Jismy Raju '11

Jismy Raju '11 profile pic

My story at Lawrence starts with the Posse Foundation, which selected me to be part of the first Posse on campus. Lawrence will forever hold a special place in my heart, as a place that was once foreign and later became one of my greatest adventures. As an immigrant whose parents didn’t have the opportunity to get a college education, my acceptance to Lawrence was a dream come true. A chance to better my life and my family’s as well.

As a New Yorker, surrounded by millions of people, I was drawn to Lawrence’s class size and location in a small town in the Midwest. I wanted to experience a world different from mine. It was a transformative four years. I met my best friend there, I discovered that I was not meant to be in the field of biology, I studied abroad and met faculty who rallied me through.

There were challenging moments that anyone in my situation would have faced. I questioned whether I fit in - I had different struggles than some of my classmates. I was a first-generation student navigating an environment I wasn’t familiar with while supporting myself financially. This experience highlighted the reality for many college students and how vast the socio-economic disparities are in this country. It was eye-opening that affording a textbook, clothes or a flight home were luxuries for me but not for others.

Beyond these struggles, I had moments of doubt about whether I was intelligent enough to be there. I was at an institution full of intelligent students which ignited that imposter syndrome. It challenged me to see my abilities in a different light, to fight through the imposter syndrome, and to be confident in what I bring to the table. Although I experienced some uncomfortable moments, what I valued was that my classmates and faculty supported me. Mentors like Professor Matt Stoneking, took the first Posse under his wings treating us like family. My fondest memory is of Matt inviting the scholars who couldn’t afford to go home to his house to enjoy Thanksgiving with his family. Imagine inviting eight hungry New Yorkers over?! His blueberry pie was always a hit! People are what makes Lawrence special. Professors, classmates, and faculty became family.

The four years at Lawrence allowed me to have a safe space to grow and experience life, make mistakes, and explore a world I never knew existed. Lawrence was a soft place to land. It was a place that provided the support and nourishment to find my voice, my people, and my way. The Lawrence community reminded me of my values.  Lawrence made me feel special, that I'm not a number in a sea of students. Lawrence gave me many of my firsts. And I will forever be grateful for giving me an opportunity to thrive.