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Opinion: UCLA is not perfect, but there is a place for everyone to find success

First-year pre-business economics and pre-political science student and columnist Jalyn Wu (right) stands in her dorm room with roommates Madeline Mai, a design contributor, and Maria Aguirre. In this column, Wu reflects on her first year at UCLA and gives advice to new Bruins.(Courtesy of Jalyn Wu)

By Jalyn Wu

May 11, 2022 9:27 p.m.

As the end of the year draws near, I’ve been feeling nostalgic.

Seeing all the new student tours on campus has made me think about how wild the first year of college has been for me, how I moved in my twin XL sheets and all of my naivety along the way. Now, I’m about to move out with approximately 11 new tank tops and at least that many lifelong friends.

I’ll be honest: UCLA was never on my radar when I first considered where I wanted to go for college. For some reason, I was obsessed with going to an elite private school in the Northeast. So when I got into UCLA, I was pleasantly surprised, but I didn’t start seriously thinking about committing until the day before the deadline. Now, I’m confident I made the right decision.

I hope some of the following advice can help incoming students along their new journeys.

To our new Bruins, welcome!

So, you’ve already committed to UCLA. You’re frantically searching for information about the place you’re going to spend the next two or four years of your life. Everywhere you go, people will tell you about clubs, housing, sports and classes.

Like many students before me, I felt intense impostor syndrome when I first moved to Los Angeles. But my reasons for feeling like I didn’t belong were very different. For starters, I grew up in Iowa, a state with a population that is about 90% white. Here, it was the first time I had ever been surrounded by people who looked like me, and oddly, it was like I was surrounded by so much diversity and positivity that I had no idea how to adapt.

In Bruin terms, I’d been eating sugar-free frozen yogurt my entire life, and when I finally tasted Diddy Riese, I didn’t know how to act.

For the first time in my life, I have classmates who look like me and share my interests. Funnily enough, it’s because they all come from different places and have such cool stories that I feel like I truly fit in. At UCLA, very little stays the same for long.

The great thing about being different is that when everyone’s differences are normalized, uniqueness becomes a celebration rather than a punishment. Now that I’ve found this community, I can’t imagine my life without it.

When it came to my first round of enrollment in the summer of 2021, I was intimidated by both the sheer volume of choice as well as seemingly arbitrary rules and expectations that came with picking classes. The enrollment period feels like an intense fight to the death, but the best – or worst – part is that no one wins because students rarely get all their first choices. They say college is meant to prepare you for “real life,” whatever that means, but the reality check enrollment brings actually comes before your classes even start.

Less than two months into fall quarter, you sign up for your courses for winter quarter, because here at UCLA, you never have a moment to sit back and smell the roses.

I was lucky enough to take dual enrollment classes before coming to UCLA, so I technically graduated with an associate degree before I even graduated high school. The University of California system awards up to 105 credits for direct-entry and transfer students, which is over half of what is required to graduate. Remember those Advanced Placement exams you wanted to skip? For me, they’ll be the difference between graduating in four years and three.

However, my experience with transfer credits and classes is definitely not universal. Transfer students have expressed that UCLA offers little to no support in adjusting to campus, contributing to a phenomenon known as “transfer shock.” The struggle to fit in is universal.

While I’m not a transfer student, newly admitted students should know UCLA is far from perfect.

In early February, shooting threats from a former UCLA lecturer shook our community. While campus authorities worked with Colorado police and federal agencies to apprehend the suspect outside of California, many students felt that the university was slow to respond to the threat and even slower in communicating safety information to the student body. It was deeply unsettling to realize that in the absence of reliable and efficient information from the university, all of my knowledge on the rapidly developing story was from Reddit, GroupMe and word-of-mouth.

A shooting threat, while terrifying, doesn’t necessarily affect how the university does its day-to-day operations. Instead, issues such as insufficient funding for the Black Bruin Resource Center and the absence of universal hybrid learning options have inspired student-organized movements that have had varying degrees of success. For example, while administrators agreed to the Disabled Student Union’s call for accurate closed captioning for lectures, a referendum on the annual Undergraduate Students Association Council ballot that would have increased funding for the BBRC failed to achieve even the minimum voter turnout required to pass.

On a more positive note, UCLA has tons of events – big and small – that spice up your college experience. I loved Bruin Bash, the concert that the Campus Events Commission and Cultural Affairs Commission hosts at the beginning of every school year – then again, I am biased toward cool female rappers. I also love the cultural food days that UCLA Dining hosts, such as serving churros for Cinco de Mayo and giving out red envelopes for Lunar New Year. There’s so much to do, so don’t feel bad if you miss an event you wanted to see or a specialty meal from your favorite dining hall. Chances are, something even cooler will pop up next week.

My biggest takeaway from this year is cliche, but it’s true: Don’t overthink. At UCLA, I’m in the “figuring it out” stage: how I want to live, what goals I want to achieve and who to surround myself with. My hope is that every new Bruin finds themselves here: in the seats of lecture halls and the long lines at dining restaurants, cramped within sweaty frat parties and busy study lounges. Everything you experience will just be part of making you a true Bruin.

Nothing will go as planned, but remember that you deserve to succeed – and have fun while doing it.

So, new Bruin, here’s to the next chapter of our lives together.

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