CUNY BA Student Post: Transforming My Student Experience  by Edythe Hughes

CUNY BA: Transforming My Student Experience  
by Edythe Hughes

Student: Edythe Hughes

Area of Concentration | AOC: Dimensions of Loss and Death

Home Campus: Hunter College

Year of Graduation: June 2023

When I decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree at twenty-nine years old, it took some courage. While I knew I wanted to learn, I also worried it was too late and questioned whether the fruits of my labor would be worth the time and money. Fortunately, I knew a whole slew of older students who walked before me. My brother Gabriel returned to college at twenty-five, graduated, and started his engineering career at twenty-eight. Going to school on and off, my mom spread her education over thirty years and earned her bachelor’s degree in business at age forty-nine. Many friends also began pursuing higher education in their mid to late twenties. Knowing that I was certainly not the first to make that leap encouraged me to do what I really wanted to do: learn!

My first year at Hunter College turned out to be harder than I expected. Studying and doing homework was a huge adjustment relative to the life I had been living independently of school for twelve years. I was overwhelmed, insecure, and generally unsure of whether I had made the right choice.

Today, while I complete my last semester of college, I have become a confident and productive student. For the many changes I have experienced in these past few years, I give credit to CUNY BA. CUNY BA helped me become the self-assured student that I am today. Being amongst a community of alternative students who value tailoring their education to their unique interests and needs gave me the energy to recommit to my education. Several of my professors also graduated and spoke highly of the program, which further encouraged me to keep with it.

In September, I will begin pursuing a Master of Social Work at NYU’s Silver School of Social Work.

woman with blonde hair sitting on steps

For someone who used to joke about taking 15 years to get my bachelor’s degree, I am beyond impressed with what is possible in just a few years. CUNY BA helped make that possible. By allowing me to take classes across the CUNY network, the program gave me flexibility with scheduling, making my life/school/work balance a little easier. By writing my life experience portfolio, I saved time, and money, and could earn a whole semester of credit through work and community efforts I made before becoming a student. It was deeply affirming to have my prior experiences validated by the academic community as valuable and worthy. CUNY BA’s scholarship opportunities gave me extra motivation and incentive to stay on top of my grades.

Every aspect of being a CUNY BA student has been worth it, and I am excited to bring my unique interests and education into the classrooms of my graduate school. I would encourage all CUNY BA students to take full advantage of what the program makes possible for us. For students who are considering if CUNY BA is worth the additional organizational and administrative tasks, it is!

In conclusion: a poem, by me:

An Education
I remember that day
the first one, sunny, May
Hudson River Park
I remember his smile, while kicking a soccer ball
and trying to focus on my book biblical fiction
I remember walking away
he followed me on his bike riding ahead turning back
I remember him
too much for too long
French, mathematician, gorgeous, older I remember him telling me I was stupid
I remember him telling me I was fucking five years old I remember him saying it again
and again again
and again and again and again

I remember the day I started believing him I remember him making me study math
Kahn Academy on a Friday night
I remember he assigned me books A Brief History of Time Founding Brothers
Crime and Punishment
How To Kill a Mockingbird
I remember admitting my entirely average ACT score 19
I was only 19
I remember going back to take the test again
understanding the difference between studying for the ACT and
just having gone to school for thirteen years

I remember when he wasn’t around anymore I remember
being confused I remember forgetting
how to speak
I remember being embarrassed to say a word
convinced I knew nothing I disguised my stupidity ask a question
ask a question
never have an opinion never have a thought
I remember being positive that I was not smart enough to go to college I remember being sure of that
I remember when my mom asked if I wanted to audit a communications class with her home for the holidays
I sat in the back nervous
I remember thinking that maybe I could go to school maybe
I remember convincing myself I wouldn’t
I remember buying and reading every book about some other way of making something happen in the world
The Education of Millionaires
Start Something That Matters
I remember none of it ever being enough

I remember finally being sure that school wasn’t for me I remember feeling great about
I remember finding friends that didn’t challenge me or make me feel dumb
I remember deciding how stupid it is to spend your money on college why do that?
I remember hearing that public college didn’t cost as much as I thought it did

I remember Labor Day weekend, alone at her house not knowing how I’d spend it
nothing to do bored
I remember drawing pictures of books and me
daydreaming in a boat
I remember telling her maybe I would go to school but not in a serious way
but not for real
I remember convincing myself that school could be a hobby I remember convincing them
I remember telling her I’m embarrassed to go to school and I’m embarrassed not to go to school
I remember googling CUNY
I remember waiting for my acceptance letter

I remember my first day
I remember not knowing what an office hour was
palms sweating, heart racing, choosing to participate I remember the joy of my first grade
in the twelve years
where I had hidden myself in lies and twisted narratives

I remember how I learned to not care too much caring made me feel dumb
I could feel stupid again I remember saying
I’m going to school for fun I remember being unsure I’d finish
I remember deciding it was for my mental health for my busy and destructive mind
I remember realizing that I needed to use my thoughts of something other than myself imploding
I remember the day I got tired of myself twenty seven years
anything other than me
other than my navel
that only goes so deep
I remember waiting still a year
another one

And I finally remembered I wanted to learn.