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When I think of all of the opportunities I’ve had throughout my past four years here at UCI, I feel extremely and undeservedly blessed. Each new year was so distinct and different from the last that it really reflected where I was during those points in my life.

As I was just a small-town suburban girl from Northern California who second-guessed her every move her first year, it’s crazy to think how much I’ve grown throughout my involvements at UCI.

I joined the Kababayan Pilipino/a organization my very first week here, which I owe a lot to for exposing me to the greater Pilipino/a community, as well as forcing myself to engage in a conversation with myself as a Filipina-American. I took my background in cultural dance to Kababayan’s culture night — one of the biggest culture nights in the nation — to coordinate a dance suite (and then the entire production) my third year. And through that experience, I was able to see myself come out of my own shell; I learned to value my own culture and the hard work of others in a new way, and I befriended individuals who have become like a second family (they do say Filipinos make the biggest families).

At the root of all the classes I’ve taken throughout the literary journalism and film & media studies departments, I’ve found that I’ve always had an inherent desire to find my voice and express myself in creative ways. I come from a musical background — having been a guitar player for some years now — that being able to connect with other individuals and musicians from both in and outside of UCI has taught me a lot about really knowing yourself and finding your own voice.

There have always been some strange, random-yet-hilariously-spontaneous things going on at UCI that have colored up my experience. Whether it was Erin Gruwell from “The Freedom Writers” coming and offering me the sweetest words of encouragement or one of my classes forcing me to go out and interview (and then befriend) Dia Frampton, a musician I have looked up to since I was 13 years old, I have to thank UCI for providing a space for special people and special minds to meet and share precious moments together.

It’s safe to say that I’ve really found myself at UCI. While I’m pretty sure any other college student could say the same thing, UCI is such a unique campus  (blessed strong student involvement, personal engagement and nice Orange County weather) that you really feel the sense of community here. That is probably one of the best things I have experienced during my time here. You really get the sense that we’re all in this together, but you also have the opportunity to carve your own path and create your own meaning throughout.

I feel I’ve accomplished a lot, grown a lot and shared many moments with individuals—and that’s all I would’ve ever wanted out of my experience here. (Shout out to Otero, Kababayan, PASS, PACN, Dartmouth Court, UTC, Humanities and, of course, the New U team for helping us all navigate and chronicle our experiences here.) I will definitely miss you, college, but to hold onto you any longer would be a detriment to any person trying to continue his or her own growth. Cheers.

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