Transitioning from east side Detroit to the far east
Drew Walker grew up on Detroit’s east side. Shortly after April 2016 Commencement, she will take up residence in the Far East, either Japan or Korea, for a year or two break before graduate school in Public Health.
Her baccalaureate will be in International Studies with concentration areas in East Asian Studies and Global Health and Environment, which she is completing in four years while working 20- to 30-hours per week as a residential advisor in her junior and senior years.
“It opened my eyes to opportunities I didn’t see while growing up in Detroit. It challenged me but also gave me support system of friends, faculty and staff.”
“I took Japanese at Cass [Technical High School], and really loved the language and the things I learned about the culture,” said Drew. “Among the many college options I had, I chose the University of Michigan because of the intensive Japanese program at the Residential College. Coming out of high school, I believed U-M would be best for me, would challenge me a lot. As I approach alumna status, I know I was right.”
Drew remembers moving around a lot, attending a mix of private and public schools through fifth grade. She lived with her grandmother during high school, after her mother passed away while Drew was in middle school. “My mother raised me as a single parent with a GED. Both she and my grandmother were very protective of me. They gave me a great environment. I never had experiences outside of Detroit, but they gave me opportunities to engage with the arts, music and writing and more.
“My mother and grandmother, who passed away in 2015, were always really proud of my achieving so many things, going to college and studying overseas. My entire family, including 15 cousins, has always been very encouraging,” she says.
Both of Drew’s overseas experiences were based in Japan. “In 2014, I studied Language and Cultures with the Japan Center for Michigan Universities in Hikone, Japan,” she says. “And again, I studied abroad in 2015 with an Environmental History program through CGIS.” CGIS is the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts’ Center for Global and Intercultural Study.
At U-M, Drew tapped two major support networks, the First-Generation College Students @ Michigan and the Blavin Scholars’ comprehensive program of mentoring, academic and personal counseling, social and volunteering opportunities.
Her strongest memories of the university are how “It opened my eyes to opportunities I didn’t see while growing up in Detroit. It challenged me, but also gave me a solid support system of friends, faculty and staff.”
“My experiences here affirmed my identity as a first gen from a lower-socio economic background. At the same time, I believe the University should make those identities more visible on campus.”
Her advice to U-M first gens of the future? “Don’t pass up opportunities to grow!”