The complete Main Street UCI Blog


The Blog is closed to new content. 

You CANNOT add new text or comments. To read contributions made before the blog was closed in 2012: Click on the “Contributors” drop down menu located on the right side of this page to select a contributor by name. 

This Blog stopped collecting and posting contributions and comments in fall of 2012. The original text below, including invitations to contribute and comment, remains as a record of how the Blog was organized in 2010-2012 while it was open to contributions and comments.

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The Blog is to open to you, and to anyone who wants to explore
 emotions,  observations, and opinions about life at UCI
from the point of view of those who live there
Most writers are UCI undergraduates and alumni. 

Read the personal, social, and political concerns of those who contributed to the Blog between summer 2010 and June 2012. 

Hear about how they found friends, groups, and a community at UCI, commuted on the 405, participated in a protest.  See how first generation students bridged the gap between family and college life.  Much of the great diversity of student lives is here – along with tips on how to capture the best couch in Cyber A and a freshman’s story of a late-night walk in Aldrich park.

We are leaving the Blog as it was when the last contribution was posted in Fall 2012.  We removed only the links to Facebook and Flickr accounts and contact information for students who worked on the project over the years.  Their names are in the About pages, and so is project history.

We have enjoyed assembling these records of life at UCI.
Eileen Lee, Blog Project Director, UCI Graduate 2012
Frank Cancian, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology

For authors and titles
 go to the Table of Contents tab above. 

Or, start with the last post – immediately below.

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Finding your Space

As a first-generation Latina, I had to balance leaving home and carving out my own home once I got to UCI. This was eased with the family I found among my new roommates and hallmates from Jardin, forming long lasting friendships, some which I even have the privilege to call my sorority sisters. Joining a sorority never crossed my mind, but the idea became a reality after one of my hall-mates told me if I was interested in establishing a new Latina sorority, but in the end I was intrigued by the idea and three years later, Phi Lambda Rho was established. This simple act was the first time I learned about the importance of finding your own space at such a big university and creating spaces when they do not exist for students that come from my community.

Though I was surrounded with Latina peers, it was inevitable to feel culture shock and learn that I did not grow up having the same opportunities as my fellow peers. Though this was the case, I eventually learned to use that as a source of motivation to succeed and help out my community. Yes, that is has been my inspiration from day one, never forgetting that though I have had  the privilege to attend a UC campus and that I  have the duty to go back to my community and help them with  opportunity I have been given. That continues to be my motivation today, but I must not forget that there have been certain individuals, experiences, and mentors that have also motivated me to continue.  Estamos Unidas,  Latina/o Student Psychological, Right to KNOW, Cross Cultural- Center , Summer Academic Enrichment Program, C.O.A.C.H., SAGE Scholars, and Phi Lambda Rho have all been influential to my personal and academic growth,  pushing me to think critically, to become conscious student/citizen, and have all pushed me academically, learning valuable lessons outside the classroom. Without these spaces, I do not know where I would be today.

UCI is a very special place that has fostered my leadership skills and has led to personal and academic growth.  I know that this may be hard for some to experience, especially after discussing this with incoming Latina/o  freshmen who have a hard time adjusting to a new university that is not reflective of the communities they come from. To those  and to the future incoming Latina/o students, I encourage you to actively seek to find your space, find your voice, and find your purpose. Together, they can motivate you to become the scholar you want to become and make your time at UCI much more meaningful. I would also like to encourage everyone to really get out of the ´´UCI bubble´´ and go into the surrounding communities and get a sense of the realities  many people have to endure on a daily basis. Lastly, I encourage incoming students to not be afraid to get involved in campus, it can make your UCI experience much more memorable.

Jacqueline Fuentes
Undergraduate, University of California Irvine
Department of Sociology and Criminology, Law, and Society


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Where do I start?

I hardly knew about UCI until I was accepted as an undergraduate.  The first time I went to UCI was Celebrate UCI/Wayzgoose 2007 with my mom.  We rode the shuttle around Ring Road, walked throughout Aldrich park, and attended a few information sessions.  Little did I know, UCI would be my new home for the next four years.  Like a few of my college friends, UCI was not my first choice.  However, when I was walking on Ring Road, walking towards the School of Social Sciences, I looked up, saw the clear blue sky and trees lightly blowing from the breeze, and I knew I was in the right place.   UCI offers such a wide variety of opportunities but has a small campus feel.  It was exciting to be a part of a campus where I could try a lot of new things beyond classes and get to know people well.

