People often say that the college years are the best years of your life. It’s a time of self-exploration, abandoning your parent’s views and forming your own, pursuing knowledge, forming lifetime friendships and becoming more self-aware. All those things were true for me—only after I did some very painful, but very necessary “soul searching.”
I was in deep denial of my albinism, a genetic condition that causes the lack pigment in the hair, skin, and eyes. Throughout my education, I silently struggled with teasing, low self-esteem, and the visual impairment that accompanies the condition. During my college search, it was important for me to find a school where I could feel comfortable. Back then, feeling comfortable meant not standing out. Even though my parents both attended HBCUs, they were supportive of my decision to attend Grinnell College, a small liberal arts school in the cornfields of Iowa.
It truly turned out to be one the best decisions of my life! There are so many moments that I treasure from my time at Grinnell. Perhaps one of the most poignant is meeting another Black woman with albinism. What are the odds of that? It felt so comforting to have somebody there who understood my experience completely. She worked at the college and took on a mentorship role in my life. She helped me work through my issues with albinism. I learned so much from her about our condition and she introduced me to an organization that supports people with albinism and their families, the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH), which I am a current active member today. Now she fulfills the “big sister” role in my life. I’m grateful that we had the chance to meet during my time at Grinnell.
This new found acceptance led me to my passion: educating others about albinism. I’ve learned to be very open about my condition. Living with albinism has taught me these universal lessons which can be applied to make the most out of your college experience:
1. Be open to meeting new people. You never know how they will affect your life in the present and in the future. They just might lead you to your passion!
2. Take advantage of every opportunity to share your interests and passion. I used every opportunity I could to educate others about albinism—my sociology class, an academic conference, in everyday conversation etc.
3. Seek a mentor. I can’t stress how important it is to have a mentor. If someone is doing something you want to do or if you feel that you can benefit from mentorship from that individual then explore that opportunity.
4. Take advantage of every resource your school offers. I became a regular in the student affairs office. They helped me navigate life as a visually impaired student. I also took advantage of learning resources such as the Writing Lab and tutoring services.
5. Be your own advocate. College is truly the beginning of independence and adult living. Nobody is holding your hand anymore! Make the necessary effort to seek out and speak up about the things you desire. You are your best advocate!
Live H.O.P.E. Give H.O.P.E.
Brandi M. Green
About Brandi M. Green
Brandi M. Green is a communications professional by day, writer by night. She uses her gift of writing to educate others about her unique experiences as a Black woman with albinism. Her articles have appeared in various online publications including Madame Noire, For Harriet, xoJane, and Clutch Magazine. When she isn’t busy writing, planning events, daydreaming, taking exercise classes or focusing on albinism outreach she is probably catching up on episodes from her favorite reality T.V. shows (her guilty pleasure.) Catch her on twitter @b_mariegreen.