UCLA’s Centennial Celebration and the Class of 2019 share a few things in common: both come with milestones that call for remembrance.
As UCLA rings in its 100th year, graduating seniors simultaneously look back on the highs and lows of their college experience.
Whether it be fierce feelings of homesickness or shining academic achievements, here are a few graduated seniors’ best and worst moments at UCLA.
Aliya Habib, biology student minoring in global studies
Habib felt her best moment at UCLA was when her UCLA Recreation team won an intramural softball championship. Habib had worked with UCLA Recreation since she was a freshman, and her senior year was the first year she played on a team.
After not playing softball since middle school, she said she enjoyed getting the chance to get back into the game.
“When you work for competitive sports you think, ‘This is just IM,’ so you don’t take it so seriously. And then you actually play and you’re like, ‘Oh, I see the other side of this now, this is intense,” Habib said.
But the wins of college were accompanied by tough losses as well. For Habib, her Chemistry 14C class was this downfall.
“I got my first midterm back and I didn’t even think I was going to pass the class. It was the lowest grade I’d ever gotten in my life,” Habib said.
Millie Unti, microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student
Unti said her best moment was when she traveled to Washington, D.C. to present her research at the American Society of Stem Cell & Gene Therapy Conference. Originally, Unti said that she wanted to attend the conference to observe. But after encouragement from her principal investigator to apply, she sent in her abstract.
Unti was shocked by the result.
“Not only did I get accepted, but I also got a travel award, so I got that award on my abstract which was really great because I don’t think there were any other undergraduates presenting there,” Unti said.
Beginning her sophomore year, Unti worked at the lab of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics under professor Donald B. Kohn. She worked on the project the three years she had been in the lab.
Despite this success in her research, Unti still experienced tough moments in her academic career. She said her worst moment at UCLA was when she got a C in Math 32A. While one C does not seem like the end of the world, she said that during a graduate school interview she was asked why she received the grade.
“My face probably went horribly pale and I was like, ‘What? Why are you asking me this?’” Unti said.
Luckily, the school did not hold the C against her and Unti will be attending Cornell University for graduate school.
Meagan Beriont, communication studies student
Beriont said the best thing she could have done while at UCLA was to embrace LA as a city. Even with lots of friends, being on campus could feel isolating, so she would go into the city to explore, find good places to eat and go to workout classes, she said.
Beriont wanted to scope out new, amazing places and form opinions of her own.
“I spent my sophomore year exploring all the best ice cream in LA,” Beriont said. “I would just go every week and try a new ice cream place based off this arbitrary list someone made about the best ice cream in LA. So now I’m an ice cream fanatic and know all about the best places for ice cream.”
For those wondering, Jeni’s and Scoops Westside make the top of the list.
The city served Beriont well, but her freshman year roommate did not. Beriont said that her worst moments were during fall quarter of her first year, as she and her roommate did not get along.
Beriont said looking back she does not know how she got through it.
“I was 3,000 miles from home, had one tiny room and didn’t even feel comfortable being there,” Beriont said. “That was really awful.”
John Kinnear, history student
One of Kinnear’s most memorable college moments did not occur on UCLA’s campus. It was over the summer in the Bay Area.
Kinnear, who was born and raised in Southern California, said he had never been to the Bay Area until this past summer when he drove up to visit friends he met at UCLA.
“I stayed with my friends for almost the entirety of the summer,” Kinnear said. “I was just couch-surfing and sleeping in my car and every day we’d go on some adventure. We’d go camping, or go explore the city.”
Conversely, Kinnear’s worst moment was more a change of his way of life. He said his worst moment at UCLA was having to make the decision to quit the rowing team.
Kinnear said he decided the best thing he could do to improve his life was to leave the team, even though it meant leaving behind friends and a sport he loved during his last year at UCLA. Fortunately, he stayed good friends with many of his former teammates.
Dash Wada, English student
One of Wada’s best moments, on top of his fraternity bid, was when he achieved his personal record for rowing.
His motivation, he said, was meeting a girl from Washington who was visiting UCLA. When he found out his team was due to compete at the Windermere Cup, a competition in Washington, seeing the girl he met at school became one of his goals.
In a bid to get a seat in the boat competing in order to see her, Wada worked hard.
“I didn’t talk to anyone on the team for like a week, I just trained.” Wada said.
Wada shaved off a total of 35 seconds off his 2k erg test time and landed the last seat left in the boat.
“It was the most ecstatic moment of my college career, it was epic,” Wada said, “I’ve never been that wholesomely happy ever.”
Though Wada was excited about the race, he did not end up having enough time to see the girl while in Washington.
While achieving his person record in rowing holds Wada’s best moment, rowing also holds Wada’s worst moment. Wada said his worst moment at UCLA was when his boat placed 10th at nationals, two years in a row. He said the first year, they expected to do much better and were very disappointed with the race.
The following year, the situation was a bit different.
“This year, none of us thought we had a shot and it ended up getting some of the best racing of my life,” Wada said.
Even though the team still got 10th place, Wada and his teammates were excited about being so close to victory.
“When you lose by the margin of a thousandth of a second, at least you got to be there and at least you thought you had a chance, there’s nothing like that, that’s exciting,” Wada said.
Together the Class of 2019 creates thousands of stories, adding thousands of pages to our campus legacy. Each of these graduates experienced ups and downs, but they made it to the end of their college journey a little bit older and a little bit wiser.
“Just go. Say yes to everything. Do it,” Wada said. “College is here, and you never get to do college again. So do it as aggressively as you can.”