On November 10th, 2013 I boarded a bus in New York City filled with girls I didn’t know. I remember looking at all the unfamiliar faces as I tried to find a seat and thinking to myself “What have I gotten myself into?”

We were all heading to the It Girls Overnight Retreat at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. This would be my second time visiting Syracuse University and the first time without my parents. I was nervous, to say the least, but I was also looking forward to what the weekend held.

Now, almost three years since I boarded that bus, I still cannot believe how much this one experience has influenced my time at the iSchool and at Syracuse. When I got on the bus, I knew very little about what “information technology” actually was, and wasn’t too sure that I fit what I thought an IT student would look like. I had thought that my only previous experience with IT was with the IT helpdesk when my laptop broke down. I soon realized that this is far from the only place I’d experienced information technology in my life.

An Eye-Opening Weekend

Throughout the weekend, I learned more and more about what Information Management & Technology actually means and the breadth of the fields that all fall under the umbrella of information technology. I learned that information technology in general means finding ways to use technology to solve problems. This problem solving mindset greatly interested me and I realized that my much of what I thought was true about IT actually wasn’t true at all.

Through group activities, sample lectures and labs, a keynote speaker, and an overnight stay with other retreat attendees and girls who were currently studying at the iSchool, I got a more complete picture of what not only life at the iSchool was like but also life at Syracuse University. It was then that I realized that I did belong in the iSchool.

Since then, my classes in the iSchool have further proven to me the many different opportunities that are available to me because I am an iSchool student. I’ve had hands-on experiences working with various types of technology and software, both in and out of the classroom. My favorite experience so far (other than volunteering at the It Girls Retreat every year!) has been the Spring Break in Silicon Valley trip that I went on last semester. On this trip, I was able to travel with a group of Syracuse students to Silicon Valley. There, we had the chance to tour 20+ different companies and learn more about entrepreneurship from Syracuse alums who were actually working in the Valley.

A Chance to Get Involved

Being a part of the 2013 It Girls Retreat gave me an opportunity to further become part of the iSchool community as I got involved in the It Girls Alumnae group, a student organization started by former It Girl, Fatma Ngom, that connects all generations of It Girls on campus, regardless of what school they go to.

Now that I’ve become part of the It Girls community on campus, I have a great network of support from other girls who come from a wide variety of backgrounds but all share a love of technology. Each semester we host several professional development and social events that allow all former It Girls to keep in contact and get to know one another. Some of those unfamiliar faces I saw on the bus back in 2013 are now some of my closest friends at the iSchool.

I can definitely say that going to the It Girls retreat during my senior year of high school greatly impacted my experience at the iSchool and my knowledge of the information technology field. I’ve been able to continue learning and building my skills both in my iSchool classes and in the student organizations I’ve joined.