Introducing Mariah Rajah – A Story of Survival

a young woman in a tan coat

Photograph by Mariah Rajah

Our Stories: An Intimate Connections Series by Pamela Drake

Surviving college can be quite challenging, even more so when you’re all on your own. Mariah Rajah, a senior at City Tech in the Professional & Technical Writing Program and editor of the New Tech Times student newspaper, has proven herself to be an asset to City Tech. She has has accomplished many amazing things, but it hasn’t been easy for her. Because of her family circumstances, she was on her own at a very young age.  Having to financially provide and take care of herself has been difficult, but it has also given her a high level of maturity and personal growth.

1.     Where did you grow up and what is your background?

I was born in Guyana and moved to Barbados until I was about 10 years old. After that, I moved to New York. I come from a Muslim household, both of my parents are of West Indian decent but my mother is mixed with African.

2.     Describe yourself in one word? How does this word represent you?

I believe myself to be resilient. My life hasn’t been an easy one and many times I’ve had to be my own breadwinner and caretaker. Yet despite all the obstacles thrown at me, I have never once deterred from my hopes and dreams.

3.     What is still your biggest challenge or stumbling block(s) and what are the best ways you’ve found to overcome them?

For me, my biggest challenge has been to believe in who I am and my abilities. The lack of confidence and my low self-esteem kept me at my lowest, but once I realized what I could do there was nothing or no one that could stop me.

4. How do you balance school, work, and family demands?

Balancing this has been no easy task. In my freshman year I completely isolated myself and focused just on school. Although the decision brought me good grades, I found myself caged in. So I decided to start scheduling hours for school and relaxation. I realized that once I stuck to the schedule, I got more work done and had more time for being young.

5.     What’s the best advice you ever received?

I believe the best advice I ever received was from a friend who told me nothing lasts forever. Whether it’s pain or success, life comes in tides and it’s best to enjoy the highs and learn from the lows.

6.     Who are your biggest influences? Who do you admire most? Who or what inspired you to do what you’re doing now?

I’ve found influence in so many people but I would have to say that my biggest influence would have to be Ms. Oprah Winfrey. Her work ethic and captivating speech have mesmerized me from a young age. She has been a driving force in my writing since I first read her story in the 6th grade. Her go-getter attitude and perseverance inspire me to this day.

7.     What tools or personality traits do you think is indispensable for accomplishing your goals?

I think out of all the traits, being thick skinned and reluctant are two things that are needed for achieving any goal. They will be many naysayers but if you believe in who you are and what you are doing there is nothing you cannot accomplish. Being reluctant means that you won’t take no for an answer and all it takes is for one person to say yes in order for you to accomplish a goal.

8. What’s next for you?

Over the past 4 years, I have been heavily affiliated with City Tech and various offices within the college and it has been a wonderful and fruitful experience. I have learned many things and had the opportunity to meet many people but now it’s time for me to take this experience outside. I’m ready to gain industry experience and find myself a place in a work-force which I believe I am ready to be a part of and learn from.

9. What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered?

I’d like to be remembered for my willingness and perseverance if anything. College is no easy task and life took a sudden turn in the years since I began this journey but I never once gave up no matter how many times I said I would. I’d like to be remembered for this and maybe also for being valedictorian!

There will always be moments when you feel desperate in college. Perhaps you’re in a similar situation like Mariah and find yourself trying to cope on your own. Trying to achieve that perfect life at college is one that does not exist and while college is great, it is also exhausting. But there is no shame in asking for help. The first thing to do is to take advantage of the resources that are on campus. Most colleges have counseling services and you don’t have to face these issues alone. For example, you can get to know your professors and your academic advisor, join a club or school organization, get a mentor or make new friends who are genuine and authentic. The main thing is to connect with people who can provide moral support and encourage you through the tough times.  

Finally, as Mariah advised, make time for yourself. Its unrealistic to expect that you can study, go to class, work all day, and study without taking a break. Yes,it’s important to strive for good grades but college life is a mixture of social and academic. Finding the right balance is also important so be sure to set aside some time for activities that will help you relax and take away some of the stress.

Never Alone

a dark dining room with an empty table

Image by: Katherine

Life itself is so thoroughly engulfed with trials and tribulations that can be extremely difficult to overcome. I feel that at times everyone acts as if participating in the college experience in order to better their academic education will automatically provide them with happiness. Many people seek refuge in their respective religions to bring them peace, and having the knowledge of having a greater power somehow allows them to know that they are not alone. But at times, life seems to throw many curve-balls and can cause us to doubt every single thing that we once were so sure that we believed. This semester has truly been a difficult one for me, it felt as if life had literally taken a hold of me and drowned me into the darkest pit of sadness that you can ever imagine.

