When I learned that I was accepted into SHE-CAN, I was so excited I couldn’t stop grinning for an entire week. Being a part of the organization had been a dream of mine since I heard about it from my high school counselor. I wanted to be a SHE-CAN scholar because I knew the organization would not only help me achieve my dream of winning a U.S. college scholarship but it would also connect me with an incredible network of support. I was thrilled when I received an email saying that I was accepted, and I remember being so happy that I immediately called my family to tell them that I had made it! I knew the organization would be a rollercoaster of adventures and so far they’ve only been beautiful.
My freshman year at Beloit flew by, and the college has offered me great opportunities to help me discover who I am and what I want to achieve. I’m an environmental studies major and took classes that nurtured my interests in environmental awareness and protection. I also joined various clubs like the International Club which allowed me to explore various aspects of other cultures and America. SHE-CAN matched me with a talented team of mentors in the U.S. who’ve helped make my college transition smooth. Their guidance in helping me apply to college and moving me into my dorm room was incomparable. I’m grateful to have four inspirational women in my life who provide me with unconditional support. I’m always thrilled to spend time with them during school breaks because I learn so much from their lives and stories. They continually motivate me to become a more independent young woman and change-agent in my community.
Lucky for me, I attend college with one of my Cambodian SHE-CAN sisters, Guech Sok! I was so happy when I heard the news and all fears that I had about being on my own during my first year at Beloit were immediately forgotten. We spent lots of time together, both on and off campus, whether it was taking the same classes or exploring the city of Beloit in our free time. I’ll cherish these memories forever and look forward to creating many more. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my first year at Beloit would have been very dull without Guech.
Speaking of my SHE-CAN sisters, all 45 of them have been an incredible source of friendship and unconditional love. I reunited with many of them at SHE-CAN’s annual Leadership Summit that takes place during winter break, and it’s been one of my favorite SHE-CAN experiences. It’s a weekend where we learned how to embrace our “inner leader” together. This was my first year participating, and I enjoyed learning how to build career strategies and create personal rapport through body language. Also, I was greatly inspired by the strong young women who are making changes in their countries that author Paola Gianturco highlighted in her book “Wonder Girls: Changing Our World.” At the end of her workshop, she held a book signing and gave each SHE-CAN scholar a copy of her book. I couldn’t wait to read it!
After the Summit, my Rwandan sister Ines Simbi and I got to attend the Women’s March in San Francisco with our mentors and their friends. Seeing so many women from different backgrounds come together to claim their rights and freedom was grand and beautiful. I left empowered, and the march reminded me that as long as women continue to lift each other up we can achieve anything and turn the impossible into the possible.
I’ll never forget that day, and it’s just one example of the incredible opportunities I’ve been able to experience with my SHE-CAN family. I can honestly say that my first year as a SHE-CAN scholar and Beloiter was incredible. I’m excited for my sophomore year and can’t wait to see where this beautiful rollercoaster takes me next!
This blog post was written by SHE-CAN scholar Chelsea Gaju