I just finished my first year of graduate school. I am working toward my masters degree in management, diversity and inclusion leadership at the University of Dubuque.
This past year has been a journey. I have learned a lot and have grown more than I would have imagined.
School always has been a safe space for me. UD has been my home away from home. I first came to Dubuque in 2017 for my first year of undergraduate studies. I have lived here. I have experienced so much of life here. And it feels great to reflect on how far I have come.
I was a first-generation graduate when I received my Bachelor of Science in digital arts and design in May of 2021. I also will be the first in my family to receive a masters degree.
I have accomplished many of the goals I set out to achieve when I left Chicago years ago, and I still have so much I want to do. However, with my first year of graduate school ending and my birthday this month — May 17 — it is time to relax a little and focus more on having fun.
I have worked tirelessly. I have been stressed and overwhelmed. Now that summer is here, a vacation is overdue.
This summer, I want to spend more time at home and make more memories with my family. Being away at college is a little difficult for me when my siblings back home are planning things that I must miss because I am too far away. I have missed my nieces’ and nephews’ birthday parties. I have missed family trips to Orlando and Wisconsin. I have missed family dinners and holidays.
I am very homesick and exhausted from the hard work I have put in all school year. I want to relax and celebrate myself and all that I have experienced.
I’m not sure of my birthday plans yet, but I know it will be exciting and fulfilling. I am turning 25 this year, and that’s a pretty big deal to me. There were many hard times I went through, when I had no idea I would live to see 25 years. I certainly will not be taking this birthday for granted.
I love who I am becoming, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for me. As I close chapters, new ones are beginning. Oh, the places I will go. Reaching new heights, breaking new boundaries.
But first, I am going home. I want to see my grandma, my sisters and my niece, who is 10 months old.
I want to see me. I want to get back to me. I’m a different person at home, because there’s just no place like it.
Rasharra Smith is a graduate student at the University of Dubuque.