I have always been an extrovert and an introvert all at once…sometimes I would socialize and other times I just felt it to be tedious to even maintain a meaningless conversation. But the college experience as well as the struggles in my personal life have completely changed me into someone that I hardly recognize anymore. I want to be better…a better version of myself. One who is truly happy…one who still finds the silver lining in negative situations despite the horrific storms that life has thrown my way. Being a former homeschooler for my entire academic life, I was, unfortunately, the victim of the harsh criticisms and stereotypes that were typically thought about homeschoolers. This only led me to be more reserved and to stay more to myself. As I slowly near the end of my senior year, I feel that I have become more of an introvert as I no longer talk as much. It is as if I have forgotten all the proper social cues or maybe I never truly learned them. I have faced such loss this year and I do not know how to recover. No one prepares you for the fact that attending college does not protect you from the realities of this world. it cannot shield you from the struggles that you will face. There will be times albeit any given time in your life when you want to give up when life begins to take a toll. And that is completely normal, for life itself can be extremely unfair and was never promised to be perfect.

raindrops on a window

Image by: Sabrina Vasquez

The holidays make this pain even greater as it is a time that is supposed to be spent in this cheerful spirit with friends and family. Still, there may be other difficulties, perhaps there is someone who passed away and will not be with you for the holidays or you have endured so many tribulations that you simply aren’t cheerful. The truth is, we are never alone…whether you believe in a higher power or not. There are so many lives that are surrounding us every single day…people who truly love us regardless of whether they say it or not. Love is not just a feeling; it is an infinite action that is emoted infinitely. Love has no limitations; it is the truest thing on earth when evoked unconditionally. Love is portrayed in acts of kindness and showing the care you have for that particular being albeit a person, pet, hobby, etc. Most importantly, love is selfless which means it is doing what is best not for yourself but for them because in setting them happy makes you happy. Love is often doubted but it is always there even when it goes completely unnoticed. Love is innocent and pure; it cannot fully be described in words for if it was it would have helped to avoid some of the struggles that our nation has faced. Unfortunately, love cannot be taught or learned, love just is. And when you are truly loved then you are never alone.

Comment below on some tough experiences that you have personally faced that have made you feel alone.

A Fine Dining Experience at CityTech

a raspberry napoleon

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

I’m officially a senior in college which means that I’m one step closer to pursuing my dreams. When I was high school, I honestly had no idea of what I wanted to major in for my college education. I had truly considered not attending college at all. Until I finally realized, baking has always been nuanced into my life and it became a subject that I had wanted to pursue. I love being able to create edible masterpieces that bring smiles to people’s face simply by eating my desserts. I have had the opportunity to participate in all different advanced pastry classes, which has allowed to better perfect my craft of baking. It helped me to become more comfortable as a baker and truly understand the talent that I was given as an aspiring pastry chef.

mango mousse plated with kiwi and oranges

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

Many students barely know that there is a hospitality management program within the college which leads them to be unknowledgeable about what the college offers to students. There is a dining room located on the second floor of the Namm Building which is utilized to house guests to eat the meals and desserts that the hospitality students have prepared. Anyone can make a reservation by simply visiting the hospitality management office. When you arrive there, you can decide whether you want to dine for lunch or dinner, the date you wish to reserve, and the number of guests that will be attending.

a cupcake covered with toasted coconut chips and plated with diced mangoes

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

It is one of the most amazing experiences; personally I have both prepared foods for the dining room guests and been a guest. And it is truly a great food experience especially since it is free of any cost. So help yourself to a good meal and dessert or get the glass of wine to pair with your food. But if you choose to tip, which is absolutely accepted, it will be donated to either the City Tech Foundation or CHiPS. The City Tech Foundation funds the college and makes serving to the guests in the dining room possible. CHiPS (Christian Help in Park Slope) is a small community in Brooklyn that serves to aid hot, nutritious meals to the underprivileged as well as offering offer seasonal clothing, emergency pantry items, and shelter in a caring and respectful environment.  There are so many opportunities that lie within the doors of CityTech, but we must seek them out in order to appreciate the greater impact that the college has.

Academic Self-Discovery: My Story

For some people, knowing exactly what occupation they want to go after is simple. They could even have it figured out from a young age. While for others, deciding what career path to follow is harder to do. Some reasons for this could be that they haven’t found their passion yet, that they feel obligated to do something they are pushed to do do; or that they decide on a job that allows them to make money while still in search of their dream job.

