Update from Juan Carlos Castrejon, our 2013 Scholarship Recipient
I could not be more satisfied with how my first year here at Columbia has, so far, turned out! It is definitely what I expected—challenging, demanding, and intense. I have learned that this is where I belong, aware that I made the right decision in attending this institution.
Let me begin by saying that it is surreal to think that merely a couple months ago I was anticipating my arrival to campus. Now, I am here and could not be more excited for the imminent experiences to come. Being here has allowed me to take full thought into what I want my future to look like and what it is that I want to pursue academically. Entering Columbia with my mind set on majoring in financial economics, I thought my mind was fixed on what I wanted to do with my life, who I wanted to become. I had no doubt that economics was for me, considering I thought it was the very essence of my interest. However, I have had a change in heart; economics is not something I would like to pursue throughout my four years at Columbia. This was definitely a profound change in mind; it was nothing I expected coming to college. I admit, I was distressed at the idea that I now do not know what it is that I want to pursue. However, I have now realized that PBKACA has given me the opportunity to retrieve this realization. Due to the scholarship awarded to me, I have the time to decide what it is that I want in life, what it is that I want to study. Of course, I am leaving open courses my following semester to make a decision—taking a political science and potentially an urban globalism course. However, none of this would be possible without PBKACA. This change in heart occurred because I did not have to focus my time on working, giving me the ability to truly discover myself academically. That, I am truly grateful for!
On the other hand, I am currently participating in Heights-to-Heights, a mentoring club aimed to assist students in developing their English skills. I was assigned a mentee who emigrated from the Dominican Republic a couple months ago. My mentee is a Spanish-only speaker, and it is difficult for me to see him struggling with understanding the lectures given during the program. However, I realized that I am ultimately making a difference in this child’s life, not only by being his mentor but also his friend: someone he can confide in and trust. Being a part of this club has enhanced my notion on the importance of receiving an education; it should be an essential part of everyone’s lives and something everyone should be open to.
Once again, my freshman year has been, by far, amazing. Exploring New York City has definitely been an integral part in my experience. Going to Broadway shows, walking around Times Square, eating out, or simply going to class (especially my fun theatre class), conglomerate to describe my experience. Much of this, though, would not be as is without PBKACA; it has removed a huge financial burden off my back, allowing me to not only enjoy my time here at Columbia but also allowing me to find myself.
Juan Carlos Castrejon
PBKACA 2013 Scholarship Recipient