So many opportunities – clubs, organizations, etc. – “where do I start?!”  On a whim, I went to a meeting for this club I saw on Ring Road.  I had a blast getting to know all these new friendly people, not to mention attending all the fun afterevents – bonfire at the beach, scavenger hunt in Aldrich park, night market, just to mention a few.  Freshmen year was definitely the year I met a lot of people and started to build stronger friendships, including those from my dorm – Isla!  However, as much fun as I was having, I learned time management the hard way, when I ended up prioritizing my social life over my academics.

By my second year, I wanted to continue to get involved on campus, but this time, with more of an academic/community service enrichment focus.  Over the summer, I had gotten in touch with the director of the Global Connect program and my life was literally forever changed for the better.   First and foremost, the director of the program became my mentor, my second mom.  She not only let me grow and develop my skills through the program, but she also cared about me.  She introduced me to a professor who then became another mentor and research advisor.   I was so fortunate to meet such great people that really cared about my development.  Empowered, I took on MUN, CSLP, UROP1, and Global Connect while keeping my grades up.  My second year is probably my most memorable UCI year – not only because of my new found time management skills, but also because it was a year with many firsts.  It was the first time I lived in an apartment and had to learn how to cook. It was the first time I went party hopping.  It was the first time I met my significant other.  It was the first time that I felt more than just any student at UCI, but someone who could contribute to the UCI community and beyond.

I really wanted to make my time at UCI worth its while.  I got further involved in organizations I felt a better fit, took part in UCDC2, studied abroad in Cyprus, joined a few more organizations, explored the neighboring areas – Newport/Crystal Cove/CDM3, and engaged in several classes/activities that sounded interesting even though it didn’t count for my major – dance, cooking, etc..  I couldn’t have asked for a better undergraduate experience and only hope that all future Anteaters will also take the initiative to take advantage of our beautiful campus. Zot! Zot!

Tammy Lin
Class of 2011
Business Economics and International Studies
School of Social Sciences

Editor’s Note:

1 Model United Nations, Community Service &  Leadership Program, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

2 University of California Washington D.C. Program

3 Corona Del Mar

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From Tokyo to Irvine: A Story of One Anteater

I stepped foot onto UCI in September 2007.  I was lost.  I was born in Torrance, but I had spent my entire life in Japan.  That was because when I was born, my parents decided to raise me in Japan for me to acquire two languages.  As a result, I had applied to college as a regular, domestic student.  But in Mesa Court, I was an “international student.” 

“You wouldn’t know, you’re from Japan.” 

“Why are you asking him?  Of course he wouldn’t know what that means.” 

Throughout my freshman year, I felt like an outsider.  A foreigner that did not know a thing — about anything.  It is funny because throughout my life I was always treated like an outsider — a spoiled kid that goes to a special school that teaches their students in English.  And, at UCI, I felt like an outsider again.  I often did not know the culturally nuanced phrases, words, and expressions that snuck into regular conversations with my dorm mates.  I was terrible at the game “Catchphrase.”  Not because I couldn’t describe the words — but because I simply did not know what some of the words meant.   It was hard because I was already adjusting to a somewhat foreign land.  

I constantly wanted to prove my dorm mates wrong — that I was as good as they were.  That is probably why I did decently well throughout my time at UCI. 

But I don’t like to dwell in how my first year at UCI was catastrophic.  Because it wasn’t.  I made a lot of good friends — friends that I would live with for the next three years.  I learned a lot — how to make s’mores, play Guitar Hero, and stay awake until 6AM and wake up for the 9AM class. 

I found a true Irvine home during my second year.  I was tired of simply going to classes, eating commons food, studying, and sleeping every day.  It was all too mundane.  I decided to challenge myself by doing things outside the classroom. 