I am one of the latter. Before entering college I honestly had no solid career goal. Growing up I’ve always been pushed by my Caribbean family to go into the medical field because of financial success. Because of this, every time I’ve tried to construct a career goal, I make sure to make it involve something that is in that field. I did a summer program called ‘Upward Bound’ before my freshman year of college and I thought I would go to college to become a Music Therapist. I thought including something with music would fit- to compromise really- right into what I could enjoy doing for the rest of my life because I really love music. A little into my first year the thoughts of being a Music Therapist vanished. It changed to nursing because one thing I was always certain of was my passion to help others in some form. Not quite ready to be committed to nursing I changed my major to Liberal Arts and Science (still keeping nursing on the table but open to other careers in science). It wasn’t until a few months ago at CSTEP, a program here at City Tech that I was asked questions that really made me hone in on just where I could see myself career wise. Questions like “What ways do I see myself helping people?” allowed me to settle on two responses. One was becoming a Physical Therapist and the other a writer.

English has always been my favorite subject. As a child I enjoyed writing stories and throughout highschool I read and even wrote stories online. Writing online meant a lot to me because of the feedback I received from complete strangers that actually liked what I wrote. That was incredible to me because it was the first time I was really putting my craft out there for people to criticize and they in turn gave back positive reinforcement. My last two semesters in English have really brought back my love for writing. In the Fall of 2015 I took Intro to Fiction (2001)- I liked Intro to Fiction because I felt I got better as a writer and thinker due to having to revise my essays until my professor liked it enough. I also liked it because my final paper for that class won first place for the Literary Arts Festival in 2016. After that class I took Expressions of Identity (ENG 2190) and that course made me question and observe my surroundings with new perspective. It made me feel at home as well as growth.

I think the key to finding what career path one wants to follow is trying different things and analyzing if it is something that brings out the passion and curiosity. To me, that is what academic self-discovery is all about; to learn what gets you motivated. It might take some time for some and that is okay. What matters is getting to that point.

A Stroll Down Memory Lane at City Tech

Note: This is a non-food and restaurant related post. This is merely a reflection of my years at City Tech and majoring in Hospitality Management.

I started my degree in Hospitality Management late in 2009, because I didn’t feel comfortable or interested in Communication Design. While it wasn’t easy at first in Hospitality Management and getting through college, it’s everything to me now.

I must admit I didn’t like 1/4 of the classes in hospitality management merely because it didn’t interest me or it was math related and I’m not very good in math (i.e. – cost control and accounting & finance).


I took Baking 1 & 2 which were two of the hardest classes I’ve taken because I’m not very good at baking and both were late afternoon classes that ended at 7-7:30PM. My boyfriend would stay late at work (he works on Montague Street) and swing over to pick me up  and in return, he ended up with all the desserts, cookies, and bread that was made in class. Fair trade right?

food dishes

I took Culinary 1 & 2 on Saturday mornings (almost a mistake), but I got lucky because both classes were taught by one of the most down-to-earth and easy going professors: Professor Tomlinson. I learned a lot about cooking, food, and how to plate food which was very helpful. My boyfriend would also get up at 6:30-7AM to drive me to class and pick me up on most days after.

dining room tables

I also took Dining Room & Operations which was very fun and taught me a lot about what to look for that may be a red flag when dining outside.


During the Dining Room class, we were required to go to a fine dining restaurant in New York City and I chose Asiate. I typically don’t do fine dining, but this was a nice, once in a lifetime experience and especially since it had a beautiful view of Central Park & Columbus Circle.

a city building with the words "ON POINT WITH DOWNTOWN: 'Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. Explore. Dream. Discover.' -Mark Twain"

Last year, I also took Hospitality Marketing with Professor Duchamp which I admire because he’s very much into social media and Twitter. I’m not sure how other marketing professors teach, but if you’ve taken Professor Duchamp in Hospitality Marketing, then you know for the final project you have to create a tour and a website using Square Space. Unfortunately the website I created is inactive, but here’s a screenshot I took during the production.

