Melisa Lu has been awarded the 2016 Keith Curry Undergraduate Scholarship in recognition of her high academic achievement and her perseverance in pursuing her education – qualities that Dr. Curry, CEO of Compton Community College District, UCI Alumnus, and the scholarship grantor, believes characterized his educational journey.
When asked about her own education journey, Ms. Lu shared the following reflections.
Why did you choose a triple major?
Psychology has always been my first love because I wanted to understand myself and others around me on a deeper, more systematic level. Back in my early high school years, I fell in love with the field because I was a personality junkie interested in things like the Jungian MBTI and the Enneagram. Psychology gave me the knowledge, the power, and the words to communicate to the world what would have otherwise been vague intuitions.
Education was a given the moment UCI established an official School of Education and major in Education Sciences. I have always enjoyed being an educator; in fact, I remember my first career goal back in elementary and middle school was to become a teacher. Since then I have wavered between being a teacher or being a psychologist/therapist, but now I have committed to teaching again! Being a teacher means being a lot of things to students – a teacher is not just as an educator, but also a mentor, a counselor, and a friend. My favorite teachers are the people who have made the most impact on my life, and I hope to make the same positive impact on my future students as well.
English is my other love, and very much a passion. My high school English teacher, Mr. Jackson, is one of my all-time favorite people in the world, and easily one of the most knowledgeable. He taught me about Humanities in a way that was very genuine and real to the heart, that crossed time and space and cultures. Mr. Jackson challenged me to expand my world, and to love the intimate power of stories. It is very possible that if it weren't for his influence, I may never have fallen in love with English as deeply as I did, or decided to teach it as well to future students. There's an intricate beauty to human storytelling about life that isn't quite there anywhere else, and I didn't want to miss an opportunity to immerse myself in this during my college years.
Why did you choose to come to UCI?
I actually come from the San Francisco Bay Area in NorCal, so moving all the way down to SoCal for anything longer than a brief vacation was quite a big step for me. Personality-wise, I'm not the most independent person in terms of practical, daily life skills - my parents always spoiled me out of love, so I grew up rather insecure and anxious about a lot of little things other people would consider basic. Before my freshman year started, for instance, I was scared of learning how to use the laundry machine in the dorm! UC Irvine was far away from home, but I wanted the opportunity to slowly change and break away from the friends and family I had depended on all my life. On my initial tours and visits to the campus, I was captivated by just how sunny the campus was, figuratively and literally, under the blue sky and among the lush greenery. It felt like a home away from home, with how everything fit into a circle I could walk around in freely, and how the students were all so welcoming and friendly. Hearing about HumCore and the School of Social Ecology's dedication to field work and interdisciplinary studies in social-behavioral psychology only enforced my desire to come. On top of everything else, UCI anteaters exclaiming "zot zot!" was just about the best thing ever!
What would you like to share about your background?
My strongest memories growing up are in San Francisco’s Chinatown, where I often spent time with my grandmother. I attended The Salvation Army Summer Day Camp in Chinatown as a day camper, and later, as a counselor. I actually lived in a different town nearby San Francisco, but a big part of my heart really belongs to San Francisco and all the wonderful things the city offers.
Also, I love video games with an intense passion, and it all began when I picked up my older brother's Game Boy Color and Pokémon Red Version as a toddler. Since then, I've fallen in love with not just video games, but also anime/manga, and at its core, storytelling. Because my first language is Cantonese Chinese, I learned a lot of my English from reading these texts and listening to characters speak. By the time I got to middle school, I took up reading and writing fanfiction, as well as editing anime/game music videos. I also began learning Japanese on my own, and joined many fan communities with new friends through our shared interests. Video games, anime, and manga have made an enormous impact on my life, and continue to do so now. I'm so glad I was born at this time!
What activities have you pursued here at UCI?
I'm currently a Peer Academic Advisor for the School of Social Ecology (so don't hesitate to let me or my fellow PAA's know if you ever need any guidance in college!) I'm finishing up my year as an International Peer Group (IPG) Mentor for international first-year students, and it's been very rewarding. Because I aim to be a high school teacher and love working with youth, I'm usually involved with high school outreach. This year, I was both a RISE intern and a mentor for undeserved students in the Asian Pacific Student Association (APSA). Last year, I was involved in psychology research and completed a poster presentation at UROP as well. I enjoy giving back to the community, so I'm always looking for new opportunities to make an impact on campus!
What are your plans for the future?
This summer, I'll be studying abroad at Osaka University for a Japanese language immersion program! My 4th and 5th years will be dedicated to finishing school/major requirements, as well as gaining more experience through my commitments. After graduation, I plan to pursue a teaching credential and master’s degree simultaneously, and potentially participate in a teaching abroad program at least once. Then hopefully I'll be on my way to becoming a great English and psychology high school teacher!