The 2018 Columbia University Valedictorian is Justice Betty, a graduate of the Dual BA degree from Sciences Po and Columbia. Watch the speech she gave at commencement (beginning at 1:58:50) and read the interview of an inspiring young citizen.
You have just graduated Valedictorian with a Dual Degree from Sciences Po and Columbia. Can you tell us what has been the most impactful learning experience of your journey so far?
Joining the Dual BA Programme was one of the best decisions I have ever made. At Sciences Po, I learned that life is problématique, and Columbia taught me that there is no royal road. In the past four years, I experienced a great deal of personal and intellectual growth, found lifelong friends and enjoyed all that college should be and more. I chose the Programme for several reasons, but mostly because it would force me to go drastically outside of my comfort zone and explore the unknown. I had never been to France before or lived on my own, and knew very little about Reims. But, in taking this risk to move across the ocean, I, like many of my peers, cultivated a spirit of resilience, curiosity and confidence. Looking ahead, I will use these past four years as a reminder of the value of embracing the uncertain and the necessity of expanding one’s comfort zone whenever possible.
What did you enjoy most about living and studying at Sciences Po in Reims and then at Columbia University in New York?
I loved our campus in Reims and the unique community we made ourselves. Friends quickly became family, and we studied together, travelled together and grew immeasurably close in two short years. Sciences Po is special in that the university brings together a collection of highly motivated students interested in the social sciences and committed to solving some of the world’s toughest challenges, but at the same time, the student body retains a diverse array of backgrounds, experiences, perspectives and approaches. This reality fostered an ideal learning environment and a campus that felt like a home for me.
When I moved to New York, Columbia’s twenty-four-hour libraries made me miss our beloved bibliothèque that closed at 20h00, and the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps was a drastic change from my former town that rests every Sunday. But, studying at Columbia was a perfect mix of collegiate experience with exposure to a world-class city. I was thrilled to get involved with a few of Columbia’s 500+ clubs and organisations, including Youth for Debate, a program that teaches public speaking skills to students in New York City high schools, and the Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs. Our classes would frequently venture outside of the uptown oasis with field trips to institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Opera. Living in New York also gave me the opportunity to go to the United Nations on two occasions as a representative of both Sciences Po and Columbia, intern for Arianna Huffington at her New York-based startup, and enjoy all that the great city has to offer with my friends from both of my universities.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to pursue this path or follow in your footsteps?
Regardless of which path you choose, I think it is crucial to define success on your own terms and optimise for it, rather than try to maximise it. Although things can get hectic, take the time to reflect and figure out what makes you happy and fulfilled, and what you need to be more of your true self. Cultivating a sense of purpose will provide you with the fuel to persevere and overcome any roadblocks you may face, now and in the future.