I still remember my first day at Hampton like it was yesterday, when my parents dropped me off. I met my roommate, a girl from Brooklyn, moved my stuff into our hot stuffy fourth floor dorm room, and went to the store to get a few things I had forgotten. It was either that day or the next day that I went to VA Beach with my family, then they dropped me off at Hampton and drove nine and half hours back to Cleveland.
I was cool for the first few weeks, then depression and homesickness set in. I had a rough time adjusting. I ended up dropping out and moving back to Cleveland. I would later finish both an associates and bachelors degree and have a decent college experience, but I sometimes wonder ‘what if’? As in ‘what if I had stayed at Hampton’?
As I look around and see many of my Hampton/other HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) graduates doing great, while many of my friends who graduated from non-prestigious Predominately White Institutions (PWIs) without connections are struggling to find jobs, I wonder if I should have stuck it out with the HBCU experience.
Yes, I had some amazing experiences in college, with Alternative Spring Break, with the programming board at community college, where I met my husband. Made some awesome friends at community college, and a few at university. But I was feeling quite lost and like just another number at the university. Had I known then what I knew now, I think I would have transferred to a different HBCU.
I look at the invaluable network & connections my HBCU counterparts have. I look at the course offerings available to my HBCU friends, as well as their required reading. They didn’t have to deal with the institutionalized racism we had to deal with at the university level. They were privileged to have certain experiences that black students at PWIs miss out on. I feel like I missed out on that through attending a PWI.
There were definitely benefits to attending my university. I saved a ton of money, and graduated with far less in loans that I would have if I’d stayed at Hampton. I was able to interact with a variety of different races and cultures on a daily basis. I was exposed to many different opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I’d been anywhere else.
But when I have kids? I would prefer they attend a HBCU, or a PWI with a strong African-American community both on campus and through its’ alumni as well. I want them to benefit from networking opportunities, internships & career opportunities, scholarships & fellowships geared towards HBCU students & graduates. I want them to experience that HBCU culture, as there is nothing comparable to it. If they obtain a full ride to a non-HBCU school? I won’t be mad. I do want them to at least consider an HBCU for their post-secondary education though.
I don’t regret my PWI experience. I just wonder what if. If I ever do graduate school, if the opportunity presents itself, I’d love to attend an HBCU for a masters degree.
Though at the time, I was too young and distracted by personal issues to appreciate it, I learned a lot in my short time at Hampton University that sticks with me to this day, . I realize even now, I have more in common with my Hamptonian friends than I do my friends who finished college with me at the PWI. Even though I earned my degree at my PWI, I will never forget my HBCU experience and I will always have a soft spot for my ‘Home By the Sea.’