was to take the transition day by day and gradually get herself more involved with campus activities.

Though she knows everyone gets anxious when in new situations, Williams believes “faking it till you make it” may be the best course of action. 

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“It can be a bit scary but no one is really going to remember “‘Oh I acted this way,’ so don’t be afraid to be a little bit bold – that’s the only way you’re really going to get adjusted,” she said. 

Another concept affecting students is imposter syndrome, a “phenomenon described as self-doubt of intellect, skills, or accomplishments among high-achieving individuals,” as defined by the National Institute of Health. 

Though imposter syndrome can cause feelings of self-doubt and insecurity, some students said the camaraderie of Howard’s student body helps to encourage them to show up as their best selves and take the risks necessary to move forward.

“I think the people that go to Howard, we all feel connected in some way,” freshman computer science major Aero Mosley said. “We’re all here to be great. That’s one thing I like about Howard, all the excellence that does come through here.”

“It’s just so inspiring to be surrounded by a group of people who really just rush forward with what they want to do and what matters to them,” Azia Ross, a junior journalism major, said. The Philadelphia native recognized the student body for setting the pace of Howard’s culture.

“I really just think of a lot of go-getters,” she replied when asked what she thinks of when she thinks of campus culture. “Like the people who have their businesses – I think of people who are always in the library trying to get their work done, like really just people who are about their business.”

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Though Howard’s multi-faceted students can be seen as an inspiration to some, an implied expectation to perform at high levels can serve as discouraging. 

“Hear me out, it’s also a double-edged sword,” Ross continued. “I think a lot of comparisons happen in that as well, and so I think I kinda bounce between the two – I think I have moments of real inspiration and then I think I can also get into the ‘Oh, I’m not doing enough cycle.’”

Welcome Week, which began on Aug. 20, is the university’s effort to welcome students back to campus and takes shape in the form of various events and activities spanning over the course of the first week of classes.

“Welcome Week is such a wonderful and exciting time for our Bison,” Vice President of Student Affairs Cynthia Evers said. “Several students, faculty and staff intentionally create these activities with intentional objectives and outcomes aligned with students being informed, engaged and creating a sense of Bison Pride.”

Spring 2023, Madison Harris (right), used her experience working at Fox News to give insight to undergraduates looking to be involved in the industry. (Photo by Eliana Lewis)

“The activities planned give students an opportunity to become more familiar with our campus and the important resources available to them,” Evers continued.

Events included a student affairs cafeteria takeover, a screening of the “Why Not Us Howard” series, a showing of The Little Mermaid in the Armour J. Blackburn Center, a student reception for transfer students, a “red table talk” event hosted by the Howard University Student Association, and National Pan-Hellenic Council meet and greet.

Welcome Week is for all students, however, it is particularly influential for those who are new to college life and Howard’s campus environment.

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The Showtime Marching Band practices after a day of classes. (Photo by Eliana Lewis)

Armani Houseal, a sophomore transfer student from the University of South Carolina, is still getting used to her transition from the South into a city environment but has been enjoying her first few weeks at Howard due to the nature of the student body. 

She said the Howard community feels “really close-knit, I like it. I haven’t met a lot of people but everyone’s friendly as far as the student body,” she said. “It’s really inviting.”

Col Anderson, a freshman psychology major, chose Howard in part because she attended predominantly white institutions her whole life and sought a different experience. “I have a lot of family and family friends who went to Howard and they all had great things to say,” she said. “It’s always felt right in my spirit,” she said. “It feels right now.”

Anderson explained that her background in predominantly white areas led her to develop an appreciation for Howard’s student body. “I’ve never been super excited to talk to new people. When I got here I felt like so many people gravitated towards me, I gravitated towards so many new people,” she said. “There’s something so great about meeting people and being able to relate immediately.”

Alexus Sears, Jaida Nutall, Thalia Norwood, Kai Smith, Paris Calvert, Kayley Faison and Janelle Acosta showed up to the Yard in their fits. (Photo by Eliana Lewis)

A junior sports medicine major from Buffalo, New York, Isaiah Okaro, praised the student body for their innovation and ability to harness their creativity. “People here are so creative, constantly coming up with new ideas and I really feel like the whole student body embraces that,” Okaro said.

Incoming freshman JeVanni Napoleon came to Howard because she saw the university as the “best at everything.” “I feel like it holds up to its name, you know, it’s the leading producer of many Black professionals. Howard is an elite institution and, you know, numbers don’t lie.” 

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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