A lot of friends I know don’t like writing and I was told Research Seminar would be the hardest classes, but it turned out to be my favorite because I was able to combine a hobby that I like to do with my project and it worked out perfectly.

a food shop

This is my last semester as a full-time student and I am taking Hospitality Services Marketing and one assignment was to do a comparison of two Hospitality enterprises so I did Chelsea Market vs. Eataly, two of New York City’s most popular food hall. I’ve never been to Eataly before, so I went for the very first time in April and it was a great and fun experience. I’m also taking Hospitality Enterprise Development and our project for the semester is building a business plan of our own. It was due today and hopefully I did well on it.

a magazine article

Outside of my classes and before Openlab was created, I was writing for the New Tech Times for 1-2 years. It was definitely not as engaging or fun as writing for The Buzz. I am very happy that City Tech created Openlab as it provides a space for students and faculty to share their creativity, but also a chance for student bloggers to express their passion and creativity through images and words.

This is my final post for The Buzz and although I haven’t been heavily involved in our meetings due to work obligations, I did enjoy collaborating with my team mates and reading their posts. I also enjoyed being a Hospitality Student because it really opened me up and I was able to visit sites I wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t for my classes. If you’re still interested in reading my works, you can check out my personal food blog or my Yelp page. If you would like to contact me anything related to food, blogging or social media, you can shoot me an e-mail:

Thank You! Have a great summer!

Anything You Want OR Need … for FREE!!

What is something you want to do or have? Did you know you can get it free, especially when you are motivated and put in the research for it. For example, Have you ever walked into a food court of the mall and was offered cinnabon’s sugar donuts, or asian cuisine on a stick? Not only can you get free food but you can request samples from those mall restaurants. At the end of your “food court smorgasbord” you may have a fulfilling snack. Well, that is similar to just about anything you can think of.

colored letters that spell "FREE"

Here’s How:

  1. Events & Activities: You can get free tickets to movies, preescreenings, fashion shows, fundraisers, community events, and celebrities events on sites like EventBrite. And of course many events have goodie bags of freebies. Try looking in Timeout NYC, searching for free concerts in the parks and beaches, download “local” themed apps on your phone, visit hobbies and networking events. Get on tv by searching casting companies like OnSetProductions.
  2. Knowledge Training / Experience: Ask those you know for advice. You can ask companies to volunteer or go on VolunteerMatch. Of course Youtube helps, but there are also sites that allow you to bartering services. Look in the news papers where most jobs offer free training on the condition that you work with them for a time period. I love the DIYnetwork and places, like HomeDepot, that offer free classes.
  3. Food / Clothes: Besides growing a garden and sewing your own clothes, there are organizations and churches that provide free food and clothing. You can even inquire on 311 (for those in NY) for help or on your governments’ website
  4. Shelter Companies like Habitat for Humanity help you own a home as long as you volunteer some labor, but there are other non profits and private funded organizations that provide shelters, rooms, help with mortgage, rent assistance, and utilities (i.e.: heap. There are even grants for new home owners are being energy efficient.
  5. Money Who doesn’t love free money! Apply for government grants, signup with crowdfunding websites, ask those you know, and/or apply for scholarships.
  6. Childcare – Most schools are free, even some pre kindergarten are with programs like Head Start. Some schools and jobs have daycares, just ask. If not contact you local government assistance providers.
  7. Insurance: Contact non-profits, private organization or your government website.
  8. Entertainment Services: There are companies like Vive Entertainment Enterprises LLC or non profits like BRIC Arts Media. You can also find people by looking up hashtags, posting and messaging on sites like Model Mayhem, craigslist, Instagram, and Facebook.
  9. Business Help: Organizations like SBDC at New York City College of Technology, Small Business Association, NYC Business Solutions, NELP (lawyers), and government websites will help small business and entrepreneurs. Go on sites like or to find volunteers and help. The best thing to do is network.
  10. Freebies & Goodies For cosmetics, accessories, cleaning products, and the random, there are nonprofits or organizations that are the middle man like Freecycle. Some places provide free toiletries, others sites give away based on their sponsors.  Hey you might get free stuff for being a loyal customer, like a sephora. where you can also get free samples of cosmetics when ever you want and bigger samples with purchases. There are even sites like Beautystat, and you tubers who have contest and giveaways for their subscribers.

If your need or want isn’t listed here, some of the same sites may still help you. If not, googling the service you need and adding the word free at the end, by putting up post on social media and inquiring with those you know.

Now that you know how to find free necessities and wants, try it for yourself. Get your freebies and tell me all about it.

DISCLAIMER: I am not being paid to share this data or information. Everything is my opinion and I do not take responsibility for what you may encounter during your search.

QUESTIONS TO THE READERS: How do you get freebies? | Have you tried any of the methods? Did it work? | Has anyone got a free iPad or electronic by participating in offers? | Was this information helpful?