Commencing Studies at UCSF

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Although challenging, being first-generation serves as an asset.

Growing up, it seemed as if loved ones didn’t care so much about prestige and formalism. People were more pragmatic; they wanted to do what worked and if it worked, then they’d disseminate that custom, preference, or technique at hand. This was interesting. It dissolved any monopoly and democratized knowledge through shared consensus and lived experiences.

I can’t reject that this collectivistic approach to information hasn’t influenced my current lifestyle. But even though I was a part of such a robust community, I believed that participation and access relating to contemporary research from the dominant culture was limited for people like me.

After all, there seemed to be a disparity between the jargon and methodologies formally espoused by scientists to the personal experiences and knowledge I had acquired over time. There were also language and cultural differences that did not facilitate information acquisition.

It appears that this phenomenon throughout my development included conflicts with credibility, accessibility, reproducibility, and communication when it came to the dissemination of information. Such disconnect was present in others as well, especially those in the first-generation Brazilian-American working class in the Silicon Valley.

However, while at UC Davis, I did slowly become exposed to opportunities which engaged in formal scholarship and research. 

One such instance was during an internship abroad studying pharmaceutical chemistry in Taiwan.

That spring of 2018 was the best time of my life. It was filled with warm temperatures, pharmacy-tailored lectures, and delicious buns. But I encountered challenges too.

 I felt overwhelmed, both during the trip and in the time anticipating the cultural exchange. Whether it was earning a below-average score on a quiz that I studied hard for, experiencing anticipatory anxiety about the culture shock, or struggling to fit in with my peers, I remember feeling indecisive.

Those feelings reinforced the perceptions I had about myself growing up – that I wouldn’t be able to assimilate and achieve because my background lacked in some way.

As I write this now, it’s important to validate those feelings ofuneasiness. After all, transitioning into a new culture during an intensive academic program entailed a willingness to embrace a novel lifestyle. And I decided to embrace it by living in the moment and being okay with not being completely okay.

But what I understand now is that such experience helped me piece together the fact that other cultures beyond the mainstream American one I grew up in were also important and rich with diversity. This conviction is one that I will continue to strive for as I enter UCSF.

In the School of Pharmacy, I want to especially build rapport with those in underserved communities. Currently, I look forward to joining a team of collaborative scientists and using research-based practices to help San Franciscans as well as the world at large. My goal is to weave aspects of my own experience and utilize my story to increase scientific literacy and appreciation.

I also hope to extend that service to myself and practice self-acceptance and self-care. Hopefully I will prioritize this since it has been a part of my routine thus far. For instance, in Taiwan, I often arranged independent activities. Outings such as a haircut or solo exploration of a seaside fort helped incorporate exercise, mindfulness, and adventure into my list of activities.

Holding on to some sense of constancy helped me build my confidence. It’s as if I prepared myself to persistently be okay with being outside of my comfort zone, and this actually provided me with stability.

I am cognizant that during this time of COVID-19 pandemic, I will encounter daily challenges as an entering pharmacy student. But such challenges provide for a great learning experience. My story navigating the educational world as a student from a minority upbringing has provided me with the cultural sensitivity to appreciate differing perspectives and customs.

This flexibility and growth mindset will serve as an advantage to my education and community practice. From UC Davis to UCSF, I’m encouraged to synthesize from all the experiences that have brought me thus far.

I hope you can realize how mindfulness, exercise, travel, planning, and institutional resources helped equip me to be successful. Though our individual details might differ, I believe that some of these overarching themes of health, wellness, and cultural participation can be applied to your career at UCSF too!