I decided to go to a Leadership Development Seminar led by the SSARC in the fall of my sophomore year.  There, I learned of an interesting program named “CSLP.”  It was allegedly a program that focuses on leadership development and community service.  It sounded broad but it caught my eye.  What probably made a huge difference were the board members of the program.  I looked up to them.  They were campus reps, Jumpstart corps members, SSARC staffers, LARC tutors — leaders within and beyond the campus.  CSLP continues to be near and dear to my heart because it is where I met my significant other — during my sophomore year.  Who would have thought I would meet someone special plucking weeds in Mason Park? 

I also wanted to do something where I could utilize my experiences as an international school alum.  Then, a perfect opportunity found its way into my e-mail inbox.  Global Connect.  An educational partnership between UCI’s School of Social Sciences and local high schools to increase global awareness and fill the void in California’s international studies curriculum.  Like in CSLP, the leaders of the program were phenomenal.  How did they become so well-read?  Such great orators?  I always wondered if I would be able to become as smart as the site supervisors within my remaining two years at UCI. 

Within my next two years at UCI, I was granted the great honor to be a leader in both organizations.  I eventually became the chair of both programs during my last year at UCI.  How that happened — I do not know.  But what I do know is that I was truly inspired by the leaders of both programs.  Throughout my time at UCI, I wanted to become a well-rounded individual like my program predecessors were. 

I said I found a home in these two programs.  But in Global Connect, I found family.  An unbreakable support system that I could always count on.  We studied, laughed, and played games together.  I could not imagine a UCI career without the Global Connect Family.  I am forever indebted for the sense of security that the Global Connect Family provided me with during a turning point. 

Finishing college is a turning point.  That is because everything up to that point is fairly predictable.  Elementary — Middle School — High School — College.  And I say fairly because there are many who cannot follow that path for various reasons.  I was fortunate to be granted the opportunity to follow this path.  I did not really know what I wanted to do after UCI.  It was hard to imagine parting with the home and family I had found in the Irvine bubble.  But I have to say that in life, things have a natural tendency to fall into place. 

If I could offer one piece of advice as a UCI veteran — as Mark Twain once wrote, “sail away from the safe harbor.”  UCI is a campus that is so rich in opportunities.  But a word of caution — select wisely.  You cannot possibly do everything that you want to within your four or five years at UCI.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of the Campuswide Honors Program, EAP, CSLP, Global Connect, SAEP, UROP, Political Science Honors, and the Ambassadors Council.   These beyond-the-classroom opportunities that the campus has to offer is what will make the UCI experience worthwhile.  No, it’s not the classes. 

I owe a lot to UCI.  It is where my memories still live today.  I am proud to say that I am an Anteater-for-life.  Zot.  

Digo S. Takahashi
Class of 2011

P.S. The word-count for the above is 949 — the Irvine area code.

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A Sylvan Reminiscence

Whenever I think of UC Irvine, the first thing that pops in my mind is the trees. It may seem like a mundane or unimportant aspect of our campus, but whenever I think of UCI I think of how we are cloistered from the rest of orange county surrounded by an oasis of trees and grass. From the moment I stepped onto the campus my 7th grade year to take the PSAT I was amazed at the sense of tranquility I sensed at the campus.  Eventually when I was offered admission I came back, and tread upon the similar path of the campus tour followed by thousands of students, and reaffirmed my always help opinion that UCI was my oasis of higher learning in the urban desert.

I knew within my heart that I could not go to a school that was not filled with trees. Once enrolled, I constantly roamed the campus sitting under the shade of the trees or laying down in the grass getting my vitamin D before retiring back to the library or my chosen study area for the day.  These walks in some ways tied me irrevocably as an anteater and made me grow a deep seated love for the school campus.  Entering Aldrich Park was like entering into a refuge where I could feel the buzz of city life get turned off.  Or just walking along ring mall to and fro class was a sort of therapy. I always make it a point after class, if I’m not rushing off to another class or work; to take my time and walk along close to the Jacarandas trees when in bloom or along the middle the path under the shade of trees planted on Ring Mall long before my arrival at UCI.  I believe the trees if they had the capacity for memory they too would look back and snicker at my escapades under their leaves such as my 2nd day on campus and walking for almost an hour lost trying to find Crawford Hall and ending up at the Beckman Center almost in tears or sneaking out from my apartment at Campus Village at night only to run back after walking along the row of statues behind the Science Library and being scared by a possum, or the unbelievable day I heard a sound on ring mall coming from the direction of the science library and found a man locked inside! They also would sadly remember harder times of late night walks as I pondered my purpose in life and contemplating dark thoughts or having tears streaming down my face as I felt my heart fracture.  There are days that I do take them for granted and don’t take a moment to breathe in the oxygenated air but overall I always eventually feel my eyes shift upwards to gaze upon the leaves and branches, even the dead of winter. For I know just like the leaves, I’ll always come back.

