The Optimists: Jimmy Aguilar

Have you met the UCLA Optimists? Over the next several months, the Bruin Blog will be highlighting our student Optimists. These current UCLA undergraduates will give you insight into the application process and tips, student life and culture, and what it means to be a Bruin.

img_3385-2As I stare through the arches of Royce Hall, I am cognizant of what it means to be a first-generation Latino college student from Southeast LA at UCLA. There have been few members from my community that pursue higher education, due to the lack of access and resources available to them. I grew up in a predominantly Latino immigrant community in the city of Huntington Park, CA located 30 minutes south of UCLA’s campus. Like several other individuals in my community, my parents immigrated to this country – specifically from Zacatecas, Mexico – before I was born in search for a better life. From a very early age, they stressed the importance of attaining a higher education.

Although my parents attempted to provide my older sisters and I with as many resources as possible in order to thrive, they were limited since they were not fluent in English and were not informed of the steps required to attend a prestigious university. We struggled in our large public high school to navigate the college application process – along with many of our peers. My path to UCLA was not a clear one. I did not have a reliable college counselor until I was a senior. I relied solely on federal TRIO programs like TELACU Talent Search that helped me navigate the college application process and develop skills in high school that I could take with me to my post-secondary education. My sisters, college counselor, and advisors from TELACU guided me through the process and opened up many doors that I believed once would always be shut. 

In 2010, when one of my eldest sisters was admitted, I made my way to UCLA for only the second time in my life. It was the first time I realized that attending an institution like this was not only a dream, but it could be a reality! My visit to UCLA from that point to my early years of high school made it clear that UCLA was the place for me. I worked hard throughout high school and finally senior year came – the time to apply to colleges. When I was beginning to hear back from schools, I anxiously waited for my screen to read those three short words: “Congratulations, You’re #UCLABound.” When it did, I had no doubt in my mind where I wanted to spend my next four years. I submitted my statement of intent to register (SIR) right then.

Once I got to UCLA I thought my path toward graduation would be clear. I came in with the mindset that I would go to law school and become a lawyer. I tried to convince myself that I would make my parents proud in this way. I knew that if I wanted to go into this field I would have to look for opportunities and internships that would help me discover my true passion, which fortunately at UCLA, there are seemingly endless opportunities that will support you in your career goals. I took English Composition 3SL with Professor Tara Prescott my first quarter at UCLA where I volunteered at 826LA, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students with their creative and expository writing. I worked with high school students on college applications, study skills, and navigating financial aid once they leave high school. It was through this volunteer opportunity I begin thinking that law school may not be the path I want to take.

I continued to apply to several legal internships during the summer of my freshman year to see if law was the profession I was destined to pursue. I was fortunate enough to have been selected for an exciting eight-week internship at Columbia University in New York City. It was an opportunity of a lifetime – the internship allowed me to work with one of the best attorney’s in New York and to also work alongside three other amazing undergraduate students as teaching assistants (TAs) for her Trial Advocacy course at Columbia. While I appreciated my internship and learned a lot, this opportunity made me realize where my life path was leading me, and it was not what I initially presumed. I discovered that working in higher education and education policy was where my true passions were. I wanted to provide forms of access to high school students seeking a higher education regardless of their unclear paths – I want to help students who came from backgrounds like me. Today, as Bruin Ambassador for Undergraduate Admission, I am able to do just that! I am doing the work I love and visiting schools in and around Los Angeles County to not only promote this amazing school but also be a resource to students like myself who felt lost navigating high school and struggled with the college application process.

UCLA at one point seemed like an unobtainable goal. Today, I am proud to say I am a first-generation, Latino student from an immigrant family. I am from Huntington Park, CA. I am proudly living my dream of being a Bruin. I hope you and students from all walks of life will join me.

Jimmy Aguilar is a second year undergraduate student at UCLA
majoring in Political Science with a minor in Education.

Can I Get A Side Of Research?

Studying in Powell Library

One of the many things that I love about UCLA—strike that, there’s everything to like about UCLA—is that students have the ability to literally put education into their own hands by taking up research positions regardless if it pertains to one’s major, and there are initiated student courses where current undergrads can facilitate a class. I took up a research position at the North Campus Student Research Program (SRP) during my first quarter at UCLA.

Being that one of my main reasons for transferring was to research in Sociology, which is quite untraditional as research is normally correlated to science, I wasn’t able to find it in most other institutions and I was inspired to pursue it at UCLA. So, as soon as I got accepted, I upheld my personal promise to find research and looked no further than the opportunities of the SRP. Although I was quite intimidated jumping into this right away, I was pleasantly surprised how accessible it is for students to not only find research but also find research in the social sciences.

