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Esther Akinsanya '21
Howard University
March 26, 2024


Esther began to build her college prospect list in the spring of 2020. Like many high school juniors at the time, her college discovery process was coming into focus just as COVID shook the foundation of what to expect for college and so much more. Until then, Esther, a native northern Californian, hadn’t considered venturing out of state for college. Her entire family lived in California and being close was important to her. However, having gone to Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) for the majority of her life, Esther broadened her search as the increased media coverage of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) encouraged her to look beyond her home state of CA. In particular, Beyonce’s Homecoming highlighted for Esther the rich culture and community at HBCUs. She reflects, “It truly opened my eyes to the diversity of a college experience at an HBCU.”

How did you choose your Major?
Esther knew she wanted to study business and wanted to go to an HBCU so when she found out that Howard had one of the top business schools, it all came together. Indeed the program has been appropriately challenging, but Esther felt well-prepared. She has enjoyed learning about every aspect of business from organizational behavior to accounting. Howard’s business majors are grouped in small cohorts as freshmen, and her cohort/team has been central to her college experience. From group projects to a close knit friend group, Esther credits her major and the program’s small feel for creating a meaningful college experience, providing leadership opportunities and serving as a launching pad for summer internships. Now a junior, Esther serves on an executive board that manages the freshman Team Leaders and the overall team program. With companies coming to campus to interview for summer internship opportunities, Esther will be returning to EY-Parthenon for a second year internship this summer. Last year she joined a team working on a merger and she is looking forward to taking on even more responsibility on her new assignment this summer.

What do you think most prepared you for college?
Esther was surprised by how much group work there was in college, at least for business majors. She says, “the amount of group work at Athenian really prepared me for college, especially that first year where we worked so closely with our teams of 15-20.” Esther felt she was more prepared than some of her classmates to collaborate, divide up work, and help hold herself and others accountable for their parts of a project. In general, Esther feels her ability to stay organized and manage her time (a skill she gained being very active at Athenian), helped make her adjustment to college much easier than it was for some.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Having hesitated at first to leave California, Esther says, “don’t be afraid of big changes. Even if it is not what you thought you’d do, be open. Being at Howard and in Washington DC has brought so many cool things into my life that I’ve embraced and I continue to grow through the new.” Esther also recommends finding your people and community through common interests. She has joined the Howard University Community Choir, found a local Church, and created a community of friends that have become family. 
Will Carey '19
University of Denver
February 21, 2024

Many high school juniors and seniors navigate the college search process without knowing what they want to study. This was the case for Will Carey ’19. Not sure what he wanted to major in, he cast a wide net and chose a school without a particular program in mind. Ultimately, University of Denver–the first school he visited–felt like the best fit.

How did you discover your major?
COVID hit midway through Will’s first year which serendipitously gave him more time (and less pressure) to figure out what he wanted to study. During his months of remote school, Will focused on fulfilling his general education requirements. Knowing that University of Denver had a strong business school, he decided to take various business courses in hopes of finding something that interested him. He was surprised to find that accounting clicked with him, despite not having any prior experience in the subject. He noted, “Accounting wasn’t immediately exciting like some other majors might have been, but I saw something in it. I decided to take a leap and give it a try.” A few courses in, Will saw a path forward– one that would allow him to get both a bachelor’s and master’s in accounting in less than five years through DU’s 4+1 MAcc program. 

Will’s chosen major has provided  great opportunities for professional experience including several internships. He will begin a full-time job at a large accounting firm this summer. He is also pursuing his CPA license. In reflecting on his college experience, Will said, “While this wasn’t the career path that I expected when I applied to college, I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out.” Will is also minoring in philosophy, an interest discovered at Athenian. Having a minor in something totally different has created balance for Will. He said, “I enjoy my philosophy classes…they help you think more analytically and creatively, skills can be applied to every aspect of life. While my major and my minor are very different, they compliment each other in unexpected ways.” 

How did Athenian most prepare you?
While Will mentioned time-management and personal responsibility as important skills instilled at Athenian, he said, “The single most valuable skill from my time at Athenian was my ability to write. It was not the easiest thing for me in high school, but my classes pushed me to improve. I have seen a lot of people really struggle with writing in college. Regardless of your major, you need to know how to write..it is important to know how to analyze information and also how to convey it to others. I think Athenian really set me up for success in that regard.”

What advice would you give your younger self?
“When picking something you want to do with your life, be open minded, the thing you might be most qualified for or enjoy most might be something you don’t even know about yet,” Will said. He added, “You aren’t always going to be immediately passionate about something…sometimes interests develop over time and you need to put in some work before you are able to enjoy them.” And to those thinking about a possible major, Will said, “It took me a while to recognize that I wasn’t going to find a major that fully defined who I was. While it is important to choose something that truly interests you, developing other interests and hobbies that don’t directly correspond with your major or career are really important in life.”
Emily von Zedtwitz '22 
University of California Santa Barbara 
February 5, 2024 

Emily von Zedtwitz ‘22, spent her early school years in Shanghai, China, where she attended a German school, learning German, Mandarin, and English. With a Swiss father and Taiwanese mother, Emily’s interest in international relations preceded her time at Athenian. She shared, “While I lived in Shanghai until I was ten, I often visited my grandparents in Switzerland, and was fascinated by the different forms of governments I have come into contact with (China, Switzerland, and the US mainly), including differences in economic regulations and trading policies that generated an interest in the way these countries interacted with one another.” This marked the beginning of Emily’s interest in foreign policy and affairs. Once at Athenian, Emily started acting on her passions, embracing Athenian’s Pillars of both Internationalism and Democracy, by selecting courses that concentrated on current events, political philosophy, government structures and how nations interact with each other.

