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Reflecting back, and paying it forward

As the class of 2024 eyes graduation, The Highlander asked some of these graduates to reflect upon the lessons, triumphs, and tribulations of their years at UCR. 

Biggest lesson learned

Kow

English

“Putting yourself out there for sure. In classes people are usually focused on learning the material or locked in doing their own thing, it’s hard to really strike up conversations and make that connection unless you’re really lucky … People talk about making friends as an adult, and how difficult it is outside of schooling and [they are] absolutely correct … the way you make friends as an adult is through activities, having a regular schedule where you do something with other people. It’s not just being at the place, it’s doing things together. Which is why theater is so sick, you have a group of people all collaboratively working together for the shared vision. There’s no easier way to speedrun friendships with people. Just put people in a room together for a month and have them work out a thing together.”

Georgina Thomas

Sustainability Studies

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to always throw yourself into things … I’m also an anxious person, so I’m always thinking of all the ‘what-ifs.’ So I would say [to try] to turn off your brain and just throw yourself into situations like joining a club where you might not know anyone or joining some class that you’re not so sure about. All those kinds of things ended up typically being pretty rewarding … I joined Model United Nations (UN) last year, and I went on two of their travel teams to national conferences … When I first joined Model UN I didn’t really know a lot about international politics or even how the UN itself worked,so I was not really sure if I was going to succeed in these conferences, but I was just like, ‘you know what, it’s going to be a cool opportunity.’ You get to travel, you get to see the world, you get to meet a lot of people and so I feel like I just had to take that opportunity. I was so happy that I did too because it influenced where I even want to consider going to grad school and things like that, so I’m really grateful that I just bit the bullet.”

Aura Rivera

Business Administration, concentration in Marketing

“Not having this self-sabotage thing that you feel. Just do what you need to do. I’m a first gen[eration student] and I’m an immigrant as well, So there’s a lot of things I don’t know how they work. There’s a lot of things that my parents never went through, so I’m just kind of learning as I go. There are times when you feel like ‘I don’t think I have the skills that I need for this,’ or ‘I don’t think I am good enough yet to apply for this thing,’ or ‘I never heard anybody in my family doing this; therefore, I don’t think it’s the best fit for me.’ Being able to get over that feeling … I think sometimes you just gotta take that step and not let those feelings take you back, Because I feel like the biggest enemy you have is yourself. And if you let yourself hold you back, there’s no way that you’re going to be able to grow. So I don’t really try to see what other people are doing. I’m just competing with myself. I think I’m the only person who can hold myself back and sometimes I let myself hold myself back. And ever since I got here, I’ve been able to learn how to not let myself do that and how to not self-sabotage myself, and just try to go in for opportunities, and try to grow and try to give the best that I can give.”

Advice you’d give your first year self

Angelina Guzman

Computer Science

“Just don’t be afraid. Obviously you’re going to feel afraid. But not being afraid to ask for help when you need it. Especially when it comes to classes and things like that, there are so many people who are willing to help, so many resources that are there to help you. So don’t be afraid to ask for that help, [and] really accept it when people are trying to help you. That’s probably one of the biggest things I would tell myself when I was first starting, because it wasn’t until I accepted that help and asked for it, [did] I [feel] like the world opened up to me.”

Eric Guerra

History, Minor in Education

I think I would tell myself that people are way more patient than you think, so just try talking to them. People’s threshold for someone annoying you is pretty high. So talking to someone is not as scary as it seems like it could be … I think I’ve gotten opportunities and experiences that I wouldn’t have otherwise if I hadn’t learned that. I probably wouldn’t be in the position I am today both literally in terms of my job and then also personally in terms of my social circle. I probably wouldn’t have met my girlfriend if I had just kept to myself and not taken risks.”

Veronica Sanchez Gomez

Anthropology

“There is beauty in the struggle. Things might seem bleak, but at the end of the day, as long as you keep pushing there’s a community there for you. Eventually, even if it’s slow progress, you’ll make it. I’ve learned that reaching out for help is okay, it’s not a bad thing. Another thing I would tell myself is to be confident in myself as an artist. I’ve always been kind of shy or felt like maybe I’m not the best artist for the job, etc. But having all of these opportunities, creating designs for the Undocumented Students Center, for Chicano Student Programs, [I] have had different professors reach out to me for designs, I’ve worked with the Department of Hispanic studies, etc. There’s just a variety of opportunities I’ve been able to get because I put myself out there, and I work for the community … I feel like those two things; being able to put yourself out there [and] being able to seguirle dando (keep putting yourself out there) [are] the biggest thing I would want to tell myself.”

What you are most proud of

Emily González

Masters in Education Policy Analysis and Leadership

“The thing I’m most proud of is probably my involvement on campus. I was in [student] orientation for three years, I’ve been in ResLife for three [years], I did an internship this last quarter with a nonprofit called Give Something Back in Loma Linda, and that really is what opened me up to the world of education as a career. I can confidently say that without that student involvement that I’ve gotten, I wouldn’t be at the career point that I am at today. I came into UCR first undeclared, and then just a Spanish degree, but then I decided to take up a job in Student Affairs. And then lo and behold, two years later, I declared a minor in education, then a double major, [and a] master’s now. And then I’m getting my teaching credential. So that’s what I’m most proud of.”

Emmanuel Aguilar

Political Science, concentration in Public Service, Minor in Labor Studies

I would have to absolutely say one of the rallies that [PODER] had at Hinderaker Hall, when we had our banner drop. That was probably the most proud I’ve been at UCR. Feeling like your voice isn’t heard, as a student organizer, as someone who kind of engages in activism to really be reflective of the current circumstances, and within a really quick turnaround, mobilize … Once I was leading a lot of the protest chants, the walk from the HUB area over to Hinderaker, [I] just had this sense of, ‘this is the mark I’m leaving on campus.’ It’s that impact, that sense of, ‘this is who I am. And this is what we believe in as a group, being unapologetically ourselves,’ and doing it in a way in which everybody felt safe and felt not compromised. If I were to look back on it, it would be that moment. It would be being in front of all the folks with my fellow board members and leading the space, and allowing folks to know about the movement, Opportunities For All, and what that means in the context of us being university students.”

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