YearUp/Roxbury Community College Opportunity Scholarship Recipient, Christian Cartagena

What 3 words encapsulate your Northeastern University experience:
Supportive, Transformative, Stimulating

Getting a degree while life is happening isn’t always easy. What are some of the challenges you’ve had to face at Northeastern and how have you overcome them?

The relentless cycle of working in the early hours, diving into homework late into the night, and reserving weekends for deep dives into my studies created a moment in my life where I was frequently saying “No, I can’t make it. Sorry.” to my family and friends.

Prioritization was the cornerstone of my survival strategy. I had to discern the urgent from the important, constantly recalibrating my focus to align with the goals I have set for myself. I have been in a constant dance, ensuring that no area was neglected while avoiding falling behind on my academic commitments. Being organized has become my compass in this journey so far.

Calendars, planners, and to-do lists were my allies, helping me chart a course through the dense fog of responsibilities. Attention to detail is becoming second nature, as missing a deadline or overlooking a task could jeopardize a lot.

What were some of the reasons you chose to join the Northeastern community? Since joining, what have been some of the opportunities and challenges you have experienced?

I chose to join Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies due to its flexible online classes, allowing me to work in the mornings and manage living expenses in the expensive city of Boston, MA. The flexible scheduling was a key factor for me, as it allowed me to learn part-time or full-time, setting my own pace while still maintaining my daily life. The city is rich with opportunities, and Northeastern stood out as a pathway to acquiring relevant skills and knowledge. Northeastern’s commitment to experiential learning was appealing. The emphasis on real-world applications through case studies, consulting projects, and collaboration with employers aligns with my desire for practical knowledge – learn it and put it into practice! One-on-one interactions with my professors have provided me with additional support, ensuring a more complete understanding of course material. Overall, Northeastern has not only offered me a flexible and supportive learning environment but has also provided avenues for networking and gaining valuable insights from diverse perspectives.

What has your journey at Northeastern University revelated to you about yourself?

My journey at Northeastern University has revealed a lot about myself. I’ve faced numerous emotional challenges, particularly with both of my parents experiencing disabilities from car accidents and work injuries. Despite the stress and sadness that accompanies these circumstances, it has instilled in me a deep sense of determination to overcome adversities and to handle my challenges with pride. My experience at Northeastern has taught me valuable lessons in independence. I’ve learned that effective communication is at the core of navigating through academic and personal challenges.

It’s crucial to ask for help when I’ve needed it, and to trust that people are more than willing to assist, but they may not be aware of what I need or what would be helpful unless I tell them! Overcoming the fear of asking questions when faced with uncertainty has been a significant part of my growth. Being a Northeastern student has been an inspiring journey. Each completed class shows I am not only a step closer to my goal of obtaining a bachelor’s degree but also another achievement added to my collection. This experience has affirmed that I am capable of achieving remarkable things. It’s a testament to the power of determination, effective communication, and the willingness to seek assistance when necessary— qualities that have become integral to my personal and academic growth at Northeastern University.

What advice do you have for others considering higher education — either at Northeastern or elsewhere?

Embarking on the higher education journey, especially at institutions like Northeastern, requires a blend of determination, effective time management, and a proactive approach to challenges. As a student, I’ve faced the intricate dance of balancing work, academics, and personal life. The key to navigating this delicate balance lies in meticulous organization and attention to detail. Creating a structured schedule, breaking down tasks, and keeping clear priorities have been crucial in ensuring I don’t fall behind on coursework while meeting other life demands.

In my experience at Northeastern, the institution’s emphasis on flexibility and experiential learning has been instrumental. The flexible scheduling allowed me to adapt my learning journey to my unique circumstances, making education accessible despite a demanding schedule.

Engaging in real-world projects, networking events, and discussions with professors enhanced my understanding and provided valuable insights beyond the classroom. Moreover, my journey at Northeastern has taught me the significance of effective communication and seeking help when needed. The university community is filled with resources, and the willingness to ask questions and request support has been a vital part of my success. I’ve learned that every completed class represents not only a step closer to a degree but also a tangible achievement, reinforcing my belief in my capabilities. For those considering higher education, my advice is to approach it with resilience, organization, and a willingness to seek guidance.

