At The Finish Line

By Citlalli Negrete, Higher Education Student Affairs Student ‘14

I’m at the finish line and though I’m excited to be moving on, I find myself buried in angst, confusion and excitement.  I began the Higher Education and Student Affairs Master’s Program in the spring of 2013 as a part time student.  At that point, I was working as a full time college adviser at Pan American International High School at Monroe, in the South Bronx, NY.  My students were all first generation, low-income students of color.  Many had only been in the country for three years.  It was challenging yet immensely rewarding to work with such talented and ambitious students.  It was then I realized I wanted to help students at the other end of their transition from high school to college.

Over the summer, I took additional graduate courses and set out in search of a fulltime job in higher education.  It was emotionally draining and though I had experience working with students, it seemed the lack of a master’s degree was affecting my employment opportunities. Even so, I kept applying and while I waited I found ways to get involved with the youth.  In July, I volunteered with the NYU College Access Leadership Institute (CALI), a week long program run by NYU Undergraduate Admissions which helps local high school students craft solid profiles in preparation for college applications.  Through workshops and one-on-one counseling, students completed the program with a better understanding of how colleges and universities review students for admission.  Additionally, students were given the tools necessary to become NYU CALI Ambassadors at their high schools.

In August, I was able to provide assistance to the NYU Abu Dhabi Summer Academy.  This two year cross-cultural program enhances the academic profile of highly motivated Emirati high school students.  Starting their junior year through their senior year of high school, students receive critical thinking, mathematical reasoning, test preparation and leadership development courses.  I was able to work with the graduating class of 2013 both years, and was excited to see the student’s development.  This year, they traveled to New York City and I was excited to show them a little bit of my hometown, Brooklyn.

Late August came around with no sign of employment; I then made the decision to continue in the graduate program, and enroll as a full time student.

I was strongly advised not to overload my class schedule but the anxiety of being unemployed was stronger than my reasoning at the time. I planned out my remaining courses and focused on graduating by May 2014 (almost two semesters earlier than expected).  I was able to secure an internship at the NYU Steinhardt Office of Student Affairs which complemented my full-time studies.  In January, I participated in the study abroad course “Intercultural Perspectives in Multicultural and Multilingual Education” in Santiago, Dominican Republic,  a course offered through the Department of Teaching and Learning. Spring semester began a few days after my return and suddenly the capstone project, course assignments and graduation are all here! It’s back to confusion and excitement.  This time, I’m preparing myself for the job search by attending networking events, workshops, informational interviews, career counseling sessions, personal branding seminars and social media training.  I’ve also attended interdisciplinary events, and have my email embedded in several cross-departmental list-serves.

The shift from full time work to part time work also affected my budget and though I would love to purchase new outfits for my interviews, I find myself strapped for cash and bargain hunting. Nothing new when you’re from New York City but when I want to treat myself to something nice to boost my confidence, I find myself sitting at Sephora getting free mini makeovers and I think “just a few more assignments to hand in and a couple interviews to attend”. I’m exhausted and on a tight budget but I’m satisfied because I’m at the finish line.

Citlalli Negrete is a first generation, graduate student of color interested in International Student Affairs