Silvia Lemus
School of Social Sciences & Biology Minor


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Remember that One Time in SAEP when…

Since I heard about Main Street UCI in 2010, I have been thinking about what to write for the Archives. I keep coming back to different variations of the same thing and that is where it all began.

Four months ago, I was staring hard at my then-new computer, trying to produce a paper. I’d like to say that I vomited brilliance and oozed genius and that my mind was racing, with fingers burning up the keyboard, from the magnificence which I poured into this policy paper. However, that that was not true. I stared at the bare walls of my apartment and thought about cooking dinner, but that would involve irritating the over-active fire alarm from hell. Then, all of these concerns melted away. I remember looking out my window from the University of California Washington Center on Rhode Island Ave.  I am really here. I am living in Washington D.C. I thought about what had led me here and every time, I come back to summer 2010 at the University of California, Irvine.

Where it all began…


That is actually how I remember it. I was sitting in that small stuffy room in the Social Science Plaza B, eyelids threatening to close, and suddenly snapped awake by the question. I looked around the room and none of us wanted to raise our hands to answer the question. It was rhetorical, right? Or was it? I breathed a sigh of relief as Dr. Sereseres walked past me and faced Manny who sat directly across from me. Just as I thought that I was safe…

Eileen!  How are you going to give back to your community?

The Summer Academic Enrichment Program. S-A-E-P.

During the informational panel in February 2010, I was warned that it would be intense.

                Nothing that I couldn’t handle, I’m sure….

We would get little sleep.

                Story of my life, puh-leez….

We need to work together.

                Not if I could help it….

And that we would change.  

                Yeah…sure in 5 weeks, yeah, right. 

I entered SAEP determined to conquer it.

There was no wasted time. Within the first few hours of moving into the Arroyo Vista complex that first Sunday, Dr. Christopherson came over and we were assigned research topics. We received our first batch of readings and were told to be ready for Monday morning’s classes.

Week 1: The Horror! The Horror!

Perhaps, our first week was not that dramatic, but it was a shock. A collective shudder ran through the group as we realized that our first class would be at 8:00am and that it would be statistics. I left Dr. Scavio’s class clutching an inch of papers to study and it was only the first day.  Also, did I mention the weekly tests?

The workload increased exponentially throughout the day. We were handed a 3 page article (with miniscule font) and were given 5 minutes to read, analyze, and discuss with the class. We were divided into collaborative learning groups (CLG) of 3. Within our CLG’s, every week, we were responsible for reading an assigned book and writing a group book report. And to make the point of group learning and time management, we were given one book and told that there would be consequences for any attempts to procure more. In addition, we had to prepare for a 1 ½ to 2 hour debate on Saturdays. Just when we thought it couldn’t get worse. Dr. Christopherson let us know that we’d be writing a research proposal and that the introduction was due on Thursday. And classes ended at 6:00p that night.  Had I known that that would be one of the earliest nights that we would get out, I might have panicked sooner.

There was no time for the gym. There was no time for socialization. There was no time for going out. There was only SAEP. The mandatory weekly socials were mandatory. We complained and groaned that we could not take homework or study materials with us. We begged to not go to the movies and to barbecues, wishing that we could finish our work. The response was universal. You need to work together and manage your time better.

Week 2: Resistance?

We learned the cost of not keeping up with readings. Due dates and schedules became unpredictable as spontaneous writing assignments would be assigned and due by midnight. There is only so much reading that can be done with an unpredictable schedule. The work that we had put off had finally caught up with us.

