Transitioning from high school or community college to a university can spark both fear and curiosity. How can I continue to do what I like and get involved in the new environment? Fear not! Here’s how I tackled it as a first-generation student conquering the unknown.
Discovering a New Me
When I first stepped foot on campus, I knew UC Davis was the place to be, a place where I could explore so many new and different things. A part of this newness was also incorporating my past experiences and finding unique opportunities to continue doing what I knew and loved. As I found a way to create a place for myself within this new world, I was relieved to see that many of my past experiences could lead me in surprising directions.
People Supporting People
My values and goals have changed during my time at UC Davis. Being a first-generation student far away from home made me really question my purpose and ability to succeed. It was difficult to adjust after high school, where I had found a comfortable balance of academics and community support.
Coming to UC Davis, I knew that one of the first things I needed to do was to build a new support network. My first chance at creating this support was in my orientation group. The program provided amazing opportunities I was eager to explore. My fellow group members and orientation leader never failed to create a welcoming atmosphere, so I made it my mission to do the same for others. (Fun fact: Two of the girls in my orientation group have been my best friends throughout my time at UC Davis!)
The following year I was hired as a member of the orientation staff. I could not be more thrilled to help welcome new Aggies, providing the same support and kindness I received. As an orientation leader, I learned about the different student populations at UC Davis and that, despite everyone's differences, UC Davis created spaces where we could come together as a community.
My experiences have helped me understand my passions and continue to reach my goal, which is to provide safe and comforting spaces for those around me. There have been times when unexpected challenges arose. But I was always confident I would find a way to succeed, and I knew I had supporters at UC Davis who would always be there cheering me on.
The first step is always to leap into challenges and let go of concerns or worries. As Pumba and Timon from Lion King would say, “Hakuna Matata!”
Blasting Forward From the Past
During high school, I was very involved with my FFA chapter, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, an organization that focuses on agriculture and student leadership development. I knew I wanted to find a similar experience and environment at UC Davis.
Through my time in FFA I participated in speech contests and attended conferences that helped me learn and grow. Part of the experience was attending a college and industry fair where I met representatives of companies and campuses. My engagement with all these different people helped me get recommendations for connecting the past with the future. That is how I was able to discover activities at UC Davis that are similar to FFA.
Once I was on campus, as I began meeting new people, I was figuring out what I was interested in. One of these opportunities was being an intern at the Dairy Facility and feeding calves for a graduate student’s research project. It was a great experience learning about animal husbandry, and also learning about how to successfully step into the unknown! As I ventured into the unknown, knowing what I wanted helped me find a balance of activities while allowing me to focus on what I wanted to keep.
I was also able to join the Aggie Ambassadors program for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis. We have three pillars—community, leadership, and outreach—that would provide a framework for connections and growth throughout my time at UC Davis. The program allowed me to share my stories with students and community members and offered leadership opportunities. Upon sharing my experiences and stories, I began to learn how so many other new students had been in similar speech contests and were involved in the same agricultural projects! We all felt the comfort of being involved in the same things. It was so comforting hearing, “No way! Me too.”
Motivation for the Future
The campus organizations I joined, such as Aggie Ambassadors and the orientation program at UC Davis, helped me realize what I was good at and how to adapt to opportunities. As I step into my senior year, these experiences have taught me how to work toward a successful career and how to better the world. For the next year and beyond, I will continue to create comforting communities where people can share who they are, and where I can help them grow into the best version of themselves.
Whatever direction life may take you, just remember that when going to a new place you can bring in your past experience and use it to forge a beautiful future. It may be a strange and unfamiliar place, but if you keep doing all the things you are experienced in and passionate about, you will find ways to grow with what you know.
Meliza Guox is a Community and Regional Development major from Riverside, California, who decided to pursue her education to help serve her family and community. She likes to spend her time enjoying all the scenery UC Davis offers, such as the Arboretum!