I first stepped foot on UCLA’s campus when my older brother was touring colleges to try and get a sense of where he would apply. Although I was only a freshman in high school at the time, the campus had alluring control over me. I was aware of UCLA’s historically dominant academic and athletic programs from online research, and while it was extremely important for me to attend a school where I could excel scholastically, there was something that only the campus itself could have made apparent to me: the students looked happy. In fact, upon closer examination, they were thrilled to be here. You can read all you want about how great an environment a school is on paper, but being able to experience what campus life is actually like and talk to students makes an enormous difference.
Throughout my college application process in search of my future homestead, intellectual playground, and friendship forum, there were additional factors that I needed to assess. UCLA is a big place, by population – would professors be accessible? Are classes extremely competitive? How would I be able to find my passions outside of the classroom? All of these questions began racing through my mind as the fateful Statement of Intent to Register (SIR) deadline neared. To acknowledge these questions adequately, I reached out to an undergraduate student mentor that graduated from my high school. Surrendering all of my preconceived notions, there was one thing that this mentor said that especially stood out to me: in spite of UCLA’s prodigious size, the university offers so many resources and communities that can make the campus much smaller – the inverse does not necessarily hold true for a much smaller institution.
These words have never rung more true. Over my four years in college, I have been mentored by several professors who have been integral in guiding my research endeavors and shaping my passion to pursue health policy, I have been a part of an undergraduate organization called TEACH: Together Educating and Advocating Community Health that works to address public health concerns in under-served populations, and I have grown as a Bruin Ambassador, sharing my love-story for UCLA with high school students and helping them navigate the college application process. The culmination of these UCLA-unique resources has shaped a Venn-Diagram of small communities that still maintain a global reach.
Aside from organizational involvements, I can honestly say that UCLA offers an unparalleled diversity of moments that will cement into memories that will last a lifetime. Though I’ve experienced great moments in UCLA’s historic Pauley Pavilion and the otherworldly Rose Bowl, some of my most cherished memories rest with the people that I’ve met. A roommate from Hong Kong whose parents are university professors of economics, a classmate from Pennsylvania who shares mutual friends from my California hometown, a friend from the Los Angeles area who has seven younger siblings and is the first in his family to attend college; it’s connections like these that have left an everlasting imprint within me. All of these people, with completely unique differences in their own right – whether that be in cultural identity, socioeconomic background, or intellectual experiences – that together cement one holistic community.
This community transcends into the collaborative ideological and academic realm that UCLA fosters. It’s the Pulitzer Prize winning Jared Diamond teaching an engineering student the beauty of anthropology that he couldn’t even dream was possible. It’s the undocumented student studying political science and global studies in hopes of one day creating just immigration policy. It’s the aspiring medical student who researches cancer treatment therapies. It’s opportunities like these that brought me to this city upon a hill. It’s stories like these that make me proud to call myself a Bruin.