Culture / Newsy

20-Year-Old Houstonian Emerges as Leader in Home From College Movement — Innovative Digital Platform Aids Lost Students

Finding a New Way During the University Shutdowns

BY // 06.19.20

In mid-March, college students nationwide abruptly packed up their belongings and headed home to finish their spring semester online due to COVID-19. With summer break in full swing, they’ve lost vital resources — internships with access to career services, job fairs, face-to-face connections and engaging content.

College students stress about the uncertainty of their futures, but a groundbreaking platform has launched to help them during this challenging time. 

Houston’s own Andrea Anaya works remotely for a new company called Home From College (HFC) to help provide college students with resources that are no longer available. A 20-year-old rising junior at Cornell University, Anaya is stuck at home just like almost other student at the moment.

20-year-old rising junior, Andrea Anaya, at Cornell University
Twenty-year-old junior Andrea Anaya at Cornell University

What is Home From College?

Julia Haber, originally from Westchester, New York, is the CEO and founder of Home From College and another student initiative, WAYV. A builder of startups, Haber combines her passion for shared experiences and human connections to focus on HFC amid the global pandemic.

CEO and founder of Home From College and WAYV
Julia Haber, CEO and founder of Home From College and WAYV

HFC is a digital platform widely run by college students that showcases short-form content from industry leaders. Each week, the website releases aspirational content for students in a time when their resources have been taken away.

The company highlights innovators, business leaders and trendsetters across various industries: tech, media, marketing, fashion, entrepreneurship, etc. 

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The website also features a community page where students can sign up for free access to Office Hours, virtual Q&A with speakers, the 2009 Club, a mentorship program for 2020 graduates, and Micro-Internships, company-sponsored projects. 

COVID-19’s College Shakeup

At first, Andrea Anaya had mixed emotions about finishing her courses at home. She was thrilled to reconnect with Houston friends but disappointed about missing her spring semester on campus. The coronavirus pandemic also affected her summer plans of interning in New York.

Personally dealing with the drawbacks of going to college during a global pandemic, Anaya wanted to help make a difference for the community. Her passion to work for Home From College stemmed from listening to her friend’s concerns. 

“Many of my friends are upset about their internships being canceled, not knowing where their futures lie,” Anaya tells PaperCity. “As sophomores in college, it’s an important time for us to get the experience in the field that we are interested in, so that junior year you know where you want to intern and hopefully work there after you graduate.

Andrea Anaya at Cornell before returning home for her spring semester online
Andrea Anaya at Cornell before returning home for her spring semester online

“Even though we are living through a pandemic, I want to relieve stress and provide hope for college students.”

Whether you’re an aspiring media strategist, entrepreneur, or consultant, Anaya assists in providing useful information and building connections for students.

A Balancing Act

Anaya’s remarkable determination comes from learning efficient time-management skills during her time at Houston’s St. John’s School.

Throughout high school, she balanced her intense course work with working as a lawyer’s personal assistant. “I thrive off being busy,” she says. “I am definitely a Northeasterner at heart.”

Even as a busy college student, she balanced working as a bartender with interning for Julia Haber’s other company, WAYV.

Thinking Outside the Classroom

Before COVID-19, WAYV was in the midst of building a business that would create community-centric spaces on college campuses.  The goal was to disrupt the traditional college experience for outside-the-classroom learning and a community focused on career development.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Haber shifted her focus to a completely new venture to accommodate college student’s needs from home — thus, creating Home From College. 

Anaya’s Daily Work Routine

Anaya handles a majority of the external communication at Home From College and oversees more than 100 fellow students.

“Head of Community at Large” at HFC, Andrea Anaya oversees 100+ people in the student community.
Head of community at large at HFC, Andrea Anaya oversees 100-plus people in the student community.

On a more personal level, Anaya maintains contact with all the students involved, as well as managing co-workers and interns. Showing her ability to take on higher-level tasks, she also provides insight on influencer and content strategy, maintains internal communications between the different departments, and retains engagement on the community platform.

