Michelle Obama dished out some valuable advice for young women during her candid Q&A for POPSUGAR's Girl Talk: Knowledge Is Our Superpower event on 26 March. The event featured many familiar celebrity faces and a few new friends, including many young leaders who support girls' education around the world. The former first lady sat down to answer questions from these change-makers, covering a range of topics, from college advice to her teen heroes.
She gracefully responded with helpful tips, life experiences, and anecdotes, especially for girls. Check out a few of her empowering answers below, and get ready to be inspired. We hope you'll join POPSUGAR in donating to the Girls Opportunity Alliance so we can create a brighter future for girls.
What is one thing you wish you knew before going into college?
"There's so much I wish I knew before going to college. I wish I knew that there were other kids from around the country that were away from home for the first time or were feeling unsure or uncertain, because when you go to college you think you're the only one that feels that way so you feel a little alone.
"College isn't something you're supposed to do alone. You have to get out of your dorm room, step outside of your comfort zone, find clubs, join organisations, meet teachers, and build a community all on your own. No one is supposed to get through college all alone. It's a team activity, and you're not supposed to know how to do it before you get there."
"My challenge to you is to make sure that in every class you raise your hand and ask a question. The more you do that, the more you get used to it."
Do you have any advice for young women who struggle with confidence in school?
"We all have those doubts inside of our heads. I know I did, and sometimes I still do. I wonder if I'm good enough, if I know what I'm talking about. But here's one thing that I learned to do: to practice your voice. Sometimes, exercising your voice is as easy as just doing it. My challenge to you is to make sure that in every class you raise your hand and ask a question. The more you do that, the more you get used to it.
"As you continue to do that, class after class, you're going to get more comfortable speaking up. But you won't get comfortable just hanging in the back, so that's my challenge for you. I want you to tell yourself, that in every class, whether you come prepared with a question or you think of it there, that you are going to raise your hand and say something. And I guarantee you that the more you do it, the easier it will become."
How can our fathers, brothers, and husbands become better allies for girls' education?
"The role that men, fathers, brothers, sons, husbands play in the pursuit of equality for girls and women is key. We can't do it without them because we still live in a world where men make the decisions. They oftentimes are the people who make the decisions about who gets accepted to a school, who gets hired in a job.
"So yes, we need more men who understand the value of having inclusivity around the table. To know that that's not just a favour that you're doing for women, that it's a value to the society as a whole. That we will all be better when we have more voices, more educated voices at the table. So yes, we need men and boys and fathers and sons championing this cause because we can't do it without you."
Miss Girl Talk: Knowledge Is Our Superpower? You can still watch it here and we hope you'll consider a donation to the Girls Opportunity Alliance to help adolescent girls and the grassroots leaders working to educate them.