We had a 3 inch binder for our materials, yet it was already half full! Anyone resistant to group work gave way to the onslaught of work. We turned to our CLG’s for support, studying late into the night and dividing up the work. I remember several nights where dinner was (courtesy of Javier and Eduardo) Dino Nuggets stacked in the shape of a pyramid. For some reason, I have never looked at Dino Nuggets the same way since then.

I stopped going up the stairs to my bedroom. I ended up sleeping wherever I happened to be studying last, and one time that was on the floor of the study room.

Coffee became my best friend. Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

Week 3 onward: Acceptance

It’s amazing what can happen in 3 weeks. It became a routine at this point to go to lunch, with our articles, reading as we waited in line. We learned to walk, read, and somehow eat at the same time. It takes 3 weeks to change a habit and by that time, we stopped resisting and accepted our fate as doomed researchers, condemned to deadlines and constant work. Just do it? Yeah, we did it.

I mentioned at the beginning that I was determined to conquer SAEP. That didn’t exactly happen.  But I accomplished something better. I conquered my fear of statistics, public speaking, and of research.  I look back on that summer and think about the impact of SAEP on my life.


I thought about all of this as I sat inside my dorm room. I smile to myself as I think about how these past 2 years have been the most busy and satisfying academic years of my life. They were right. I couldn’t do it alone and I have never been more proud of that. 

Eileen Lee
UCI Alumna 2012

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Mujer On Campus

I was raised in northeast Los Angeles, in the vibrant working class Latin@ town El Sereno.  I am a first-generation college student who stepped onto the UCI campus with great ambitions.  Coming to UC Irvine was a big change in my life, since I am the first daughter in my family to move away to college. Living in the dorms was a new experience and I was one of the very few Latinas in the entire building. I remember at first feeling out of place and doubting whether I belonged at UCI.

I learned quickly that I needed to find my place in college and thankfully a friend introduced me to the Pan American Latin@ Society (PALS), which became my family for the next two years of college.  PALS made me feel connected to UCI because this organization allowed me to grow as a person as well as to meet new friends. Through my experiences in PALS, I was able to continue my involvement in other organizations and programs that have impacted my college experience.

Moreover, I found ways to grow consciously and to be inspired by new knowledge about my community and about myself. As a psychology major, I did not feel like anything I learned was reflective of my life, my family, and the community that I am a part of.  I feel lucky to have been able to major in Chican@/Latin@ Studies, which has connected me to my roots and has allowed me to recognize and cultivate honor in my culture’s stories and struggles. Together, my majors have helped shaped my values and strengthened my passion towards Chican@/Latin@ mental health.

As a result of learning more about myself and my roots, I was intrigued to find myself as a Chicana at UCI, to embrace the mujer inside of me. One particular space where I was able to celebrate and explore my identity was through the organization, Feminine Leaders in Outreach for La Raza (FLOR), which later became Phi Lambda Rho, a Chicana/Latina based sorority. One of my biggest accomplishments at UCI has been the establishment of this organization on campus.  Phi Lambda Rho strives towards helping our fellow Latina peers, as well as future Latina students navigate college successfully.  As students, we support one another in reaching our academic and professional goals by utilizing the resources we have in college, and by encouraging one another in our pursuits of higher education. This organization is very special to me because we envisioned a space for Latinas on this campus to be proud of their culture, to feel understood, and most importantly to feel supported. 

I will be starting my last year at UCI this fall and it is definitely a bittersweet feeling. I am excited to move forward, but I am sad to leave, as UCI is a place that has allowed me to discover myself, surprisingly, as a woman of color.  I am thankful for the people that I had the opportunity to meet here at UCI and for the knowledge that I am privileged to have learned. 

Denise Leon
Psychology | Chicano/Latino Studies
Phi Lambda Rho, Inc. President 2012-2013
Class of 2013

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“…But ALL the students are Asian!” My experience at UCI…so far (2 more years to go)

Warning: the following content is brutally honest and blunt.

I do not mean to offend anyone nor do I have any ill intentions. I just want to tell my story in full honestly.

