I started speaking English seven years ago, and the fact that I am in classes with the most intelligent people in the world is something that I do not take for granted. I wake up happy every morning knowing I have found a home at Columbia.
I am the happiest I’ve ever been at Columbia.
I came to the United States for high school from Somaliland, an often unrecognized country in East Africa. In Somaliland, it is very challenging to receive an education, especially for girls. Girls are second-class citizens—they are expected to do domestic work instead of going to school. Despite this, I have always loved school and have never let anything get in between me and my studies.
Abaarso School, my school in Somaliland, helps students apply to high schools and colleges in the United States. So I applied to Riverdale Country School. I spent a year at Riverdale and then transferred to Emma Willard School, an all-girls boarding school in upstate New York.
When I first visited Columbia two years ago, I loved the description of the Core Curriculum, the people, and the environment. This inspired me to apply early decision to Columbia. I never thought that I would love a school the way I love Columbia.
Even after the Columbia University College, Republicans invited speakers whose views were against my identities—Muslim, Black, and international—my love for Columbia has never faded. Despite that time, Columbia remains a home to me, and home is not about a location—it is defined by people. I love the myriad of professors and students that have added so much joy to my life. It is people like them who make Columbia home to me.
Columbia fosters my love for education. I have always loved education, so much so that I would never want to miss a class even if I felt sick. Sometimes, I wish I could have classes every day of the week. In fact, I love my courses so much that I go to classes two hours early if I have time, just so I can sit in the classroom and do work. I love sitting and appreciating the fact that I get to have a marvelous education in a classroom filled with incredibly intelligent people. I love seeing my professors come in because it reminds me of the dreams I once had of educating myself. Now as I set my hands on the very real desk in front of me, I am seeing them come to fruition.
One of my friends once told me that I am easily amused. I go to classes with such energy and happiness because college is a wonderful opportunity and I want to enjoy and appreciate every bit of it.
Maya Angelou once said that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I will never forget the joy and the opportunities Columbia has given me. Most importantly, I will forever revere the constant happiness and love that the people at Columbia shower on me.
Dear Columbia: Thank you for everything. I am and will forever be grateful.
Fahima Ali is an outspoken advocate for the rights of women and girls, and is a second-year student in Columbia College studying Economics. Born and raised in Somaliland, she has led efforts to help girls in her homeland gain access to education.