How UCLA helped me decide my post-grad plans

After four of the best years of my life, I cannot believe the time has almost come for me to graduate. The days and the weeks just keep getting shorter and shorter as everyone tries to squeeze in as much social time as possible before mid-June. Talk has become much more about the future. Many people have been excitedly announcing which graduate programs they will be attending or which companies they will be working for, and many more people still have no clue what they’re going to do or even where they will live come July (and that is totally normal and okay!).

One thing my UCLA education has really highlighted for me and taught me about is about is educational inequity and the educational achievement gap in the United States. Although I come from a middle-income household, I grew up in a low-income community and I attended schools in that community until I graduated high school. I did not notice the difference in education I had received until I came to UCLA. Here I realized that many of my peers from higher-income communities received much more preparation for college than I had had. Likewise, many of my peers from lower-income communities and families than mine had received much less preparation for college. I learned that I am very lucky to have grown up in a middle-income household that could support me throughout college.

This sparked an interest in me and I decided to take on a minor in education. I also volunteered for campus organizations like Jumpstart and UniCamp that serve low-income populations in an effort to close the achievement gap. Now, I am proud to continue my work in education and low-income communities upon graduation through Teach For America as an elementary school teacher in Connecticut. Teach For America takes leaders on college campuses and trains them to become successful and impactful teachers in low-income classrooms.  I first took on an interest for TFA when I saw someone who graduated from my own very small high school recruiting for them on campus when I was a freshman (when you come from a very small home town, you notice right away when you see someone from there on campus!). We talked about the problems we faced transitioning from our small under-funded high school to UCLA and agreed that it was rough. We talked about how many of our friends from high school probably would not attend college like we were. We agreed that change is needed in many low-income communities in order to ensure all students are able to make it to higher education. He explained to me that this was TFA’s mission.

TFA’s mission is what inspired me to begin working with them as an intern in my junior year. As a senior this year, I took on a part-time job with TFA’s recruitment team at UCLA. This year UCLA was the school with the most qualified candidates. This means no other school in the nation had more accepted applicants to the TFA 2015 corps of teachers than UCLA did. Having a desire to leave your college-town comfort zone and work as a teacher in a low-income community takes courage. Getting accepted to Teach For America is difficult. I think that this shows UCLA students are a special kind of people who are ready to make change in a humble and meaningful way. Although I’m sure I have no idea how crazy this next part of my life will be, I am super proud to be a part of the group of Bruins who Teach For America upon graduation.

Roadtrip to Berkeley for the Cal game

 

berk

 

This past weekend Bruins mobbed out to Berkeley for our football game against Cal. My group of friends left on Friday afternoon to start our adventure. On the way up, we passed winnebagos upon winnebagos of UCLA students, already pumped up for the game and cheering outside of the windows on the 5 freeway. We stayed at a friend’s place right next to Berkeley campus for the night and ran into Bruins when we went out for dinner, where we proceeded to 8-clap in the middle of all Berkeley students. It was awesome. On Saturday we tailgate hopped before the game and WATCHED THE BRUINS WIN. That night we relocated to a friend’s place about 30 minutes away, in San Francisco. He just graduated in the Spring and was a great host for our little reunion! Finally, on Sunday we had brunch and headed back to the best campus around- UCLA. After a long weekend and a great win, it’s good to be home!

Marina Del Rey

One other fun place close to Westwood is Marina Del Rey. It’s only a 20 minute drive a little south of Santa Monica and there’s a ton of fun things to do. UCLA Recreation even has its very own aquatic center there, where students can go kayaking, rowing, stand up paddle boarding, sailing, surfing and windsurfing. To celebrate some of the last days of summer, me and a couple of my friends decided to go stand up paddle boarding. We didn’t go with UCLA recreation, but we did find a sweet Groupon for a 2 hour rental under 30 dollars! We had a lovely day beating the heat on the water.

Home Game Opener

This past week UCLA had its first home game of the season! Even though we’re still on summer break, groups of UCLA students were still able to mob out to the Rose Bowl to cheer on our Bruins. Since not everybody is in town, we combined tailgates with my roommates, sorority sisters and friends from UniCamp. Tailgating was a blast and the game itself  was a ton of fun watching our team win another game and spending time with quality people. I’m super excited for the games to come!

