Small Island, Big Dreams

by Justin Tai on October 30th

Small Island, Big Dreams

by Justin Tai on October 30th

“I don’t care what you want to be, just make sure you graduate from college.”

Little did I know, this Harry Potter-esque university would be the start of something new— something different from my little rock.

- Justin Tai

I didn’t know how to feel when my mother said this. I was motivated, but the responsibility felt overwhelming. As I imagined my future, I knew that if I stayed on the little rock I call home (Guam), I would not fulfill the plans I had set for myself. I needed to carry out the responsibility that my mom entrusted to me.

I applied to numerous colleges knowing that I had a good chance of getting accepted. Then, I came across Arcadia University. Little did I know, this Harry Potter-esque university would be the start of something new— something different from my little rock.

At first, I had no interest in engineering. But I saw that Arcadia had a (3+2) dual Pre-engineering program linked with Columbia University. Coupled with the other aspects of Arcadia that intrigued me— from guaranteed housing to various scholarship opportunities— I was compelled to choose Pre-engineering as my major. It was financially and academically practical, and it was my chance to make it big while exploring a place far from home.

Having been a good student in high school, I didn’t think the program requirements seemed demanding. I had to maintain a 3.3 GPA and pass each class with a B or higher— not as difficult as I assumed, but I also didn’t know anything about engineering and worried I’d fall behind students who were ahead of the game.

Pre-engineering students meeting with an admissions counselor from Washington University at St. Louis.

If making it to a prestigious institution like Columbia seems impossible, take it from me: It’s not. Before my first semester at Arcadia, it was frustrating being physically far from all of the opportunities that were waiting to be seized. Now that I’m in my second year, I’ve realized that being in a program that requires me to meet goals and maintain excellence has pushed me to be the best student I can be. The only one who can stop me from doing my best— and achieving what I want— is myself.  

Competition can sometimes encourage students to achieve stellar grades, but Arcadia’s Pre-engineering program has led me to believe that self-satisfaction is the best motivation. If I can’t make it to Columbia, the program has connections with other schools like Washington University at St. Louis, which allows me to keep my options open. And there are so many windows opened by Arcadia and by my new home— I’ve had the chance to network with different people at Arcadia, in Philadelphia, and outside of Pennsylvania.

Now that I’m here, I feel closer to my future. It’s much clearer than it was when I was trying to figure things out on my little rock.