No sugar coating, no euphemism, and no worries about being politically and socially correct.

Here it goes…

Initially I applied to UCI because it was close to home and I had a good chance of getting in. When I got admitted, I was reluctant to accept. “All the students are Asian,” I thought to myself. “I’ll never make good friends or find a boyfriend.” Why I had this mentality, I’m not sure. But I know it had something to do with all the negative stereotypes I heard about Asians while growing up. “They’re cold” “They just stick to their own kind” “They don’t express their emotions” I believed these stereotypes as if they were an accurate description of all Asian people.  And somehow these stereotypes were confirmed with my own experiences during high school.

Before I knew it, “Celebrate UCI” day came around. My mom dragged me to visit the campus and learn more about the programs. As the campus tour guide led us around ring road, my mom and I were awed by the beautiful buildings, the greenery of Aldrich Park, and the monetary richness of the whole campus.  Then we went to a conference room in the Student Center to learn more about the Undecided/Undeclared program. “Look at the clean, fresh walls, and that podium!” my mom whispered to me with sparkling eyes. We had never seen so much wealth in a concentrated area. My parents both worked all day for minimum wage. We had immigrated to the United States in search of the American Dream but spent all our time struggling to survive in a poor neighborhood. UCI looked like another world to me. To my mother it was the gateway to a better life. She wanted me to be surrounded with educated and relatively wealthy people. Something she never had.

With pressure from my mother, the flexibility of the Undecided/Undeclared program and the beauty of the campus, I was convinced. I committed to UCI.

Again, before I knew it. It was time to move in to the dorms. I was nervous about who my roommate would be. To my dismay she was Asian. I decided to keep up a positive attitude and force myself to forget about the stereotypes. But as weeks dragged on, each stereotype was as real and painful as my loneliness.

I was also having a hard time adjusting to UCI culture. Back home I was used to living a communal life and caring deeply for other’s feelings and being cared for as well. At UCI, the culture was very individualistic. I knew the only way to escape my misery was to make close friends, but how could I? They were all Asian.

Slowly as I got involved on campus, I met a few people that I could connect with, and they were Asian! One of my co-workers, the nicest one of all, became my first Asian friend. A kind and sincere guy who I attempted the ARC (Anteater Recreation Center) ropes course with became my first Asian crush. Of course, soon I learned that there were different kinds of Asians: Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Phillipinos, etc. And they too had their cultural differences.

My views on Asians, race, and society as a whole have changed greatly since

I started my journey at UCI.  I’ve learned so much from my experiences. But

I still have a long way to go.



Elin Ghazikhanian

3rd year
Psychology and Social Behavior Major
Education Minor
Cross Cultural Center affiliate


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A Whole lot of Firsts: A first generation college student experience at UCI

I’ve always had big dreams and when I transferred from my community college to UCI in 2009, I felt like I was halfway there. I knew what I wanted, knowing was never the problem. Obtaining it, however, was a completely different ball game. I wanted to go to graduate school, I wanted my PhD, and I had no idea where to start. During my first quarter, I already had the feeling that time was running out.

I did know that I was going to need letters of recommendations, so halfway through my first quarter at UCI I approached one of my professors. I do not think that Dr. David Frank realized how nervous I was the day I approached him after lecture. Approaching this person that was where I wanted to be was surreal. This action was the first step I took at actually achieving my goal. After learning about my interest in graduate school, Dr. Frank provided me with my first glimpse at the process of finding a school that ‘fit’ me. After our meeting I went to several seminars on the graduate school processes that were provided by the Social Science Academic Resource Center (SSARC) and Transfer Center. I received valuable information from these seminars; however, I was not any closer to reaching my goals.

During the winter quarter of 2010, I received an email from the School of Social Science about the Summer Academic Enrichment Program (SAEP). SAEP is a program for 1st generation college students interested in research and graduate school. This program was a God send and I applied right away. I got into the program and attended the program for 5 weeks during the summer. The skills and connections that I gained during those 5 weeks are invaluable. SAEP not only provided me with practical skills, but I also acquired a newfound courage and self-confidence to do something that I have always wanted to do. After I finished the program, I applied for an Education Abroad Program to China. In February, I made my first trip out of the country. Applying to EAP created a small problem in my schedule for the following year. That year I had applied and been accepted to the Sociology Honors Program. After talking with some of my mentors I decided that although it would be difficult to continue my research without speaking with my research advisor regularly I would try.

