My name is Mona Shadi. I am an Egyptian that has lived most of her life in the States. Although I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to immigrate; most of my family's time here was marked by economic hardship and cultural misunderstanding. As a child in such an environment, one gets very used to at best, compromise; and at worst, disappointment and feelings of unworthiness. This followed me into my early twenties when I settled into dead-end jobs in service and manual labor. I loved politics, current affairs, film, and books on modern history, but I believed this was just a hobby I would posses through a life of minimum wage and menial work. One night, after bashing my knees on an icy parking lot while I attempted to take out some garbage at a restaurant job; I accidentally doused myself with an industrial cooking pan's worth of turkey broth. I hadn't slept in almost two days; I was hungry; my hands were meat grinder-raw; my knees bled, and my back felt like a rusty bridge truss. I sat on a crate and cried. I'd worked since the age of eight, and all I saw before me was a life spent as a number; someone who could easily be replaced; someone who would live and die and never know what it meant to contribute to the tradition of human and world progress. I returned home a heaving, sobbing mess that smelled like Thanksgiving Dinner in a garbage pale.
I decided to go back to school. When I arrived at Mount Holyoke College, I almost turned back and drove home. There was no-bloody-way-I-was-good-enough-for-this-school. The buildings left me in awe, and the library was so beautiful I grew teary. Those feelings of inferiority whispered again, this school was for other people, brilliant people, wealthy people. So imagine what happened when I received my acceptance letter from the Frances Perkins Admissions Office (It involved reaching for a chair to sit in and, eh, missing it!). Now that I'm here, I'm surrounded by people who want to talk about the world, not as an idea or concept, but as a place where things can go terribly right; where will and innovation are meant to be actualized, not just dreamed of; and where yes, you can stake your own claim to the path that is yours. The other day I was sitting in the library as a tour for prospective students came through. I saw a few non-traditional aged women looking around the way I did. I had to smile thinking of how they were taking a huge step in visiting the college; how just a year ago that was me. And now I'm writing a paper as a student. I have my hopes, I have my dreams; I still don't know how I'll reach them. But I'm on my way, and the view from here is just fine.