Attending Georgia Tech was an easy decision for Sunya Ali Fareed. Her brother, Shaaz Fareed, was already a Yellow Jacket, majoring in biochemistry (he graduated in 2015). Compared with other options – University of Georgia, Kennesaw State University, or Georgia State University – Georgia Tech, Sunya believed, would offer the best opportunities for success.
While attending Kennesaw Mountain High School, in Kennesaw, Georgia, Sunya was heavily involved in extracurricular activities. She was vice president of the National Honor Society, fund-raising chair for Habitat for Humanity, and volunteer for various programs. These activities led her to join the service sorority Omega Phi Alpha at Tech. However, nothing in her high-school experience prepared her for college academic work.
“Before Tech, I never really knew how to study, or what it meant to work hard,” Sunya says. “I thought that classes like AP chemistry and advanced calculus were tough, but Tech redefined the meaning of a ‘difficult’ class.” The most challenging academic work Sunya did high school – doing research and then writing and presenting a research paper – was, in hindsight, trivial compared with her senior thesis.
Sunya is graduating with a B.S. in Psychology. Having learned at Tech what it means to work hard, she is poised to build a career helping people with developmental disabilities.
What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?
Tech has been a challenge, but it also helped me grow. I have learned what it means to work hard.
When I was taking freshman chemistry, I thought I was studying hard but I was just memorizing facts. It wasn’t until I took biopsychology, during sophomore year, that I spent time reviewing my notes after class, reading ahead before class, and going to office hours with questions.
That semester, I truly understood and absorbed the material. The time I invested paid off. At Tech, the work you put in is reciprocated with good grades. I have seen the rewards of hard work. Tech taught me that the adage “hard work pays off” is true.
What surprised you most at Georgia Tech?
How willing everyone is to help you, as long as you are willing to make the effort.
The best classes I had were those with professors who were candid and genuinely wanted their students to succeed.
For example, when I met with School of Psychology Professor Jenny Singleton to discuss my research paper, we also talked about my career goals and how being a psychology major could help me achieve them.
Any time I approached a professor (or even a graduate student) in the School of Psychology to ask for help, they were always more than willing to help me. The positive feedback I received from professors helped me succeed in my classes and not be intimidated to ask questions.
Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?
Dr. Jenny Singleton, my academic advisor and research mentor.
When I first came to Tech, I was a pre-med student, debating whether to major in biochemistry or in biomedical engineering. I fell in love with psychology when I took Dr. Singleton’s human development class. She was one of the reasons that I chose psychology as my major, after being undecided for one year. Dr. Singleton has been influential in providing me with useful resources and opportunities. She makes you feel welcome and truly puts your best interests in mind.
What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?
We waited in line for tickets for more than three hours. On the day of the event, we woke up at 6 AM and waited another three hours to enter McCamish Pavilion. Although I had a physics exam that day, I chose to attend this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Obama was one of the best-spoken individuals I have ever listened to. He was extremely relatable, and it felt like he was talking to a peer, not a politician. He talked about making education and student loans more affordable.
Overall, we waited for about seven hours to hear him talk for one hour. However, it was definitely worth it, and I would do it again.
What was the most important outcome of your participation in experiential learning activities?
I participated in both undergraduate research and study abroad.
From doing research, I learned patience. Writing a senior thesis has helped me develop a passion for research.
From studying abroad in Spain, I learned adaptability. Learning to live in a foreign country is no easy task, and things may not always go your way. I learned how to be flexible in my plans and not let mishaps ruin my experience.
What advice would you give to incoming freshmen at Georgia Tech?
- You will go through ups and downs, but those are parts of the college experience.
- Hard work does pay off. Georgia Tech will help you as long as you ask and you show that you’re passionate about your studies.
- Never give up; graduating from Georgia Tech makes it all worth it.
Where are you headed after graduation?
I will be working in an autism clinic for six months, and then, hopefully, start graduate school.
The research experience and opportunities I received at Tech prepared me for this next step. For example, writing a senior thesis made me realize my love for research. Similarly, mentoring students with autism helped me develop a passion for working with individuals with developmental disabilities.