When I started the Sociology Honors program in the fall, I was not sure what topic I wanted to pursue. I had several things that I was passionate about and I could not decide which interest to follow. In the end I decided to continue the research that I had started that summer on stress levels of minority women in positions of leadership. After relating my plans of studying abroad to my mentor, Dr. Samuel Gilmore, we decided on the research topic of organizational culture and female leadership in China in comparison to the United States. However, doing research in China would prove extremely difficult. The fall quarter passed and I had completed my proposal, turned in my application to UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program), and I had submitted my proposal to the IRB (Institutional Review Board). All that was left to do was prepare for my departure. Preparing to go abroad was nerve racking.  There were surprise expenses, moments of doubt, and times when I began to wonder whether I would be able to cope in a place where I had absolutely no support system. I managed to make it through all of those doubts and on February 14th I was on a plane to Shanghai.

During the time that led up to going to Shanghai I did some preparing. I read newspaper articles and books; I talked to friends, and even watched movies in order to get an idea about what everyday life would be like when I reached Shanghai. I knew that at times I might be frustrated with language and customs that I was not used to. However, during that first week in Shanghai I noticed nothing. All the things that later on would leave me frustrated had no effect on me then. Although I felt that I was well prepared before I arrived in Shanghai a lot of things still caught me off guard even though things that I thought I was prepared to encounter. I had to remind myself that there was more than one way to do something and that I should not expect things to be like they were in America, because I wasn’t in America. After I came back home I found myself missing Shanghai. I miss the food, the people, and how everything seemed to be within walking distance.

One of my most rewarding experiences while I was in Shanghai was volunteering for a program called Stepping Stones. Stepping Stones is an organization dedicated to helping migrant children in Shanghai with their English skills. When I say migrant I am referring to internal migration within China. At the moment China has a home registration system called Hukou. The way this system works to put it simply, is that people are given benefits based on the area that they are registered in and if you want to move to another area you have to apply. However, ordinary workers are generally not granted permission to move to places like Shanghai, Beijing, i.e. the Special Economic Zones. However, jobs have driven many from China’s countryside into these areas. The children of these migrants are placed at a disadvantage on several fronts. One being that they cannot attend “normal” schools in Shanghai, because they do not have Shanghai Hukou. There have been special schools created by migrants that have become available for these children. However, schools do not have the same budget or resources that the schools that are open to the students with Shanghai Hukou have. Currently the Chinese government is working to resolve a system that has become outdated; however, in the mean time these students are left at a disadvantage. The hope is that by helping students with their English skills they will do better on their entrance exams and be able to get into a college or university.

My Honor thesis had not gone as planned. Since there was not an equivalent to the IRB in China, there were added difficulties with my application. Also, I was having a hard time finding a population that was comfortable with me asking questions about their working environment. I was also limited by the fact that when I arrived in Shanghai I did not speak Mandarin at all. The IRB still had not given me approval to conduct my interviews in May and so I decided to postpone my thesis until the following school year.

When I returned to UCI for fall quarter, I realized that I had quite a number of classes to take if I wanted to graduate in the spring. I overloaded myself even though I thought I was handling everything quite well at the time I was taking 20 units, plus research, and applying to grad school at the same time. I needed to write a new proposal, even though I was going to use the same topic. By December I was a wreck. Nothing seemed to be working out and I became scattered trying to put all the pieces back together again. Eventually I dropped everything and focused on my finals. During winter break I tried to fix what was left of my proposal. All the articles began to merge in my mind and although I was trying to stay focused I had simply lost interest. Meanwhile deadlines for programs that I had been planning to applying slipped past. I was in a rut and I did not know how to get myself out of it. Winter quarter started and I was in the same situation I was in during fall quarter. Eventually I decided that I was not going to be able to finish my research project. Not finishing my research project has become my one major regret about my undergraduate career. However, I knew that my interest in the subject area was not very strong to begin with. I had let myself be led to the topic simply because I did not know what I was most passionate about. I did not want to take up anymore of my mentor’s time with a project that seemed to have fallen apart and one that I could not motivate myself to put back together.

