Claiming My Education

As a first-generation college student, I take great pride in where I come from, what I’ve been through, and where I’m headed. Navigating college was not easy, and every step of the way there were barriers. I was very fortunate to have had a great support system and lots of mentors back home that made me into the person I am today. The goals I set in high school are completely different from the goals I have now. Experiencing hurdles early on in college helped me realize my true passion for education. When I first read, Paulo Freire’s, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, I derived a profound purpose for education as serving a “cause of liberation” for students. With this transformative approach toward my education, I realized how important it was to take advantage of all the resources available to me so that I could assist my community.

Shortly after my second year, I began to take on different responsibilities at the UC Irvine campus. From serving as President for a Latinx coalition organization to joining a Latino fraternity, all my roles have been focused around community service and promoting educational opportunity. My goals since high school have changed from simply earning a degree to prepare for the workforce to claiming my degree and being proactive where ever I reside.

This summer, I am part of a five-week summer cohort called, Summer Academic Enrichment Program (SAEP) here at UC Irvine. The program focuses on exposing undergraduate students to research and preparing them for graduate school. This upcoming academic year, I will be a Research Assistant for Professor Yenda Giovanatto in School of Education with a focus on language and literacy development in children and adults. I also plan on conducting research surrounding political participation and how age, educational attainment, and religion can effect voter turnout in the Latinx community. In addition, I will be participating in the UCDC program and am in the process of applying for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics fellowship.

After I graduate, I will be applying to Stanford’s Policy, Organization, and Leadership Service graduate program, as well as to University of San Francisco and San Francisco State University’s Educational Leadership programs.

First Quarter

Reflecting back on my first quarter, I can say that it was a little bit of everything. From living about eight hours away from home to being independent and trying to separate my personal and academic life. The first week of school was good for me. I liked my schedule, which I only had classes three times a week, and it gave me an abundance of free time. Having plenty of free time is both good and bad at times. with that free time, I would hang out with friends or just be on my computer which was bad because I could have been productive with it. I have now learned that going into this second quarter I need prioritize my studies. During the second month of school I would meet up with a volleyball team and would attend their practices and would play with them. I really enjoyed doing this because it was a nice distraction from stress that was building up because of midterms and all the workload. I also met some wonderful people because of that and I think it helped me get through the first quarter. Going into finals week last quarter was very difficult. I had a lot of catching up to due to the fact that I wouldn’t study enough before. I had to apply myself and attend office hours in order to have a quick refresher of the material. I now have to really be on top of my responsibilities since I am practically on my own. Going in to this second quarter, I am finally taking classes that will help me declare my major and I am excited to be able to learn about it. I now need to adapt more study habits and have a plan that will help me succeed.

First Weeks of College


The first weeks of college have been challenging. It’s definitely what I was expecting and more. The workload is substantially large and a lot of study hours are to be dedicated. My hardest challenge is not necessarily the work but the time managing put into the work. 

Time managing is key; you have to balance out your day. My days usually consist of at least one course per day and each class is two hours or more. That leaves the rest of the day to do whatever you need done. This still doesn’t include the online quizzes, projects, and other deadlines you have to satisfy for a certain course. This is where time managing comes into play. I have a PowerPoint presentation due next week, and I’m dedicating about two hours on it a day. At this pace, I should be done with my presentation and all the necessary practice by October 14th. Working ahead of time is a must for these types of things, because you never know what you may run into. 

My impression of college was obviously, lots of work, lots of studying, and a broad social life. I was aware of time managing because many of my tutors, and mentors told me about it and warned me that if I didn’t set up my schedule ahead of time I could be faced with troubles in the future. I listened to them, and thanks to that advice I get more work done with time to spare and fun social activities to attend. I advise everyone to do the same. This has just been the first two weeks and I feel so familiar with the place and my surroundings. I feel so much at home, and the students here are so welcoming. I couldn’t imagine myself elsewhere. My friends are always encouraging me, and we feed off each other’s success. 

The toughest aspect about college at the moment is balancing your schedule. Many students I know have a whole bunch of units, while I have the most relaxing schedule. Majoring in Computer Engineering means that the average student graduates in four and a half years; this means the average units per quarter is 14, I’m only taking 12 this quarter. I plan on taking 16 units the next quarter and 14 the following quarter. I want to challenge myself academically, and prove to everyone back home that anything could be done with hard work, and determination. Many people have helped get on this road, and I don’t plan on letting them down, I want to make my family proud, and I want my siblings to follow along. College is the best thing that has happened to me, and this is just the first leap.

-Enrique, UC Irvine ’16