Apartment Life

While dorm life is super fun and the food is unbelievably delicious, many UCLA students move into the nearby Westwood apartments by their junior or senior year. The apartments that students move into are also very close to campus, just behind the dorms. They’re usually a bit cheaper than dorming, and almost everyone living next to you are also UCLA students. To find apartment roommates, students either gather a group of their friends, or ask around on internet sites to see who needs another roommate (I’d suggest using UCLA Facebook groups made specifically for housing, for safety!).

My living situation was a little bit nontraditional compared to many other students. Instead of staying in the dorms for two years or moving into Greek housing my sophomore year, I moved into an apartment with my friends during my second year. I got super close to my roommates and our apartment actually became best friends with another unit just a couple doors down from ours. Our group of about 10 people had potlucks together, studied together, played Nintendo 64 together, and a few times we even put all of our mattresses into the living room for the night and had movie-sleepovers together. During long study sessions, we would sometimes play hide and seek in the dark as a break! Essentially we were just a big group of kids living together that studied sometimes. It was really fun!

After my sophomore year living in the apartments, I moved into my sorority house for my junior year where I actually appreciated HOW NICE it is to have someone cook for you and clean for you . My house had 53 girls living in it total, and my room had a total of 4 girls in it. I also got really close with my roommates and other girls in the house and it was a lot of fun!

Finally for my senior year I just moved back apartment-side into a nice place at the beginning of summer. My roommates are friends I made from living in the sorority house last year and other mutual friends. They’ve quickly become my best friends– we do everything together! We’ve also met and became friends with some other units in our complex, or realized that people we already previously knew have become our neighbors. When friends don’t live in the same complex as me, they’re an easy 2 – 10 minute walk away. Also, Westwood village is just 5 minutes away (AKA In-n-out is just 5 minutes away) so food is always accessible if we don’t feel like cooking. I’m super excited for a whole school year at this place, especially once everyone moves back to Westwood!

Here’s a picture of me and a couple of my friends who stayed over when they were apartment-less. They moved out of their old place and had a week before the lease at their new place began, so they couch surfed on different friend’s couches each night and took pictures with them each day. Friends in the apartments are always willing to help others out and let them stay on their couches for a night!

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A Weekend At the Bay

After a long week together at UniCamp, the volunteers in our session just can’t get enough of each other. So this past weekend we all got together and road tripped up north to hang out near San Francisco for a change in scenery. We had a wonderful time couch surfing at friend’s places from the area (and meeting their parents yay!) and adventuring around.

We began the trip with the Golden Gate Bridge, of course. Then we ate dim sum!

The next day we explored Haight and Ashbury, Dolores park and UC Berkeley.

On the last day, we ate TWO breakfasts (one made by our friend’s grandma and another by our friend’s friend from home.. so of course we couldn’t refuse) and stayed a bit north of the city where we went wine tasting in Santa Rosa and at our friend’s winery. We also visited Bodega Bay where Alfred Hitchcock’s film “The Birds” was filmed. It was a “grape” day!

 

Another wonderful week of Woodsey magic

One of the first organizations I joined at UCLA was UCLA’s official student charity: UniCamp. UniCamp gives children from low-income communities around the Los Angeles area the chance to attend an outdoor summer camp for a week at a reduced rate. At camp the kids get to try things many of them have ever done before, like rock climbing, mountain biking, fishing, or simply seeing the stars at night. Children that attend UniCamp are encouraged to aim for a bright future through various character-building activities and the bonds they create with their counselors. UniCamp counselors are all UCLA students or previous UniCamp campers who fundraise and train throughout the school year to send the kids up to camp. At 80 years old, UniCamp is also one of UCLA’s oldest charities which fosters so many traditions and has changed countless lives.

