Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 26, 2020

The meaning of a college degree

By BAHIRA AHMED | May 21, 2020

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COURTESY OF BAHIRA AHMED

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only about 33 percent of Americans 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree.  

When I first heard this statistic, I was rather shocked. Throughout my life, my family has ingrained in me the importance of education. I asked myself, “Why do others fail to share these values?” Like many other Hopkins students, my parents are immigrants who traveled to the U.S. for a chance at a more equitable life. 

As a Public Health graduate, I now understand that despite one’s motivations and desire for mobility, there are still complex socioeconomic factors that keep everyday people from achieving higher education. For that, I am blessed and I recognize my privilege in being able to obtain a college degree.  

The last four years at Hopkins have been a roller coaster, with more challenges and obstacles than I ever expected. This University challenged me both academically and emotionally, opening my eyes to the world around me. I studied abroad in London, took graduate courses at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and conducted research at the best medical institution in the world. I am forever grateful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities the University has given me to grow. The endless relationships I have formed and meaningful work I have done here in Baltimore holds a special place in my heart.  

I used to think that life was a straight path and that if you deviated from that path, it meant you were failing. But that is not the case at all. Failing allows you to adapt in the face of adversity and makes you stronger. Whether it takes four years or more, everyone’s path is valid. You should all be immensely proud.   

I also want to take the time to remember those in our senior class that we have lost along the way through life’s tragedies. Your mark at Hopkins will not ever be forgotten.  

Congratulations to the Class of 2020 — a unique and tenacious class who has proven time and time again that, even in a pandemic, nothing can stop them from reaching their dreams. May you all take the knowledge that Hopkins has given you and use it to make this world a brighter place.  

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