Sofia Chen Ma (B’23) graduated from the McDonough School of Business on May 20. For three of her four years at Georgetown, she served on the student board, most recently, as president of the Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP), a program for low-income, first-generation students. In this first-person narrative, she shares her path from Mexico to Georgetown, the legacy she leaves behind and the person who inspired her to take risks.
I visited Georgetown during Hoya Saxa Weekend in 2019. I was with other first-generation, low-income students, and a majority of us were seeing campus for the first time. Everyone was so excited.
When I entered the school, something clicked. I was like, this feels right. But I didn’t allow myself to say that until I saw my financial aid package. I didn’t want to hold onto hope.
At the end of the weekend, I went to the financial aid office. The financial aid counselor turned her monitor around and pointed to a number. She said, ‘This is your financial aid.’ The number was insane. I had never seen that much money in my life. I took a breath and held back tears. I had been bottling up four years of worries and tensions and aspirations into that one moment.
I left the office and stood outside Healy, knowing I had a full ride and would be spending my next four years here. I called my mom, crying on the phone.
I said, ‘Hey mom, I think I’m coming to the school and am going to major in business.’ She said, ‘See, I told you that four years ago.’
I hate when my mom’s right. But she was right.
Chen Ma grew up in a small town in Sonora, Mexico, near the west coast of Mexico. Her mother had immigrated there from China to help her family open a chain of Chinese restaurants. Chen Ma’s father soon followed.
When I was growing up, I had a lot of connections to business without really knowing it. My family immigrated to Mexico to open Chinese restaurants in town. I was always around people who owned restaurants or had their own side hustles.
When we first relocated, we lived in employee housing less than a block from the restaurant; we could see the restaurant from our place.
My life could have looked parallel to a lot of my cousins who still live around the restaurants. But my mom’s always taken risks. She was willing to be different than the norm, and that’s how I ended up here.
When I was 13, I moved to Brooklyn, New York, for middle school. My mom stayed in Mexico. She sacrificed being with her family for us to pursue an education. She had to be comfortable saying, ‘Let’s take a gamble. You’re moving here, and I’m staying here. I’m still going to do my best to be your mom.’
A lot of times I would think, I have to make her sacrifice worth it – and be able to afford it. I knew my parents had put aside their dreams for me to pursue mine.