I did end up applying to one program during the upheaval of fall and winter quarter. The program is in International Studies at Concordia University. It is an intensive one year program. It is unique in the sense that the students live and work in China for most of the program. I have been accepted; however, I have deferred my acceptance until the next school year. In the mean time, I will be working and trying to gain some practical experience before going back to school. I believe that I will apply for a PhD programs in the future; however, before I do I plan to be sure about what it is I want to study.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience at UCI. I have learned so much both inside and outside the classroom. I know that sounded like a cliché, but it is true. Through my professors, protests, rallies, seminars, and my peers I have gained perspective, challenged prejudice, and rethought assumptions.  My only hope is that in the years to come I will continue to do so.

Karen McNair
UCI Alumni 2012
B.A. Sociology
Minor: International Studies

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My life at UCI

I am about to graduate from UCI, to be exact, in September 2012. My high school graduation was long long ago. I did not walk on graduation Sunday, as I am still a little shy sitting among my much younger peers. I did attend the Social Ecology Honor Ceremony to receive my honors student certificate; it was a smaller crowd. I cried, not only because of my own sense of accomplishment, but also, I was deeply touched by other students’ UCI journey.

I thought that I have been working hard, as a transfer student, a first generation immigrant, and a mother of 3 year-old twins.  I have been content with my GPA, until the moment when I heard the stories of some of my fellow honor students. UCI helped me, and many others, to become the persons that we had wanted to be. I wished that I had done more, a lot more, to leave an impact on UCI, to pay it forward.

What I had gained at UCI exceeded my expectations.  Above all, I experienced the joy of learning, built my confidence in learning, and acquired the method for future learning.

A few months ago, as I was reading a non-course related marketing book, I realized that I have not been consulting my dictionary for a while. I had not started learning English until I was 20 years old. The lack of English proficiency had been my biggest huddle in my academic journey. My past two years’ study in UCI improved my English tremendously so that I can finally enjoy reading in English.

I do still remember, however, how awkward I had felt when I first came to UCI. Things started to change when I visited the Transfer Student Center. I had the chance to get to know my peers, to support and get support from them. I realized that I was not the only non-traditional student who had struggled during the transition period. Sharing with other students opened up other avenues in my life.  I find that UCI cares about students’ experience, learning in particular, and that learning opportunities are everywhere.

Thanks to those dedicated professors who required a high standard in both students and themselves, I felt both of my energy and learning ability being challenged in their classes. In my attempt to satisfy these professors’ requirements, to match up to their teaching effort, I gradually became a passionate learner. I have approached many professors during their office hours, seeking a broader perspective, and am always further inspired by their insights and knowledge. In addition, I have followed several of their suggestions and have taken classes in other disciplines during the summer section– not only freeing limited time during the regular quarters, but also enabling me to take honors classes, even further breaking my own pre-conceived academic boundaries and directing me toward a broader, but more fine-tuned academic path.

I heard that UCI was research oriented before I came, and now I can tell what that means. I have participated as a subject in UCI Experimetrix (UC’s social science research participation pool) as much as I could to further my understanding of what researchers actually do, and this has fortified my desire to conduct my own research projects.   I have learned both a variety of study designs in the Experimetrix pool, as well as experienced the thinking processes of the participants. UROP and the Social Ecology Honor Program allowed me the chance to try my ideas.

I had a few words to express my discontent in some aspects of my UCI life. The most serious one stems from the commercialized UCI dining environment, best exemplified by the high price soft drinks offered in UCI’s wending machine. Is UCI so profit driven, turning the busy students and faculties to its captive consumers, condoning the aggressive business practices-double retailing? I don’t know and I would really like to know.

Nevertheless, after two years of studying psychology and social behavior at UCI, I find I can understand myself better, relate to other people more socially, and understand better the things around me. Overall, I enjoyed my life as a student, and I am grateful that UCI had changed my life perspective.

Rao Fu Borden
Psychology and Social Behavior

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