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.