If you’re a current student, why are you interested in the degree you’re pursuing? What motivates you?

Growing up in a household where finances were a constant struggle, I developed a deep-seated desire for financial stability and success. My insecurities stemming from our economic situation fueled my aspiration to emulate the confident and accomplished businessmen I saw on television.

Choosing to major in finance and accounting was an obvious decision for me. I started my academic journey at a community college, earning my associates in business administration. Subsequently, I participated in a program called Year Up in Boston, where I focused on investment operations. Now, as I pursue my bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting at Northeastern, my motivation remains rooted in my past experiences. My primary goal is to understand money to safeguard not only my own financial future but also those of my family, and friends. The vision of my future self serves as a powerful motivator. I envision a confident, happy individual, unburdened by financial stress and capable of positively impacting others. Each day, I strive to live up to this future self, driven by the prospect of not only securing my own success but also contributing to a world filled with more smiles and opportunities for others.

What are you hoping to do after you graduate? Where do you imagine yourself 5 years after school?

As a current student, my aspirations post-graduation are deeply intertwined with my passion for the finance industry. Currently employed with JPMorgan in trade services, my plan is to continue with the company after completing my education. I am committed to immersing myself in the field, aiming to become an expert before considering any transition to another department or company. In the five years following graduation, I envision a trajectory of continuous growth and achievement within JPMorgan. My goal is to stay dedicated to my role in trade services, progressively taking on more responsibilities and demonstrating a mastery of the material. I am ambitious about climbing the corporate ladder and setting a goal to be promoted every two – three years. Beyond personal career development, I have a vision of contributing to the growth and success of my friends and colleagues. I aspire to take on a mentoring role, sharing my knowledge and experiences to help newcomers navigate the complexities of the finance industry. Empowering others to grow both personally and professionally is a key part of my long-term plan. I see myself remaining deeply engaged in the finance world, leveraging my expertise to make meaningful contributions. As part of my journey, I’m contemplating the idea of starting a side business. This venture would not only add an extra challenge to my professional plate but also provide a platform for applying my financial expertise in new and innovative ways.

We know you are more than the person who shows up at Northeastern — what are some of your hobbies and other passions? Where do you find your joy?

Having transitioned from Lawrence, MA, where the urban landscape lacked the glamour of fancy buildings and city lights, my move to Boston has been a source of immense joy. Exploring the city has become a cherished hobby, whether it’s strolling through Boston Common with my golden doodle, reveling in the vibrancy of city lights during night drives, or discovering new eateries that add to the tapestry of possibilities. I love all of the scenic views, people jogging with their dogs, water views, and overall bustling city life has become a source of huge inspiration. Beyond city escapades, my happiness comes from the simple pleasures of spending time with family, friends, and my four-legged companion. Each moment with loved ones adds depth and meaning to my experiences. And yes, even the act of pressing the submit button for my homework brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is another passion, with regular visits to the gym serving as a way to stretch and rejuvenate after extended hours spent at a desk. Finding balance between academic commitments and personal well-being is essential, and these moments of self-care significantly add to my overall happiness and contentment. Life is good!

Anything else you wanted to say that we didn’t cover?

I want to express my deep gratitude for the incredible support the Year Up/Roxbury Community College Opportunity Scholarship has given me. Joining Northeastern University has truly been a transformative experience, and the impact of this scholarship on my academic journey will be immeasurable.

Christian Cartagena, YearUp/Roxbury Community College Opportunity Scholarship Recipient

The financial support will not only alleviate some of the burdens associated with pursuing higher education but will also open doors to a wealth of opportunities for personal and professional growth. Every day, I am reminded of the countless blessings that have come my way since becoming a part of the Northeastern community. The unwavering support from those around me, including the generous donors behind the Opportunity Scholarship, have been instrumental in my academic success and personal development. As I reflect on this journey, I am filled with gratitude for the individuals who believe in my potential and have contributed to making my educational aspirations a reality. The Opportunity Scholarship is not just a financial aid; it is a symbol of encouragement, empowerment, and the belief that with dedication and support, I can achieve great things. I am truly thankful for the blessings that this scholarship represents and excited about the endless possibilities it opens up for my future.