My name is Oju Ajose, and I am a junior Computer Science / Business Administration major from Grand Prairie, TX. Coming from a city just outside of Dallas meant that there wasn’t going to be anyone from my high school to look to as the blueprint for navigating USC, and it took a long time for me to adjust.
My first semester at USC was very difficult, socially. It seemed that I couldn’t hold onto any of the friends I had made, and by the end of October, I had completely given up on trying to find any relationships for the fall. However, there was one thing that made me feel less lonely, and it came on Mondays at 7 with free food and great energy: NSBE, or the National Society of Black Engineers. NSBE students were one of the first people I met on campus when I went to the Viterbi involvement fair during Welcome Week, and from the start, it felt like I was talking to family. I could be myself around them, as lost and awkward as I was, and they accepted me with welcoming arms.
I knew that NSBE really was the group I needed when our Fall Regional Conference came. We traveled up to San Francisco for the event, and it still is one of my favorite weekends in college. I was able to feel like an engineer for the first time, participating in debates, meeting with NSBE alumni, and attending career fairs where I felt wanted as a black woman. On the other hand though, I felt like an actual college student, exploring the city with the other members, staying up too late playing games, and just laughing more than I had in a long time.
After the conference, I always saw a friendly face walking on campus, and while I didn’t necessarily have my group of besties yet, I was seen. When COVID hit and we left campus, I continued staying connected to the other members. The game nights continued, they congratulated me when I secured my first internship, and I helped send off our graduating members. It was a no-brainer that when elections for the next round of Executive Board members came, I decided to run for membership chair.
Getting to participate in NSBE as a leader was a great experience. I was disappointed that I couldn’t pursue all of my ideas since we were off campus, but getting to help connect members within and outside of our chapter was extremely rewarding.When the time came to hand my position off to our next chair, I was sad but grateful that I had the opportunity and was excited to see where the position would be taken next.
During the time I’ve spent in NSBE, I’ve been able to find more of who I wanted to be in college. I was able to find friends and people to rely on in my computer science classes. I found mentors in the upperclassmen who went after what they wanted and succeeded beyond their goals. I came more into my own, learning how to confidently enter a room knowing that I belonged, and the career path I’m going down has never been clearer and more full of opportunities. USC may not have been originally built for people who looked like me, but with NSBE, I learned how to create space for myself and found relationships for life.