I settled with Professor Walker’s sociological and economical effects of food trucks. I know what you’re thinking, am I eating food all day or what? I was shocked myself! Professors are so passionate about eclectic subjects and it’s so inspiring to be given the chance to network as well as study beside them in their research. Basically, this research is much more than the curb-side food joint as I am involved with a team of four undergraduates—who are currently studying various subjects from political science to biology, meaning that the constraints of majors are irrelevant in research curiosity—that code the menus of food trucks across three United States’ cities: Los Angeles, D.C., and Chicago.

To code these menus, we start with their Twitter handles (@name) to locate Google images, Twitter images, and Web images (in regards to their website) of their menus. By looking at their menus, we get a feel of what cuisine is on their menus and are able to code them by Yelp categories (e.g. Mediterranean, Japanese, Asian Fusion, etc.) to see how the relation of their prices and cuisine type are affected by the food truck legislation of that particular city.

But please note that this research didn’t come with a warning that I’d be staring at food all day, which makes me starving at the end of the 8-10 hour commitment per week. Despite that minor repercussion, I love every bit of researching. I have been working with Professor Walker for about two quarters now, and I hope to continue until the end of this academic school year to see how and where this research will ultimately lead!

Keeping It ‘K’


I’m a recent UCLA transfer student from UC Santa Cruz. Amongst the forest and mountainous climate, UC Santa Cruz isn’t as different as UCLA due to their equal pride in community service. At UC Santa Cruz, I along with a group of undergraduate students began the first chapter of Camp Kesem at UC Santa Cruz last year. Camp Kesem is a national non-profit organization that strives to bring a community of children that have been affected by a parent’s cancer together for a week-long summer camp of shared realities and empathy. Working a year to not only raise, but exceed $30,000 (our fundraising goal) as well as meet thirty amazing campers ranging from 6-16 years old is not only humbling but motivating to continue working with this group of dedicated individuals.

Upon arriving at UCLA, I knew that I wanted to get involved with Camp Kesem UCLA because of my amazing summer meeting, working, and loving this community. While I was a member of Camp Kesem UC Santa Cruz, I learned that in the light of despair, disease, and death, hope can still be found with the physical presence of loving friends, family, and community. Therefore, this inspiring mantra has motivated me to find every outlet possible to be involved with Camp Kesem UCLA.

After stalking their Facebook Page (, I was invited to UCLA’s Camp Kesem Reunion (once a quarter events for the campers and counselors to catch up), and I found the UCLA community  to be just as magical as my own time at Camp Kesem UC Santa Cruz. For instance, a little girl named Lady Bug reminded me of the initial shyness we all feel when we meet new people, but after bonding about dogs and cookies she ended up introducing me to other counselors and campers! It’s amazing how the bond from one camp to another doesn’t change—they’re still Keeping It ‘K’!

After reunion, I excitedly finished my application to become a UCLA Camp Kesem counselor. After an initial interview, I got a call from Snickefritz, a student coordinator on Camp Kesem UCLA’s committee, congratulating me on becoming a Camp Kesem UCLA counselor! We have already had a few meetings, and I am excited to continue my involvement in this fantastic organization here at UCLA.

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!


Bucket List: Freshman Year

Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

As the school year draws to a close, seniors in flowing graduation gowns can be seen all over campus, posing for graduation pictures. I can’t believe that my first year at UCLA is almost over (except for finals, bleh). As UCLA prepares to send off a fourth of its population off into the real world, it’s time to welcome the freshman class.

It’s hard to believe that a little less than a year ago, I was the bright-eyed freshman who stepped foot on this campus for the first time. The quarter system does move at a super fast pace, and it seems as though this year has just been a blur. Now it’s time to take a look back at a fraction of the bucket list I composed right after freshman orientation and see what items I’ve crossed off. I was inspired by a youtube clip I had watched shortly before I moved here 🙂

