Darline is an Advocate and blog writer
I am a first generation Mexican-American and also a first generation college student. My family came to this country with many hopes and dreams. They worked multiple entry-level jobs in order to give us a better life. Therefore, they stressed the importance of education from a young age. However, being the first generation in this country comes with its own battles. I learned English as a second language, attended public schools in low-income areas, and had to figure out a lot of things on my own.
I remember applying to University. Despite having taken honors and advanced placement classes, there was no class that taught me how to navigate applications. I remember working on an application the night it was due and being surprised and frustrated that this particular one had 3 essays I did not know about. Despite these challenges, I was accepted to multiple schools and ended up doing my Bachelors at the University of California, Davis.
It was at UC Davis that I first got involved with research. A Professor from a class I really enjoyed had a graduate student come and give a short presentation on her research and invite us to apply for an undergraduate lab position. It was there that I fell in love with the process of research: learning, identifying a problem, planning and executing experiments to answer a question. After undergrad I got a job as a laboratory technician. Here I gained valuable skills and was encouraged by my mentor to apply to graduate school.
The graduate school application process much like the undergraduate one, was a totally new world. Even identifying programs I wanted to apply to was a challenge. Once in graduate school I participated in undergraduate recruitment events to share my experiences with others. I heard over and over again that people did not want to apply to this or that school because “they would never get in.” It was those words and my experiences getting to graduate school that motivated me to join this project.