PaperCity: How did you first come in contact with founder Julia Haber and how did you end up working for her?

AA: During my freshman year of college, I was scrolling through Instagram and came across Julia’s WAYV account and thought WAYV was a really cool concept (especially since I could relate to the fact that I moved to college in Ithaca — a small town — from Houston).

Next, I messaged Julia’s account and said I was interested in working with her company and asked to apply. Throughout that first year, I just did little tasks here and there where I was needed.

It wasn’t until the beginning of my sophomore year that I helped create and run a pop-up at Cornell in partnership with Shopify. The pop-up traveled to a lot of different schools such as Syracuse University, Babson, and Bentley.

PC: When did founder Julia Harber have the idea to create this company and when did it actually launch? Can you also talk about the company’s mission?

AA: She had this great idea on March 16 and texted me about it the next day. Home From College launched on May 15.

Julia wanted to give students access to helpful resources while being away from their college campuses. Now with COVID-19 happening, her concept now applies to even more people around the world. 

PC: How has working with this company during COVID-19 personally affected you and your work ethic?

AA: First of all, with a start-up company like this, you have to be willing to adapt. Everything will not work out like you imagined, especially since we’re not all in one place working together.  We use Slack to communicate with our team. It’s a more informal process.

Never before have I had to be on my phone as much as I am now. Before my school ended, I had to compartmentalize my time. In the mornings I had meetings, so I had to dedicate my time to that and work on school for a couple of hours after.  For me, it was all about writing things down and staying organized to make sure I got things done in a timely manner.

I always try to extend myself to do everything, and it played out really well for me with HFC because I do have a very large role for my age and experience, and I’m really grateful for that. 

PC: How have the circumstances due to COVID-19 affected any of your employees ? Has this brought you closer in any way as a community?

AA: Honestly, I think it has helped us think of a lot more inspirational content.

Margot Lee, who is head of social media strategy, really emphasizes the importance of giving back to students.

She has this whole video where she writes a letter to college seniors about how to move on from this time, saying: “Your college graduation and internships just got taken away, but how can we stay active and continue pursuing our dreams and careers.” 

PC: Does your college, Cornell, use Home from College yet? If not, do you plan on trying to bring it to campus?

AA: Yes, many Cornell students are members of the HFC community page and follow HFC’s Instagram. However, we are using this time to solidify our platform, so it can be applied when students go back to college.

To expand on that idea, the HFC website allows students to view helpful resources online, and the community page allows them to participate in other initiatives. It’s just all about giving students the opportunity to connect.

PC: What is one of your favorite speakers featured on Home from College’s website? What stood out from their speech that you could incorporate in your own student life?

AA: We actually have our office hours session tomorrow with Christian Navaro. With office hours, students on our community page can join a Zoom call with different industry leaders.

I really like Christian, since I had an opportunity to connect with him separately. He used to work with Spotify, and it’s my dream to intern for them. Even though he didn’t specialize in the music industry, his passion for music and knowledge for marketing allowed him to assume a role at Spotify and now at Soul Cycle.

Andrea Anaya prepares for office hours session with Christian Navaro
Andrea Anaya prepares for an Office Hours session with Christian Navaro.

He has this concept he talks about called “pointy elbows,” and it’s essentially a metaphor about how to stick out in a room full of people. I usually end up being the youngest person in the room, and it can be difficult to command that kind of respect for myself. So the pointy-elbows metaphor is very applicable to me.

PC: Where do you see yourself after you graduate? Do you plan to keep working with Home from College? Or is it too soon to tell?

AA: I think HFC is a great starting point for me. It’s crazy how many people have reached out to me with their admiration, which has given me a lot of hope for my career after college.

I think I really do thrive in a management position in any kind of industry. I have the mind to break things down well and make sure that people stick to a task.

My end goal has always been real estate, finance, business, and then going to law school, but working at HFC has definitely swayed me away from that. Who knows? My skill sets might lie somewhere else.

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