Why did you choose UCSB and your major? 
When Emily began her college search process she was looking for schools with strong foreign affairs and law programs. Although UCSB does not offer an international relations major, Emily knew this was the right school for her just after one visit. She did her research and determined that a major in political science (with two minors in German and Chinese studies) would give equally as much of a foundation for law school and would provide course offerings to support an international relations specialization. Through her course selection, she has been able to fuel her interest in comparative politics, and get a taste of the subject matter she would like to pursue in law school–international transaction law. Last summer, Emily even had the opportunity for hands-on law experience serving as a judicial intern for the Hon. Clifford R. Anderson III at the Superior Court of California, Santa Barbara County.

How did Athenian most prepare you for college?
Emily credits Athenian for providing her the foundation for enacting change. “Athenian encourages students to take the lead on their own learning and provides a platform for student voice through community outreach such as Town Hall and the faculty’s exceptional approach to teaching.”  While at Athenian, she co-founded the student store and learned to take an idea to fruition. She saw a need and opportunity for service, and worked alongside classmates, community service directors, and nonprofit organizations on developing a proposal that outlined a permanent location, the logistics as well as funding and staffing plans. Emily now serves in student government at UCSB where she holds a legislative role as a Senator– an elected position responsible for directing the $13 million UCSB receives in student tuition and fees. “Had I not gone to Athenian, I would not have had the confidence to run for this position. Because a campus-wide election takes place to finalize the vote, I experienced a lot of pressure to run a campaign against my competitors who wanted the same position [which she did in the spring of her sophomore year].” Emily is looking to take on a higher role in student government next year, but for now is busy drafting bills and resolutions to enact change around campus. She is most proud of the work she did on representing student concerns about the addition of a new and controversial dorm on campus. Working on behalf of the student body, the UCSB Senate advocated for student concerns and helped halt further planning of construction. 

What advice would you give your younger self?
While Emily appreciates the opportunities provided by Athenian to further cultivate her passion for international relations, she never went on a Round Square trip or exchange. She said, “My biggest regret was I never took full advantage of Athenian’s international opportunities through Round Square.”  Emily plans to study abroad next year though, deciding between a political science program in either Geneva and Paris–both with incredible programs that directly connect to her course of study.
Ayush Bakhandi '22
University of California, Berkeley
January 23, 2024


Ayush joined Athenian in 10th grade. Coming from a large public school, he was quick to take advantage of Athenian’s many opportunities. When Mark Friedman shared an internship opportunity at John Muir Hospital early in his first year, Ayush jumped at the opportunity, committing three hours a week to volunteering through his senior year of high school. Though he aged out of the youth internship program upon graduation, Ayush is now a volunteer in John Muir’s adult program where he works in the surgery unit. 

Why did you choose University of California, Berkeley?
For Ayush, going to a UC made economic sense. He said, “Berkeley ranked high, was affordable and close to home. I knew I’d get a great education and would be in a good position to apply to medical school.” And yet, UC Berkeley was not on Ayush’s college list until late in the process. He admits to having made some assumptions about the school that he began to reconsider after his father encouraged him to make an informal visit while at a nearby appointment. He applied to and was accepted at the College of Natural Resources, which would support his interest in pursuing  a pre-med track. Now in his second year, he is majoring in Molecular Environmental Biology with a declared concentration in Human Health. Ayush has found the College of Natural Resources to feel a lot like a small college within a large University.

How did you feel Athenian most prepared you for college?
Ayush feels Athenian prepares students to do well in any college environment. “I didn't realize how self-sufficient I’d become until I started college. I knew how to study for classes that don't require homework for example. I knew how to use the resources around me to the best of my ability – that is just something Athenian fosters,” shared Ayush. He added, “the method and approach to education at Athenian is similar to what I’ve experienced in college – so much is up to you and how much you want to learn.”  In addition to the academic skills, Ayush credits Athenian with helping him develop the skills to find his community in college. He knew how to connect with clubs and other interests outside of academics, and knew the value of striving for balance between academic and non-academic pursuits. As a former member of the Athenian hOWLers, Ayush has intentionally sought out ways to continue with his high school interests, including participation in an Acapella group.

What advice would you give your younger self?
“Something I'd tell myself and everyone in general is be yourself and have fun,” said Ayush. For those beginning to think about college, Ayush said,  “A lot of the time people come into high school with a pre-conceived notion of what college they want to go to. It’s good to have intention, but don’t limit yourself and be open.”
Athenian Alumni Stay Connected Through Summer Affinity Camps
January 17, 2024