Monday, July 11, 2011

Gabe Sanchez Speaks

Dear Mr. Ramsey,

My first year at UCLA has been one of tremendous growth and adjustment. Never have I ever been put under such an uncomfortable position with only one available response -to adapt to the environment. The best I share to all incoming first years is to be open to everything - people, organizations, events, etc., everything. Upon entering college, I had a set vision of what I wanted my first year experience to look like. Looking back, most of what I expected was far from reality, but my experiences thus far are beyond extraordinary.

I believe that every aspect, from academics to living with my roommates, has been a challenge that has shaped me into a stronger person. In terms of housing, I recommend all students to have an open mind about their new roommates, since they may have a personality and living habits opposite of what you expected. In regards to living conditions, I was really put to the test. I had a roommate who was completely different from anyone I had ever hung out with in high school - let alone, live with. One of my roommates had a type of personality different from the friends, family, and acquaintances that surrounded me back home. He was very messy, away from the dorm almost every weekend, and sometimes used some of my stuff without permission. Along with that, his interests and hobbies differed far from mine. Although these differences were a problem to our relationship at first, I became comfortable with some circumstances and addressed to him the other concerns. After pushing aside these problems, I got to know my roommate and now consider him as a good friend who has helped me through some of my hard times during my first year. I recommend that everyone have the same mentality when it comes to making friends, no matter how different one is from oneself. One of the greatest things about college is the multitude of diversity it hosts. Take advantage of every single bit of it. I feel like most of the learning I remember and now hold dear to my heart is from the experiences I have had with other people outside of class.

In regards to academics, I strongly urge all students to pursue what they want to do in life, and not what their parents or anyone else wants them to do. If you have no idea what you want to do in the future, use your first year to take classes that interest you. Many of the people I have met in college have no clue what they want to do after college, but pursue a major that interests them in hopes to spark their aspirations. Pursuing something for the sole interest of another person will only make your college experience a lot tougher. I had heard several stories of students coming in as Pre-Med or Pre-Law because of their parents only approve of a major that leads toward a pre-professional degree. Most - if not all - of those friends have switched majors because of bad grades or continue to struggle in such classes. College will be even more of a challenge for you students if you decide to force a choice of major upon yourselves, just like anything forced upon you. Take your time, keep an open mind, and do what you find most interesting in your four years. Aside from that, I encourage everyone to seek all help possible. There's tutoring, academic counseling, and a career center that will help make your four years easier. During my first year, I've sought academic counseling from the school's Academic Advancement Program (AAP), the campus' Pilipino club's retention project, Samahang Pilipino Education And Retention (SPEAR), and the Career Center. The AAP has also provided tutoring services specifically for students that come from high schools like ours.

Now, the biggest adjustment I faced was the distance from home. Going to UCLA, I had never imagined getting homesick, being that I'm only about 400 miles away and I've been to LA so many times throughout my life, but homesickness did hit me - very hard, in fact. There was a point where I felt distant from everyone whom I met in college; I felt that my lifestyle back home was far too different than the rest for me to get along with anyone. But that's the beauty of college; you're put in an uncomfortable position to grow and flourish. In this past year alone, I felt that I have experienced tremendous personal growth, and I thank all the unique people whom I've encountered. I''ve spent a lot of time with groups of people whom I never imagined befriending or even talking to. I've beome highly invested in the projects of the Samahang Pilipino and the campus politics of UCLA. During my winter quarter, I was an intern for Samahang Pilipino Advancing Community Empowerment, a project that provides academic counseling and tutoring to students who attend disadvantaged high schools in LA with high Pilipino representation.This next year I will serve as a meber of the project's Administrative team, specifically as the Parent Investment Coordinator, whose job is to organize parents into becoming more invested in their children's educational journey towards higher education. In the Spring Quarter, I was a campaign manager for the Student's First slate, an experience that helped me to understand campus politics and fostered desire to take responsibility to protect not only my access to higher education, but the access to those less privileged than I am. Next year, I will work in the school's External Vice President's Office, specifically as a member of the State Affairs Committee, where I will educate myself about pressing issues concerning the UC as well as inform and organize the rest of the campus in order make our voice heard.

Coming into UCLA, I never pictured myself being in these spaces. But with an open mind, I slowly began to see these places as my niche in college. I encourage all first years to do the same, and to jump to whatever opportunities lie before them. Like anything in life, your college experience is what you make of it. And since you're here for four years (and paying a whole lot money), you might as well make the best of it! So to everyone attending college next year, congratulations on your acceptance, and good luck!

Yours truly,

Gabriel Augusto Jomdos Sanchez

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