  1. Take part in the Color Run 2014(I ended up participating in Run or Dye with some good friends this May).
  2. Study abroad for one quarter + (I’m studying abroad in LSE this summer! I’ve never been to Europe before, and I’m counting down the days till I’m there!)
  3. Join an a cappella group  (Awechords A Cappella, you have given me the experience of a lifetime. I’m so glad I get to sing with you all for the rest of my college career!)
  4. Volunteer for an educational cause (Project WILD, Unicamp, I am so incredibly lucky to be able to volunteer with you)
  5. University Chorus, UCLA Chorale, Chamber (Performing in Royce was honestly one of the best experiences I’ve had during my undergraduate career. As Dr.Neuen’s last choral class, getting to perform the Beethoven Mass inside UCLA’s best venue was incredible.)
  6. Tour Guide ( I served as a tour guide for Bruin Day! Despite getting stranded outside the elevator from my tour group and having to scour the building for them, it was an exhilarating experience)
  7. Experience Spring Sing (Best show ever!!! More to come on this later)
  8. Figure out what major I want to be (This actually turned out to be not that difficult once I was able to figure out what I was really passionate about!)
  9. Thanksgiving in Beverly Hills ( I had the fortune of dining with an alumni for Thanksgiving since I couldn’t go back home, thanks to the Dashew Center!
  10. Road Trip (LOL my friends from my floor dragged me to San Diego during Winter Quarter amid midterm craziness. I am so grateful they persuaded me, that was definitely an fun-filled adventure!)
  11. Learn something completely random  (Wow. I’ve taken a couple of classes purely for the sake of learning outside my academic career and they were some of the best courses I’ve taken thus far.)

So these were a couple of the things I’ve managed to cross off my list. The rest are little goals or checkpoints I will work towards during the future, and I’ll definitely keep on expanding the list! So for anyone looking to create a bucket list: be as deep, as insightful, or as crazy as you’d like: college is what you make out of it! Set a goal to take a random class, do something you never thought you’d do (like leap off a pole on the top of a mountain), meet some incredible people, and get ready for the ride of your life!

World In-Sight

Registration Booth— Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin


One of the things I love most about UCLA is the diversity. There are so many students with unique cultural backgrounds and different stories to tell!

This past Wednesday, I had the honor of putting on an inaugural mini world exposition for the UCLA community. As part of the “mastermind” team, I was able to see the process of bringing this concept into reality. World In-Sight was a campus fair dedicated to showcasing the diverse UCLA student body. By partnering with over twenty-five student groups, this fair featured nearly thirty different countries/cultures through interactive games, booths, and performances! After months of hard work preparing, it was such a great feeling to see the whole idea coming into being.

Thailand Booth—Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

I think part of the reason why I wanted to join the WIS team was because of my background. Since I come from Taiwan, a small island off the coast of Taiwan, I’ve encountered many people who (albeit well-meaning) still have various misconceptions about my culture. This fair was a small step in the direction of introducing people to different cultures and creating a platform that would hopefully introduce cross-cultural dialogue! When I took a break from the registration booth to “tour the world” and snap a couple of photos, I was amazed by all the hard work that the student groups had put into their booths. At the Malaysian booth, my friend was performing ridiculous pouring feats while making Teh Tarik (pulled tea) and another friend was drawing intricate henna tattoos; at the English booth they had a live DJ and amazing artwork; at the French booth the delicious smell of crepes wafted out, Thailand and Cambodia had students in beautiful traditional clothing…

Malaysian Booth Teh Tarik (Pulled Tea)—-Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin
Yukai Daiko (Japanese Drums) Performance—Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin


After coming to UCLA, I’ve truly come to appreciate the world a lot more. I’ve come to learn that everybody has a story to tell, and that there is so much out there for me to learn. World In-Sight definitely gave me some insight into different cultures, and I was truly honored to have been able to serve as the marketing director for this event. I can’t wait until we reprise the event next year, hopefully with an even more diverse representation!


Hello World!

Photo Credit: Project WILD UCLA


Hi everyone, I’m Cheechee, the newest contributor to the UCLA Life Blog! I am thrilled to be writing for you all and I really hope that my posts will help shed some light on the day-to-day life at UCLA. Coming here was honestly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I am incredibly grateful for all the opportunities that this institution has bestowed upon me.

A little bit about me: I’m a first year hoping to study Communication Studies with a specialization in Computing! I truly feel that human interaction is a wondrous thing and I value the power of being able to communicate well with others. I am particularly interested in the Internet and its impact on society as well as education, and my vision is to someday bring technology to all parts of the world. In my spare time, I sing in Awechords A Cappella as well as the University Chorale and volunteer with UCLA Unicamp and Project WILD (a volunteer project that tutors kids from immigrant families). I also serve as the marketing director for World In-Sight, a mini world exposition devoted to showcasing all the diverse cultures of the student body here at UCLA (more posts to come on this soon!). Career wise, I work as the research assistant for the Center for the Digital Future, which is currently focusing on a study researching the effects of the Internet, and the UCLA English Department, where I am assisting a professor in his study on Anthony Hecht. I love music and kids, and I am thrilled that UCLA has so many student organizations that align with my interests.

