Feeling at Home on Campus

Hi ya’ll! My name is Sanjana (she/her) and I’m a third year student at UCLA. I’m majoring in Political Science and minoring in Public Affairs. I lived in Mumbai, India for most of my life but I now live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As an out-of-state student, I had several inhibitions before coming to UCLA but overcoming them was easier than I had anticipated. I am lucky to call this campus my home. 

March 2016 was the first time I stepped onto UCLA’s campus. I vividly remember thinking it was way too early for our campus tour guide to be this excited about this school. I don’t remember much of what she said, but I do remember her energy. She seemed very enthusiastic and passionate about this school and everything it gave her. The students I saw that day had the same energy; they really seemed to care about what they were doing, be it giving this tour, flyering on Bruin Walk, or studying by Janss Steps. A year later, after I SIR’d to UCLA, I was determined to find something I care about on this campus. 

As an out-of-state student, I didn’t know anyone at UCLA. A lot of the friends I made in my initial weeks were from California and often had “home friends” who went here too. Looking to expand my social network I joined the Residential Life Resident Government Council (RGC) in Hitch Suites. RGC defined most of my first-year experience because it introduced me to an incredibly diverse and passionate group of student leaders. This organization encouraged me to be vulnerable, challenge myself, and explore my own passions. ResLife’s focus on building an inclusive and social justice oriented living experience helped me learn about a wide variety of social issues, which helped expand my awareness of the community around me. I can say without a doubt that my freshman year experience shaped me to be the student and leader that I am today. 

Wanting to further be involved with Residential Life, I continued my time in RGC by becoming the treasurer and eventually president of Rieber Hall in my second year. Starting this new year with a new, much larger, staff was challenging but once again, the experiences I had and people I met that year made everything worth it. My floormates, community representatives, friends, and RAs helped me create a new community for myself that year. I even joined one of my favorite organizations, Cub Tours, that year. 

In my first two years, I built my community of friends, professors, bosses, RAs, etc. all around me. In my third year, which was unfortunately cut short, I got a job where I had to build community for others. After two years of working with the housing government, I became a Resident Assistant (RA). This has been one of the best experiences I have had at UCLA because I was now to make UCLA a home for someone else. Through passive and active programming, I was able to foster a space conducive to learning, growth, and self-expression. The best memories I have of being an RA are from when I conducted weekly office hours called “Spill Tea with Sanj.” This was a space for my residents and it was whatever they wanted it to be; I only provided the tea. During office hours we would chat, do homework, listen to music, or 

just hang out. This allowed me to get to know my residents and connect with them at a personal level. 

My journey in the past three years has been heavily influenced by all the incredible people I have met. ResLife and all of my other clubs introduced me to some talented, passionate, kind, and funny individuals that I now get to call friends. Home isn’t always a place; it’s often the people you meet that help make a new place home. When I walk on UCLA’s campus, I sense the comfort one gets by being home. But without my friends, it would not be the same. I can assure you, a prospective student, that you will develop friendships and memories here that will endure way beyond your time at UCLA. 

Having said that, my advice to all future Bruins is this: try to find the people and organizations that make you happy, and stick with them! It might take some time, but keep looking until you find the right fit for you. And you will find it. 

My journey at UCLA has not been easy by any means. I have been challenged in countless ways, I have had to work really hard to prove myself to people, I have been rejected several times, and my mental health has fluctuated a lot throughout this experience. I would also not have it any other way. UCLA has helped me grow and push myself to be the best student, leader, and friend that I can be. I am lucky to say that I was able to find several things that I care about. As a (Cub) tour guide myself, I can now relate a lot to the girl who gave me my campus tour. I am so passionate about this school and can’t wait to be a senior next year. Go Bruins!