My first quarter was not what I expected. I struggled academically, socially, and emotionally. I was faced with cultural shock and felt as if I did not belong at UCI. I was struggling academically because I did not know how to study or prepare for midterms and finals. I had to work extra hard because my school did not prepare me for an environment such as this one. I was afraid to speak up during discussion or lectures because of my low self-confidence. My community located in South Central, Los Angeles surrounded me with negative stereotypes that constantly brought me down. There’s a stereotype that surrounds our community, in which it is not expected of us to attend college after high school graduation. South Central students are expected to become high school dropouts. My family, such as my cousins, were engulfed by these expectations as many of our community members are. However, if I learned something in my community, it is to take initiative and seek for help. I looked for help by enrolling in tutoring programs that were available, yet I still struggled.
My community has taught me many valuable life lessons that have helped throughout my life. I have met many amazing people whether it is through volunteering, school, campus organizations, amongst others that have inspired me and guided to pursue my goal of becoming a College Counselor. I personally feel I can contribute to creating a community for students as a peer academic advisor because I really enjoy helping others. I will be able to describe and share my experiences with others in hopes of helping them grow. It is important to create a community for them because coming into college can be very overwhelming. As a first generation student myself I had difficulty adjusting to college but having a community provided me with a support system. I want to create a community amongst my peers that can be a source of encouragement and comfort to those that might feel discouraged during their college careers. Peer academic advisors play an important role because they have the ability to help someone achieve success throughout their college career by providing them with support. College is a time for growth, and I want to foster an environment that is understanding and welcoming. I want to show individuals that despite where they come from, they should never underestimate their own abilities because they can be successful regardless of their backgrounds.
My second year of college I came across an organization called CampMed. During the time of the application process I was a very shy individual and often doubted my own abilities because of my low self-confidence. I was afraid of rejection but my willingness to get out of my comfort zone motivated and encouraged me to apply to this organization. CampMed is a non-profit educational-enrichment organization dedicated to provide an opportunity for high school students facing social-economic barriers to pursue higher education. As a low-income first generation student myself, having the opportunity to help mentor high school students to pursue higher education reminded of the mentors who helped me get into where I am now. I remember being in high school and getting inspired by genuine people from organizations similar to CampMed, hoping that one day I could be like them and inspire those around me.
I was nervous at first mentoring students from Estancia High School in Costa Mesa but that feeling went away once I started talking to the students. As part of this program we fundraise throughout the year to provide three-day camping that promotes the development of team building skills to high school students. During camp I often found myself in situations in which my communication and public speaking skills were essential in enhancing my character development especially in getting to know my campers. I was able to give them advice whether it was about college or just sharing my own personal experiences on how I got to where I am now. I hoped to inspire them and provide a support system for them.
The CampMed program has really changed my perspective in so many different ways. It helped me figured out how organizations, such as this one, can make such a huge impact in one's life. I was fortunate enough to finally understand what it felt to be that person whom people look up to and this, in turn, increased my self-confidence. This is why I applied to be a peer academic advisor. I want to help students in any possible way to ensure their college year goes as smooth as possible. I want to watch them progress throughout the school year and help ease that burden that some of us face when not knowing which courses to take. Additionally, I hope to provide a welcoming environment where they feel comfortable and supported.
My ideal peer academic advisor would be someone who is empathetic, compassionate, hardworking, open-minded, enthusiastic and patient. College can be a difficult time for students, but having a peer academic advisor can help ease those emotions of intimidation, nervousness, and fear that everyone faces when not knowing which courses to take. A peer academic advisor should be someone that people can confide in and rely on for support whether academically or even emotionally.
I remember staffing for SPOP (Student Parent Orientation Program), and there were times in which some of my participants were very shy especially during group discussion and activities. I understood their feeling of intimidation because I often found myself being very shy my first year. In SPOP I would often challenge myself by approaching those shy individuals to reassure them that I was there to support them throughout the next two days of orientation and throughout college. I wanted them to know that they had a friend to whom they could come and talk to about anything.
Communication, and having the ability to communicate well with others, is an essential part of being a peer academic advisor. At times it can be difficult to do things on our own, but a successful peer academic advisor should seek support when needed and be in constant communication with his/her peers and supervisors/organizers. Also, as a peer academic advisor it is important to keep an open-mind because many students come from a wide range of diverse backgrounds and experiences. One needs to be able to work with a variety of personalities and lifestyles in order to help create a safe environment for everyone without judgment.
I remember arriving for my orientation in London for my study abroad this past fall, and I can say being in an environment way different from my own was extremely intimidating and challenging; but being exposed to different cultures allowed me learn and understand multiple perspectives. Additionally, during my stay in London I was part of the student ambassadors and would have weekly meetings with our program coordinator to discuss any issues, concerns or questions that my fellow peers had. A successful peer academic advisor should be organized because he/she is responsible for administrative work, answering students’ academic questions, amongst other things. Although, there were a few times in which I felt homesick I was able to create a community amongst roommates and peers. I hope to create a friendly environment among my peers that would create that sense of community amongst us.
I am currently interested in pursuing a career in becoming a community college counselor. I am a double major in Public Health Policy and Education Science. As a peer academic advisor I have gained hands on experience on my future career path. Also, I have been able to increase my awareness on university services and academic operations available to students. I hope to gain a better understanding of future career opportunities available for my major and pursue a professional graduate degree in counseling.
Study Abroad in London, with friends