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My UC Merced Journey, Class of 2024

May 3, 2024
Collage of UC Merced graduating seniors
UC Merced graduating seniors have come a long way since first becoming Bobcats.

As senior Bobcats prepare to walk the stage this weekend, we asked them to reflect on their own personal journeys at UC Merced. In response, we received stories of growth, self-exploration and change. The next chapter in their lives will bring on a whole new slate of experiences, and whether they leave the area or stay close, these testimonies show that they're versatile, highly adaptable, and ready for whatever life has planned for them.

Jasmine Estrada (M.A. Management): In the journey from undergraduate to graduate student, I have undergone significant growth and transformation. Initially, as an undergraduate, I was more reserved and introspective. However, as I progressed through my academic career, I became increasingly communicative, actively engaging with my peers and professors to enhance my learning experience. I also learned the importance of organization, developing effective study habitats and time management skills. Moreover, beyond academic achievements, I have experienced personal growth. I have become more confident in myself and my abilities, which has positively impacted both my academic performance and my interactions with others. Instead of merely focusing on grades, I now prioritize meaningful and impactful learning experiences, seeking opportunities to apply my knowledge in real-world settings and make a difference. Overall, my journey as a student has not only equipped me with valuable knowledge and skills but has also shaped me into a more resilient, confident, and socially conscious individual.

Jesus Flores (B.S. Psychology): I think I've grown a significant amount since becoming a Bobcat. My entire freshman year was online due to the pandemic and as a result, it was difficult coming back to in-person after almost two years of isolation. My social skills were lower than they already were, and being away from family didn't help either. Once I joined a club, however, I was able to meet so many awesome people that getting to know them felt so easy. I still have trouble meeting new people but it's definitely easier now thanks to the many friends I've made. I also think I've become more sure of myself and am more self-confident. Taking a leadership role this year has definitely contributed to that and has made me more confident than I ever used to be.

David Real (B.S. Biology): Reflecting on my journey as a Bobcat, I can confidently say that I've undergone profound transformations, both intellectually and personally. The university provided me with an invaluable platform to explore, learn, and evolve into the best version of myself. Academically, I've honed my critical thinking skills, expanded my knowledge base, and cultivated a deep passion for continuous learning. Every lecture, assignment, and discussion has challenged me to think outside the box, question assumptions, and seek innovative solutions to complex problems. Through rigorous coursework and engaging extracurricular activities, I've not only acquired new knowledge but also developed the ability to apply it in real-world contexts. Moreover, my time as a student has been instrumental in shaping my character and fostering personal growth. While I've undoubtedly grown in countless ways, I recognize that there is always room for improvement and further exploration. I am committed to lifelong learning and self-improvement, eager to embrace new experiences, and excited to see where this journey takes me.

Colby Priest (B.S. Mechanical Engineering): I feel like I have changed a lot as I am currently a student lead at work, and I also have learned time management really well. One of the biggest challenges I faced was being afraid to ask for help, but through my job and also getting to know staff and faculty, they allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and get academic and financial help. I am most proud that I got the opportunity to lead a team and help the School of Engineering out of covid.

Arianne Huffman (B.S. Cognitive Science): Relocating to the Central Valley was a challenge, especially with the onset of 2020, which forced me to live on a virtually deserted campus, unable to socialize with peers. As restrictions eased and I began making friends and branching out, a lingering sense of sadness remained because I felt disconnected from the Bobcat community. It wasn't until I was elected External Vice President that I truly felt a shift in my perspective. Embracing my leadership role, I forged strong personal and professional connections, and gained a deep understanding of both the Central Valley and the challenges faced by students in Merced. Drawing from my own experiences, I advocated for those who felt unable to speak for themselves, contributing to securing disability funds for the entire UC system and enhancing our campus's ties with the University of California Student Association. In my senior year, as Chair of the UCSA, I've worked with local and state governments to help students obtain affordable housing and funding for basic needs.

Rahim Moulanazada (B.S. Civil Engineering): I would say UC Merced has changed me a lot in terms of perspective and being able to leave a positive impact on the world by being part of amazing projects that are available.Starting my journey during 2020 covid-19 era, it was really challenging and hard to transition when the quarantine ended. It is hard to accomplish goals without having mentorship. During my journey I can name 2 professors that helped me a lot in terms of guidance and directing me to the right path in order to be successful: Professor Yarra and Professor Ghassemi. Thanks to both of them for being great mentors. I am proud of the connections that I got out of this amazing journey. Also, helping the new civil engineering students to get a better understanding of the field through the amazing organization (Civil Engineering Students Association).

Yaritza More (B.A. Sociology): I have changed a lot. From just moving out of my hometown, to getting to know myself more. I was shy, introverted, and not very social. I am now known by many people because I put myself out there, many people say I am a very positive person to be around and very energic. I also have been told that I have become emotionally intelligent and can read people easily. I have learned to build relationships and having friendships is important throughout my journey as a Bobcat.