Aari’s Story: Change

Facing College: Diverse Student Voices from Michigan State University

As told to Diana Serrano

I’m from Southfield.

In Southfield, I had a great life.

My family has always been loving and supportive.

School came easy, I didn’t struggle.

I took scholars’ classes.

I was a member of National Honor Society.

I was class president.

I was on the Principal’s Council.

I was on the tennis team.

I was a member of robotics club.

I mattered.

I was known.

I had friends.

Then, I began a new life in East Lansing, at MSU.

It was hard.

Being on my own,

With no one to help me find my way.

There were a few others here from Southfield,

But they were just as new to this as me.

We had to figure things out on our own.

I thought college would be the same as high school.

It wasn’t.

I failed all my first exams.

I thought I could use the same study strategies I used in high school.

I couldn’t.

A professor blatantly told me, “You don’t know how to study.”

I felt like I had become a failure.

I talked to the girls in my hall,

But I wasn’t close enough to share my emotions.

I was so alone.


Being in a school this size.

But that’s how I felt,

I had no one to turn to–

To confide in.

I started to question myself,

Who I was.

How did this happen?

How could I fail?

I didn’t know this me.

I thought I was the one who got A’s,

The one who made it onto the Principal’s Council-

The one who was part the National Honor Society-

The one who had been class president.

When did I change?

What happened?

I felt all the stress I hadn’t in high school.

I went back to that professor who spoke the harsh truth.

I had high hopes to succeed.

I asked for help.

I went to office hours and stayed after class.

It took time, but I learned how to study–

How to study effectively for college.

I had thought I could put in the same amount effort as I had in high school.

Thing was, high school was so easy to me it’s like I hadn’t even tried.

Of course my study habits wouldn’t mesh with college studying.

My effort had been so minimal,

I didn’t realize.

I realized it wasn’t that I had changed,

It was that I hadn’t changed at all-

I needed to change.

I had been living in the past.

This was college.

I was bound to fail from time to time.

I needed to find myself.

I had been too caught up in the thought of being alone,

Having no true friends,

No one to talk to,

To confide in,

Having felt like I didn’t matter–

Matter like I did before.

I had been trying to adjust,

Trying to mold who I was to the new world around me–

I was so caught up–

I forgot to grow.

Fast forward two years.

I am now a junior,

No longer that freshman who was compelled to be someone.

The freshman who wanted to stand out in the sea of other students.

Again, how humorous

To have that thought in a university this size.

In it all,

I submerged myself.

I participated in clubs,

Found what I liked and didn’t like.

Found what fit the person I am

Most importantly I found what I was truly looking for,


I’m me,

I’m vice president of the Undergraduate Communications Association here on campus,

I’m more social than I had been,

I stopped thinking about how I was just one person in this big university.

I got to thinking, just how many friends can I make in this university?

I’ve gotten close to many people.

I know with each of them I can tell them anything and everything.

I can see the growth I’ve made.

From being a freshman wanting to have success all at once,

To a junior, understanding that failure is part of success.

I’m more happy than I was.

The feeling of not being alone,

Having friends,

Getting good grades,

Having my life on track,

Or at least the sense of it.

Yes, there were a few setbacks-

There always is.

My dad had a major health scare last year,

I was there for him as much as I could be.

Family is important to me.

I went back and forth from Southfield to East Lansing again and again

I tried to keep up with my classes, but the situation engulfed me.

After a while his health was back in good shape . . . 

As it passed, I felt a huge wave of relief go along with it.

Though my relief was short lived and another wave caught up to me,

I had gotten behind in my classes.

Again, I submerged myself,

This time in my books and notes along with it.

It was hard getting my grades back up,

It was struggle.

Though one thing I’ve learned is all bad things come and go.

With that in mind I was able to get back on my two feet.

I worked hard to get good grades,

Of course I would continue that–

No matter what got in the way.

Looking forward–

I’m going to be a senior next year,

I don’t know what to feel.

My thoughts,

My emotions, they’re everywhere.

Looking back–

It’s crazy to think I was once a freshman who became anxious at the thought of change.

But college helped me,

Helped me understand why change is so important.

I learned that change is everywhere.

Change is what makes the world evolve.

Change is good.

Change is necessary.

Everyone and everything is always changing.

I am no exception.

This story originally appeared in Facing College: Diverse Student Voices, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

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