Hi everyone! My name is Camille and I’m from San Leandro, CA. I am a fourth year double majoring in Political Science and Communications, with a minor in Disability Studies. Before anything else, I just want to say congratulations on your admission to UCLA!! This is an amazing achievement and you should be so proud of yourselves!
As I sit writing this a mere three months away from graduation and my transition into the “real world,” I am reflecting on all of the amazing opportunities that UCLA has given me over the last four years. In my opinion, there are two things that set UCLA apart: its vibrant campus life and perfect location. The combination of the two has made this an amazing place to go to school for the last 3.5 years, and make it that much harder to say goodbye this June. On campus, I have been involved with club gymnastics, research, coaching youth gymnastics, and Undergraduate Admission as a Bruin Ambassador and Cub Tour Guide. Off campus, I interned at a local elementary school to learn about inclusive education. While academics are obviously an important part of the college experience, it was truly my involvement that was a formative part of my undergraduate experience.
As someone who held a job for all four years of high school, I knew that finding a job was one of my priorities once I got to college. I got my first on campus job during zero week my first year as a youth gymnastics coach on campus. Getting a job on campus, as opposed to off campus, was great because it allowed me to meet other students and have a supervisor who was understanding of our varying schedules as students. Then, at the beginning of my second year, I began working as a Bruin Ambassador in the Office of Undergraduate Admission. In this group, I found a community of people that soon became some of my closest friends and helped me develop my passion for working in education. While both of these activities were technically on campus jobs, they grew into my biggest sense of community during my time at UCLA. On campus jobs are also a great opportunity to make some extra money while still balancing a full-time school schedule. Like I said, all of the supervisors know we’re students, so they are super flexible with scheduling and accommodating around midterms and finals.
Finally, as a Disability Studies minor, I was required to have an internship for two quarters for academic credit, for a total of 80 hours each quarter. This was actually what drew me to the minor, as it was my first opportunity to hold an internship and I was excited to gain hands on experience in the field of special education. I chose to work at an elementary school that practiced inclusion, working in both the classroom and special education office. Each week, I would work eight hours per week and write a reflection paper that applied disability studies scholarship to what I was experiencing at my site. I would also meet with a teaching assistant every other week to discuss my experience and what I was learning. By applying what I was learning in the classroom to real-life experience, it made the information much more impactful rather than just learning it in the classroom. While I was initially worried about the time commitment and workload, I was still able to fit the experience in with my on campus job, as well as a full course load. While it was challenging at times, the internship and on campus jobs have been invaluable parts of my college experience and have made the hard work worth it.
Like I said before, UCLA’s location is unparalleled. There is literally every industry you can think of within driving distance of campus, making it really easy to find both paid internships and internships for credit to get experience in the field. Personally, my internship experience helped me (finally) figure out what I want to do after I graduate and gain marketable skills for my resume that will surely be useful in my future job search. Whether you want to work on campus, off campus, or have an internship, UCLA has so many opportunities to do so, and it is certainly possible to manage your academic responsibilities too. Not only has my work experience allowed me to earn money, but it also allowed me to find my community and hone my passion for education. As I prepare to graduate and enter the job market, I can confidently say that the work experience I gained while at UCLA will serve me extremely well in the future, and I am thankful for how well UCLA prepared me to enter the “real world.”