My POC Experience at RIT: My Assumptions vs. My Reality

Pictured (left to right): Ariel Roberts and Madison Thompson

Pictured (left to right): Ariel Roberts and Madison Thompson.

This post is the first in a new series that I’m calling “My POC Experience at RIT.” I wanted to start this series because I know how I felt coming to RIT as a person of color (POC) not knowing what to expect. It was terrifying! It would be my first time leaving my hometown for an extended period and living independently. I remember all the burning questions I had, like; “What if I don’t know how to make friends?” “How hard will my classes be?”

On top of those questions, as students of color, we find ourselves wondering, “will I be the only POC in my friend group, my classes, my clubs?” “will I feel ‘different’ all the time?” If these are among the things on your mind as a prospective POC student at RIT, know you’re not alone! In this post, I will be sharing my assumptions as a prospective POC student and how they were (thankfully) all proved wrong!

Assumption #1

I would be the only POC in most spaces (friend groups, classes, and clubs).

On paper, having a 36.5% POC population on campus seemed grim. I remember bracing myself for bad experiences. As someone who grew up in a county that was something like 97% white (hi Hunterdon, NJ!) I was so used to microaggressions and feeling othered even if I didn't consciously notice it at the time. I surprised myself by how badly I wanted a different experience at RIT than what I have back home. I desperately wanted to have friends that I didn't have to constantly explain my existence to, and I wanted to see successful people who looked like me in my area of study. Although I was super excited to start my higher education at RIT, I thought this would be a significant obstacle that I’d have to overcome.


There are a lot of us on campus!

My closest friends were the other POC students I met at the Saunders College of Business Academic Day. Although you may come across a few classes where you’re the only POC, I can guarantee you; you will never feel alone. There are a lot of us on campus! And what’s even better is that our community is so welcoming and tight-knit! There are a plethora of clubs and organizations by and for POC students that are all interconnected. Personally, I’m most involved in the Organization of African Students, the Caribbean Student Association, and the Black Awareness Coordinating Committee. Between their general body meetings and bigger events, you’ll have multiple fun outings you can attend during the week. There are also various student-run GroupMes for us to have unfiltered conversations, ask for advice, and share events happening on campus. You can reach out to upperclassmen and ask to borrow textbooks or ask anyone how they found a certain professor. If you ever experience an uncomfortable situation or discover something about RIT you want to change for our betterment, you can drop it in a group chat and people will be happy to help you out.

Ariel posing with friends.

Assumption #2

Dorm life would be a struggle.

During my college search, I heard so many horror stories of hate crimes happening in dorms and they got to me. I was nervous about living in such a tight space with people that I didn't know. And, as someone with a lot of hair, I was particularly dreading wash day because I thought I would be inconveniencing the other girls on my floor.


Dorm life was so fun.

Don’t get me wrong, being that close to other people is something you’ll have to get used to, but if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll have a good time and make lasting friendships. Because my floor was mostly guys, there was never once a moment when all of the shower stalls were taken in the girl’s bathroom. In addition to the bathrooms with multiple shower stalls, most floors also have a single co-ed bathroom that I used when I washed my hair so that I wouldn’t be holding anyone up in the regular bathroom. Another thing I can credit my amazing experience to was my RA (Resident Advisor). As a POC herself, she made it clear that we could come to her with anything, and she worked hard to put on fun events for our floor. You can expect your RA to hold meetings and activities for your floor so that you can get to know the students that you live with. Some of my best friends to this day are the people from my building during my first year.

Assumption #3

Class discussions about politics and business would be alienating.

This happened to me a lot in my hometown. When discussing politics or current events in class that had to do with racism, I was either alienated for sharing my opinion or expected to say something to the point where it was awkward. Either way, it always made me feel uncomfortable. Coming to RIT, I was scared that classroom environments would be dominated by a perspective that I did not share.


Being an RIT student broadened my perspective.

I met other black students whose views were fundamentally different than mine, white students whose views matched up with mine, and everything in between. In my experience, class discussions always have a spectrum of views and perspectives to offer regardless of the class’s racial composition. Looking back, I realize that my fears were rooted in a very black-and-white way of viewing the world. I’m glad that through my experiences from classes, clubs, and campus life in general, RIT provided a safe space for me to grow in that sense.

Thanks for reading to the end of this post; I hope it was helpful! I’ll be writing more posts like this one that pertain to being a POC at RIT. So look out for posts about the clubs that made my first year, what kinds of programs are in place for POC students, and the change that we POC have made on campus.

About the author

Second-Year Student
New Media Marketing

I love being active, singing in the shower, anything Marvel, and all things mental health.