The class of 2018 comprises of thousands of students, ranging in areas of expertise, age and experience.
Inspired by the popular photo blog “Humans of New York,” which collects photos and interviews with people throughout New York City, the Quad sought out some of the most interesting stories of graduating seniors.
Robyn Kim, 22, Middle Eastern studies student
“I spent most of my life in Yemen, and this experience is what got me interested in majoring in Middle Eastern studies.
I majored in Middle Eastern studies from the start, but I was also simultaneously on a (premedical) track. I was consistently premed until a few months ago when I decided to take a break from everything. I felt like I just needed to refresh myself – I was tired of trying so hard and I especially missed being able to express my creative side. I haven’t done many creative things in the past four years, so I felt deprived of my creative expression.
I decided to take an initiative in trying to find this creative balance by joining Foundations Choreography in my last quarter at UCLA. This has been a very refreshing experience for me because dance is a creative expression. I never really got the chance to (dance) until this quarter, and it has been one of the best decisions I made in college.
In the end, I’ve learned that my creative side and my means of free expression through hobbies and activities like dance are just as important and worth investing time and attention into as my academic side.”
Mimi Lu, 21, physiological science student
“In terms of going into what I’ve learned, as well as aspirations for the future, I came into UCLA as (a premedical student). Ever since I was 10 years old, I could remember myself saying that I was going to become a doctor or find a career in health care and the sciences.
I think one of my favorite memories was probably during my first week at UCLA. I had met a bunch of new people and we took a really spontaneous trip to Santa Monica. It was my first time in Santa Monica, and it was really surreal to see the lights on the water with my new friends and almost indulging in the feeling that there was a lot of hope for the future and my next couple of years at UCLA.
With this freedom in college, I was able to explore new things like dance, which I had never done. I’ve learned that freedom is very much a blessing and a curse because the first time you taste it, it’s such an exhilarating feeling and it’s so new. Once you have a grasp of it, you don’t want to let it go.
At the same time, freedom comes with a lot of responsibility and initiative that you have to take onto yourself and sometimes it’s really easy to let yourself go.
Oftentimes, dance helped me with this in that it gave me a reason to force myself to leave the apartment or interact with people and it became one of those lights that really brings you out of a dark place. When you find a passion for something, it’s such a strong feeling that it’s able to overcome everything else that’s going on.”
Sarah Maghrbi, 21, political science student
“My experience at UCLA has been tumultuous to say the least. I came in all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and reality smacked me in the face.
I came in as a transfer. I’m from the Bay Area, so I left all of my friends and family behind. I didn’t dorm my first year so I didn’t make as many friends as I could have, and I was very alone. Although I had a lot of acquaintances and I would see a lot of people, I had never felt that alone in my entire life. I fell into a really deep depression because I didn’t have my support system that I was used to having and it took a very long time to get out of that. I felt very isolated.
There would be times when I would walk to (Young Research Library) and cry in the stacks because it was so empty and I could just be alone. Falling into such a deep emotional place was very atypical from what I was used to and I felt like I had no one to turn to.
Eventually the following year, I lived with amazing, wonderful people and now I am living with (my) best friends. I was slowly able to climb out of the dark hole that I was in and I’ve learned to appreciate UCLA for what it is and what it has to offer, faults and all. I’m really happy with all the strength and growth I have developed from being thrown into such a chaotic world.
The biggest takeaway I would say from my UCLA experience is that life is not always going to go the way you planned for it to go, and that is totally fine. You can put yourself on one path and think that is the trajectory that you’re going to go in, but life has a way of surprising you and going in different directions than where you expected it to go.”
Jacob Metevia, 21, English student
“I started off my UCLA experience by doing “Wilderness Welcome,” and it was through this program I met a girl, … who became one of my closest friends. After Wilderness Welcome, we hung out during week zero, and during that same time, we met a lot of other friends together. … We were with a bunch of other people that first quarter, but it was us four that stayed together and hung out and ate lunch and dinner together everyday.
In the beginning, because we had a larger group of friends and people kept dropping out one by one, I had this constant fear that I was eventually going to be dropped too, but I realized that this process of certain ones sticking was perfectly natural and normal.
These four friends have really framed my experiences here, like going to big parties or going on adventures. I would say my experience with them has really reinforced that it doesn’t matter too much what your status is, as long as you have a close circle of people that accept you for who you are. Having this friend group to come back to has made all of my experiences here less scary.
Having these friends to support me in my aspirations and goals has taught me that you can still really be close to people and accept people’s various life goals and paths without subscribing to or following them yourself.
All my friends have different goals. Nevertheless, we all continue to motivate and support each other to do well, while at the same time allowing each of us to do our own thing and express our individuality within our friendship.”
Kelvin Wong, 21, computer science student
“In the past, I never would have expected to come to UCLA because I come from a pretty poor community and I wasn’t the best student in high school.
I really wanted to get into a good school and get a good job because my parents both work at restaurants every single day, and seeing that makes me want to work even harder so they don’t have to work so hard. I told them that the second I get a job, I want them to retire and go on vacation, and that I would pay for whatever they needed from then on. With this mindset, I told myself that I needed to get a job right out of high school.
I chose to go to community college – I spent two years there. I technically went to five community colleges and was at UC Berkeley for a bit, just so I could get all the classes I needed to transfer. I would have classes from around 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every single day, just going from class to class, sometimes skipping meals for that entire day because I would have to drive to several different community colleges in one day and attend all these classes. I would get home around 10 p.m. and do homework for a couple of hours, going to bed, and repeating the same cycle over again.
While it was difficult, with this process I was able to finally get into the school that I had always dreamed of attending – UCLA.
I spent my first year at UCLA solely focusing on trying to get a good internship. I went through around fifty applications, and got a couple interviews. In the beginning, it was a constant cycle of rejection and disappointment, but in the end, I was able to secure an internship at Amazon.
Coming to UCLA, I have learned so much these past two years. I learned how to do my job as a software engineer, but I also learned about myself as a person. I was able to grow up and become a true adult. While I’m still a kid at heart, being at UCLA allowed me to mature and develop morals that will stick with me for the rest of my life.”
Austyn Yamada, 23, statistics
“As a transfer student, I didn’t really know what to expect from a university like UCLA. When I came to UCLA, it served as a really big wake-up call after coming from a really small junior college.
Junior college for me was a place where I generally kept to myself – I didn’t really involve myself with any clubs or organizations, and there was a lack of collaboration or school spirit because everyone was just doing their own thing.
When I first came to UCLA, it was shocking to see so many students getting involved and taking initiative and being so passionate about their own organizations and groups on campus. Back in my hometown of (Torrance, California,) I have always lived in a very independent way, but being at UCLA opened up my eyes to a different world.
School was extremely tough, but overall, I still feel like it was a good decision for me to come here. I could have gone to a commuter school and saved money, but I chose to try to challenge myself and attend a big public school.
I learned so much, met so many new people, and made lots of new connections that went beyond surface level relationships. One of the biggest lessons I have learned at UCLA is there really is no easy way to success.
Everyone is fighting their own battle and working their hardest to get the best internships or get into the top medical schools, and this really made me strive to push myself even harder to achieve great things like everyone else here. Being a part of this school is so great because it really did motivate me and helped me develop new goals and aspirations for myself that I hadn’t considered before.”