I was born in San Jose, CA and moved to Taipei, Taiwan when I was ten, attending local schools there. This unique life experience has blessed me with a strong proficiency in Mandarin, and though overcoming the language barrier was initially challenging, it was also life changing and gave me a much deeper understanding of my heritage. This identity has also proven to be confusing at times, as I never have the answer to “Where are you from?” or “Are you international?”. Yet I wouldn’t give up my background for the world! I am forever grateful to the unforeseen circumstances in my life that allowed me to be acquainted with my culture!

UCLA truly has been an amazing experience so far. Though I’m super involved and busy all the time, I still find the time to balance between my various extracurriculars, schoolwork, and friends. The quarter system does move at a super fast pace, but I’ve discovered that it’s helped me become more efficient at various tasks. I can’t wait to see what the next three years will bring me, and I am so excited to share with you all the stories of my journey through college and beyond.

Well that’s about it for now 🙂 and I really look forward to writing for you all! Comment below, I love getting messages 😀

Fall means New Friends

This weekend I had the opportunity to say at a beach house in Sunset Beach with 25 people I did not know.  Needless to say I was a little bit nervous, but I walked away with 25 new friends!  What was I doing that put me in that situation? I was on a retreat with the Academic Affairs Commission (part of USAC- our student government)!

The first couple weekends in every quarter is always really fun because there is still minimal homework and no tests to study for.  Because of this unique situation, I could go on the AAC Retreat with no worries! I brought my kindle along to do some reading for a class, but other than that I was able to focus my energy on meeting new people and getting to learn all about the purpose and structure of AAC and USAC.

The retreat was so much fun!  Sure we had to learn about logistics and details, but I also got to begin planning some of my events for the year.  My committee and I brainstormed all kinds of fun activities for Stress Free Days and created puns for fall themed festivities.  If that was not enough, we got to go to the beach on Saturday afternoon!

What started out as a weekend of planning, turned into a weekend of fun, friends, and games!  I definitely recommend checking out some clubs early on and having your own retreat experience!

Summertime Travels

I love summer because there is a lot of freedom to do something exciting!  This summer I have friend on every continent (except Antarctica)!  I have tons of friends studying in France and Italy, a friend studying in Austria, a group of friends on a trip to East Asia, a friend going to Indonesia, a friend volunteering in Bolivia, some friends working in Australia, and I went to Africa!  It’s so crazy to me to thank such a small group of people are able to go so far! And that’s just my group of friends!  There are countless other UCLA students who are all around the globe right now taking classes, doing humanitarian work, back packing, working at camps, and doing a number of interesting things.

If you want to go overseas at some point, UCLA provides you with tons of options!  I cannot tell you how many emails I get each day from the English and History departments with volunteer and studying opportunities both state side and overseas.  Some of your options include:

  • Studying Abroad
  • Travel Study- where you go with a UCLA department overseas
  • Volunteering with Education based non-profits
  • Volunteering with Medically based non-profits
  • Mission trips
  • and many more!

I have loved my summers as a UCLA student!  A lot of people study abroad during the school year, but I love being at UCLA too much to miss out on even one quarter of the action here on campus.  Summer is the perfect time to start collecting stamps on your passport!  While there are always tons of students on campus either working or taking classes, summer at UCLA tends to have fewer students around a lot of summer camps and orientation groups.  When you go abroad in the summer , you don’t feel like you are missing out on the UCLA traditions.

Reasons to go abroad:

  • Learn a new language
  • Immerse yourself in a different culture
  • Do something worthwhile: volunteer!
  • Get some cool stories
  • If you like trains then going abroad is for you
  • Delicious food
  • New friends!

Going abroad changes your perspective and summer is a great time to test the international waters!

Bruins For Boston

At the end of a long week marked by the final capture of the second suspect of the mysterious marathon bombings in Boston, we send our deepest condolences to runners, spectators, and rescuers who unfortunately fell into harm’s way at the time of the explosions. On Tuesday, April 23rd in Bruin Plaza, UCLA and our surrounding community will come together to show our support for our friends in Boston who have been affected by the tragic events.

The event, hosted by the Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC), is titled “Bruins For Boston”.  We will be holding a letter writing for victims and their families at 11am, a symbolic marathon starting in the plaza at 12pm, and a blood drive from 11am to 1pm.  We are deeply moved by the runners in the marathon who ran straight to the hospital to donate blood for victims that were harmed by the bombings, and will be hosting our own blood drive in symbolic fashion and in support.

For more information, please visit the event page here: