Dartmouth Student Interview w/ Aleemah Williams | Part 3: Make the Uncomfortable Comfortable to You
Aleemah Williams ‘24 was raised in Charlotte, North Carolina and graduated from North Carolina Cyber Academy. At Dartmouth, Aleemah is currently pursuing a modified major of Government (with a heavy emphasis on International Relations and Comparative Politics) and Physics while minoring in International Studies (and potentially Public Policy).
During her high school career, Aleemah has held several internships with Superior court judges, private attorneys and state representatives. Aleemah is currently on Dartmouth’s varsity women’s rugby team where she is both a player and a member of the of the leadership team and participates in multiple organizations on campus such as Al-Nur, Dartmouth Women in Law and Politics, serves as member on the DP2 Inclusive Excellence Council, and has participated in the Leadership Lab at Dartmouth. After graduation, Aleemah plans to attend law school and become a practicing international attorney.
Key points Aleemah shares:
"...having all these opportunities while being a winning team that was also very respectful and a time when other teams weren't as respectful. It just helps you see life and what you're doing and a different perspective."
"Failure isn't the end of the world. I think failure is needed in order to grow..."
"You want to be the best out there, but you also want to make sure that you're in the right mindset so that you can actually accomplish what you want, that you will be successful and that you can endure everything that entails."
Q: When we read through your bio,“rugby” was concurrently repeated. You were involved as a captain, a coach, a winning team, in addition to others. How do you think playing rugby has shaped you as a person?
A: In the US, rugby is a very dominantly white sport. Most rugby teams that you see that are traveling teams are actually male teens. My team, obviously, was predominantly white, and it kind of helped me navigate certain uncomfortable situations because there were instances where we go to a tournament or there was someone and they do something racist or say something racist, but also understanding how to handle myself in those situations.
But what helped is people saw me as that Muslim rugby player who's playing on this great team who has ethics like, okay, I pushed you down, but I will help you get back up, I'll talk to you after the game. I think it just really helped me stand out. We also played at colleges, which helps us get exposure, and then having all these opportunities while being a winning team that was also very respectful and a time when other teams weren't as respectful. It just helps you see life and what you're doing and a different perspective.
I had times when people were like, “Oh my gosh, I love the way that you carry yourself, I've been thinking about playing rugby, and I didn't know I could until I saw you.”
So you understand how your representation matters. But also with rugby, you're learning leadership skills, you're learning teamwork skills, and by always being active in the community, you're building a family.
So many people play rugby, like attorneys, judges, CEOs of companies, you know, teachers, just like random individuals, they play rugby. Once you're part of that community, you have all these connections, so you're bonding on the field and off. Even with rugby, you're learning how to play as a team because it's not an individual sport. It's a team effort, so you're as fast as your slowest player. If you make a mistake, you quickly capitalize on that and try to keep it moving until the whistle is blown.
It teaches you decision-making.
Obviously, it furthers your athletic abilities and capabilities. But also being a captain on this team, like coaching the students kind of puts you in a position where you like you further develop your leadership and communication skills, and you work on motivating these young ladies around you, as well as yourself. It keeps you so focused. So having these opportunities to play for other teams or play for colleges and have colleges coaches and colleges trying to recruit you and go, “Hey, you're amazing. Please apply to my school.” It helps with your perception of yourself and confidence in a way as well.
Another thing is rugby is such an open and loving sport, you have so many people from various communities, and you have so many different body types. You learn how to respect one another. So there's just a lot you can learn with networking, leadership, diversity, inclusion, and decision making. So all in one, it really helps further my development as an individual, and these are the same skills that I intend to install in the children that I coach, the high school students that I'll be coaching, and even within my own circle with my family and my friends.
Q: You’ve definitely had a lot of success applying to various things: college of course, internships, summer programs, governmental programs, and scholarships. Why do you think you have had so much success —any application tips?
A: Not everyone wants to say that they failed in something, and there are times when I didn't.
There were times when I kind of did not try one of my applications because my parents forced me to apply, and I didn't get accepted because it was so basic. I wouldn't say I've applied for a lot of scholarships, but I have done so much work.
With the quest scholarship, I had to write an essay about self-expression and I talked about one of my professors at the college that I was attending. She comes in and has a dress, a black blazer, and ballet slippers. She's talking and telling us about the class. There's another thing, this woman, she's so amazing. She goes behind the podium and took off her jacket, and you can't see anything that she's doing. But she comes out and it turns out she has a mohawk and she just brushed her hair down. Yeah, she had a mohawk, she doesn't like to wear dresses or pleases. I would say she was analogous a punk generation Y baby but she was so successful. She taught us about impure appearances. Most students in that class, if they saw her beforehand, would not have taken that class because they wouldn't think that she was professional. I wrote about how she taught me about self-expression, and that's what I focused on in my application.
We had to do stage two rounds. And so for the second round, where I found out as finalists, I had to make a video about what self-expression is to me.
I went and explained what self-expression was to me, I wanted them to understand that this is what I stand for, this is who I am. So I showed my teammates, some of my closest friends, and some individuals that I felt like their expressions helped influence me in a way where I'm still staying true to who I am and how they're happy with themselves. It was more about figuring out what did self-expression mean to me, but also learning from my mistakes.
There are some programs that I applied to and got rejected from and learned about how I didn't make it, but it's more so learning from that experience and understanding that you can grow from rejection. Failure isn't the end of the world. I think failure is needed in order to grow. I'm not saying to fail classes or anything, but some form of failure is needed in different aspects. Even an athlete will lose some games, but learning from that experience and how you never want to lose the game again teaches you and pushes you to train harder as well. Definitely learn from past experiences and learn from failure, but also try to see what does this prompt mean to you and try not to focus too much on what you think those admission officers are looking for.
Q: How did you manage your time to prepare and apply for these programs?
A: There are definitely times when I did struggle with making sure I'm taking time for myself and relaxing. My mother had to talk to me, she's like, “Okay, you're doing a lot, I need you to relax.” There was a time in high school where I actually played for two teams. So my team and then another team that wasn’t doing as well as they could have. I didn't necessarily I felt bad for them, but I also wanted to help them. So I would go and like kind of coach them and also play for them as well. I was putting myself in so many different positions and places and I didn't take a lot of time to focus on me. So I started implementing actual care days, friend dates, and even a self date. My mom and I have a mother-daughter date and things like that. My siblings and I kind of schedule that. Yes, you want to look good for all these applications, but you also have to take care of yourself.
A lot of individuals in college, especially in top schools, have times where they did not take care of themselves, and it deeply affected them. So you as high school students or individuals who are trying to continue or further your education need to make sure that you're taking time for yourself. You want to be the best out there, but you also want to make sure that you're in the right mindset so that you can actually accomplish what you want, that you will be successful and that you can endure everything that entails.
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