Since I joined as a freshman back in Spring 2012, UniCamp is easily my favorite thing about at UCLA. For two years I was a counselor where I worked with a group of about 10 girls throughout the week and connected with them and formed irreplaceable bonds. This year, I decided to take on a leadership position as Head Counselor Assistant, where I helped to train a group of about 80 student volunteers and helped to plan a week of camp!

Throughout the year, I admit the position took up a vast amount of my time and energy and sometimes I couldn’t wait for the week of camp to be over so I could stop being so tired. However, once the week of camp came, I knew all the efforts of our leadership team were worth it. The kids were adorable and they loved camp. The volunteers and the kids got along so well and so many of our campers talked about how much they wanted to go to UCLA when they graduated high school. Countless amounts of games were played, songs were sang, and kids and counselors got to be kids for a week. Tons of “Woodsey marriages” happened, “prison ball” games between counselors and kids got heated, and so many “shout outs” were read. We hiked in the morning and at night (and one group of older campers and counselors called WALL hiked for multiple days), we swam during the day and once at 6:00 AM for the traditional “polar bear swim” (the water is warmer than the air!), we danced, we laughed, we enjoyed nature, and on the last day we cried saying our goodbyes.

Being back down the mountain makes me miss camp so much, but also feel so proud that we all did it and we got to meet so many amazing children. I can only hope that the kids we played with for a week will one day become UCLA student volunteers, too!

Here’s a few pictures from the week: 

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

Some of the girls and counselors from “Unit 4,” our youngest girls unit.

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

Campers “Pi” and “Butterfingers” showing off a painting.

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

Archery rotation!

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

More campers and counselors!

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

Me and the rest of the session’s leadership team in front of the mural we put together at the end of the week. The mural incorporates all of the children’s artwork throughout the week and encompasses our mission statement unique to our session’s week of camp.

“Look around before you take flight.
All that surrounds you can impact your life.
Be confident, take chances, believe in your dreams.
Soar toward your future no matter how far it may seem.
This is your journey, there are no limits to who you can be.”

An Alternative Summer

While most students spend their summers studying abroad or going home or taking extra classes, I spent the last 5 weeks of sunshine inside a classroom, tutoring high school students on SAT prep. At first I thought I was making a sacrifice, but I quickly discovered these students were actually making much more of a sacrifice– their summer breaks were much shorter than mine (I still have over a month left of break and they’re going back to school next week!), and they still dedicated their precious time off to the SAT. My students were all low-income and they got to take this course for free. Statistically, low-income students usually score lower on the SAT, which could partly be because they do not have the money to afford SAT prep classes much like this one. Although the material on the SAT was not very fun or very interesting, I absolutely loved getting to know each of the students. They were all college-bound and each one had their own specific goal or dream they were already working toward. Many of them even hoped to apply to UCLA and loved hearing about my experiences as a current student. I loved giving them a look into how it was to be a college student, and I hope to help many of them apply to UCLA in the Fall. While these past 5 weeks would have been fun if I were abroad or watching Netflix, meeting these kids was just as enriching and fun than those things,  and more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.

Here’s a picture of my students and I!

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

 

A Bittersweet Time of Year

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

 

Just last week I watched so many of my best friends graduate at commencement. This time of the year is so bittersweet because it reminds you of the great times you’ve had with those friends who are graduating and you know that they will do wonderful things in the future, but it’s so sad because you don’t want them to leave! Many people are going all over the country and all over the world upon graduation which I think is really awesome, but of course for selfish reasons I get a little bit more happy when others tell me they’ll be staying around the LA area for some time. Seeing my close friends going off into the real world causes me to reflect on the fact that I only have one more year here. I cannot believe that this time has passed SO fast and I can’t wait to make this next, last year of mine the best one yet!

 

Literati Cafe

 

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

 

During 10th week and Finals week, campus can get a little depressing with students living in the libraries, forgoing showers, and replacing their meals with caffeine. However, some places in LA make for great less-depressing and more colorful study spots, such as Literati Cafe. I went here for the first time last weekend and had a delicious Spanish latte and enjoyed sitting outside in the sunlight and seeing the artwork inside. The best part was running into so many other friends from UCLA! While it can get a little crowded at times, I thought it was  a great experience.