GS Graduate Proves it is Never Too Late to Continue Your Story
Navigating the demands of work, studies, and family has made the college journey challenging for Beata Izabella Jimenez ‘23GS, but she’s proven that success is possible so long as you never stop believing in yourself.
Having grown up in Warsaw, Poland, Beata Izabella Jimenez ‘23GS moved to the United States about 20 years ago to start a family. It wasn’t until her children were grown, however, that she decided to embark on the college journey herself. “When my family was a little older and everyone was into their own things, then there was time for me so I could invest in myself and see what else I could do in life,” she said.
In the spring of 2016, Jimenez enrolled in two courses at Long Island’s Suffolk Community College. She continued her studies over the summer in hopes of smoothing the transition and getting into the swing of an academic schedule. “That was just enough to get me started,” she recalled. “The path was long and I was thinking that I don’t want to take breaks in between because it is tough..it’s been a long journey, but it was all worth it.”
Jimenez discovered Columbia University School of General Studies (GS) at a college fair just prior to graduating from Suffolk. Upon receiving encouragement from the director of admissions, she decided to apply for the following year to continue her studies. “That’s what’s so special. Because I always thought that Ivy League schools wanted the brightest, the youngest students, you know?...I don’t know if I’m the brightest. I’m certainly not the youngest. The only thing I wanted to do was improve myself. And it was obviously enough.”
"I always thought that Ivy League schools wanted the brightest, the youngest students, you know?...I don’t know if I’m the brightest. I’m certainly not the youngest. The only thing I wanted to do was improve myself. And it was obviously enough.”
Balancing school and work was a struggle for Jimenez. Throughout her time at GS, she had to support herself and her family, which only left her with a little extra time to explore additional opportunities on campus. Jimenez often found herself changing jobs simply because they weren’t flexible enough to support her academic schedule. “I have to commute two hours. So it’s two hours one way, two hours the other way. That takes eight hours of your life a week, which could be study, which could be work, which could be anything else you could do within this time.”
When she did find time, however, not only did she dive into each opportunity—she excelled beyond her own expectations.
In the summer of 2022, she took part in the Columbia Global Collaboratory program through the Center for Global Engagement. Working with students in Hong Kong and Brazil, Jimenez helped to develop a recognizable label for sustainable products that supported local communities in the Amazon. Jimenez had to overcome the different time zones, cultures, age differences, and interests to collaborate with her team for a bigger cause. She appreciated being able to learn from and interact with people from different countries while still being in New York.
“Never give up on your dreams and don’t let anybody define you. The only person who can define you is you.”
Jimenez sought out ways to expand her global perspectives through coursework as well. “Even though I majored in economics, art has a special place for me,” she said. Her favorite class, the “Arts of Eastern Cultures,” showed her just how much different cultures from around the world have in common.
“It just even more opened my eyes to how deeply we are all the same, that there are no differences across cultures. We may think that we are all somehow different, but we are all the same, which art proves. Kind of like GS students—all on different paths, but all have the same common goal.”
When asked what advice Jimenez would give to her peers, she said with confidence: “Just keep going. I know there are challenges. There will be challenges. Sometimes you feel frustrated. Sometimes you think like you cannot make ends meet or you won’t be able to accomplish all the assignments, but just keep going…Never give up on your dreams and don’t let anybody define you. The only person who can define you is you.”
Imposter syndrome is an all-too-real feeling among those first starting out on their Columbia journeys. Jimenez is no exception, but she didn’t let that stop her from pursuing her dream of an education. “The first few classes, I think we all suffer from imposter syndrome,” she said. “I think university studies is a great resource for new students—at least it helped me realize that I am not an imposter. It was something that Dean O’Connell, who was my dean at the time, said: ‘Admissions doesn’t make mistakes.’”