College Diaries

College Diaries

Our scholarship winners report on experiences during their first year at college.


First Semester at San Francisco State University, by Nery Martinez, winner of the Nathan Jillson Memorial Scholarship

November 15, 2012

It has been a long journey, even though it has been about three months. I am really enjoying studying here. I don’t regret coming here; I like SFSU (except the weather). I have learned a lot of things and to tell you the truth, I feel like I am learning more here in college than I did in high school.

I am taking English 104, Math 50, HED 120, and Critical Thinking. The first week was surprising because I saw a lot of people coming in and out of the university. I felt like a tiny grain of sand in a big wave of water. But it is a great experience. The classes I am taking are very small, and that is exactly what I wanted. I did not know that could even be possible at SFSU. My English class only has about fourteen students. This is good for me because I feel like my teacher has better communication with all of us. I am doing pretty well in my midterms. I only have B’s and a couple of A’s.

During this week I had tons of homework to do. I felt trapped but finally managed to do all of it. For one assignment in my health education class, I stayed up until 4 AM. I never imagined I could do that. I heard stories of some of my friends doing homework late at night but I did not think it would happen to me. Nonetheless, I feel very proud of myself because I am doing homework every day. I feel like I am more independent now than I used to be.

Also, I spend most of my time here in the library. As I am writing, I feel very peaceful. The library is like my best friend now. I write essays, journals, and math homework. I enjoy coming here because when I go back to my house it’s very loud. It’s not that I do not love my little brother, but he screams and plays around a lot. I mean it’s nothing bad, but when it comes to doing homework, he is kind of my enemy. So to prevent hearing him screaming, crying, and trying to play with me, I just stay here in the library. But I still love my little brother.

Something that I am really happy about is that I have a MacBook Pro. I had trouble doing homework with my sister laptop because we had to share. But now that I have my own, I can do my homework peacefully here in the library.

Overall college is great. I have a lot of friends, which is something I wanted to have because we can help each other. College is not the same as high school; that I know it for a fact. College is way better. It’s almost the end of the first semester and I feel proud because many people have dropped out, yet I am still here trying to do my best and to finish that goal that I always wanted to reach. I want to be a graphic designer and I hope I can make it. With the help that you are giving me I know I can do it, and I know I will not take this opportunity for granted.


The UCLA Experience by Jerry Cheung, winner of the Young Authors’ Scholarship

October 15, 2012

Though it is only October here in sunny Los Angeles, it feels like I’ve been on campus forever. This feeling is a result of the fact that I have already been through one quarter of schoolwork here this past summer. Classes weren’t too hard but they were a slight step up from high school in terms of rigor. I don’t think I chose particularly difficult classes, so that may be why I did so well (I got all As). However, this fall I’ve decided to enroll myself in an upper division applied linguistics course on body language and so far it seems pretty challenging. Apparently the entire course is in preparation for the 13 to 15 page research paper that we have to hand in at the end of the quarter, so if one were to screw up the paper, his/her grade would be completely destroyed. My other two classes also seem challenging. I’m taking a course on Shakespeare and an introduction to linguistics class. As you can see, all of my classes have to do with the humanities, and thus, because they are my forte, I’ve structured it so that my official first quarter here won’t be too stressful.

I think the biggest difference between high school and college in terms of academics is definitely the type of work you’re given. In high school, your teacher assigns you a textbook and tells you what chapters to read and memorize. In college, your professor assigns you papers and articles that wrestle with theory to consider and analyze. In other words, there is a much higher demand of our mental abilities here in college.

As for the social aspect of UCLA, I’ve found it to be rather engaging. There is much to do on campus, and by attending an activities fair with over 300 different organizations only confirms this notion. There seems to be something for everyone. Whether you are a band geek, actor, ambitious do-er, humanitarian, food connoisseur, cultural enthusiast, or philosopher, there’s a group of people on campus for you to talk to. Much of the aspects of meeting people here remain the same in comparison to high school. You sit down, you ask what’s up, and follow up with one of your pre-programmed questions like “What’s your major?” or “Where are you from?” I have to admit that the beginning stages of becoming familiar with people are rather boring. I mean, at times you try to come up with something witty to say or attempt to make some sort of clever remark about the situation you’re in, but for the most part you’re doomed by your listener who insists on resorting to the conventions of standard social behavior. Nevertheless, I’ve found that if you try to meet people on campus, failure is highly improbable simply due to the sheer amount of students here. It’s been a great first month academically and socially for me. I hope my next diary will be filled with some specific, memorable, and exciting things done spontaneously sometime in the course of these next few months!

Reflections on a First Year at College by Aress Almendares, winner of the New Voice Scholarship

August 6, 2012

First day of college and I’m still thinking about how high school went by so fast. During the summer before I started, I went through an SF State summer program that really had me amped up about college, mainly because my classmates still acted like high school kids and it was a sunny summer. I rarely saw most of them going into my first semester. When the student teachers told us we would be on our own, they weren’t kidding. In college it’s really who you know, not what you know. I quickly learned I had to either build my support system or be my own as I always was. Being on my own did not work for me.

You do a notebook full of notes every week, and almost every week teachers quiz you. It’s a cycle that teaches you more survival skills and time management for your major studies than overall knowledge. One homework assignment missed feels like a test missed. If you can find out about your professors before you pick classes, it’s your biggest advantage. I remember going through orientation and signing up for classes blindly as student helpers that couldn’t help us rushed us through picking classes. Other than the time management, it’s an awesome feeling finally being in college.

The most common icebreaker freshmen classmates think of is to ask, “What major are you?” Undecided students like me usually observe the difficult courses fellow freshmen that have chosen majors go through. SF State was the only college I looked at because it was unlikely that I’d get in. It was a swing for the fence, but I got in. When I thought about majors, I just thought about music and what programs seemed available. There’s no counselor every day for you, so advice has to be searched for mostly online. As you go on, you quickly realize how hard your high school counselor must have worked. It’s a great feeling of adulthood going in, but only slowly did I let go of high school carelessness.

Personally, before entering college, I really didn’t think about what studying for a college test must be like. I kinda thought of the social world of parties and fun. By the end of my second semester, my bad priority management hurt me. I choose work over school mostly. But I did learn how to enjoy college rather than study my butt off every night for classes I didn’t care for. There is a time and place for everything, but my attitude at the moment chooses fun all the time. College is a business and we are the clients and employees. If you can’t have fun while learning what you want to do in life, that business has wasted your time. I can give this advice to incoming students: start to care and don’t slack off while you have fun and as you meet new people. These people might end up affecting your dreams in the biggest way.

ResFest Week and the End of the Year by Jasmine Nicole Price-Tillery, winner of the Young Authors’ Scholarship

May 2nd, 2012

As my first year at Howard University comes to an end, it is extremely hard for me to figure out where my entire freshman year went so quickly; it seems like just yesterday that I arrived on campus for Freshman Move-In Day in August. I have not blogged for a while so let’s catch up with a recap of what’s been going on lately:

In mid-April, the university had its annual ResFest Week which is comprised of numerous events ranging from debate and family feud all the way to field day and board game tournaments. All Howard University housing dorms, whether on or off campus, compete against one another in the events of ResFest with hopes of dominating all opponents and winning 1st Place. The entire week of ResFest is filled with Bison Spirit but, although always very fun, it is extremely competitive! As I mentioned in my last blog entry, I am a proud member of the Howard University Bethune Annex Dormitory Step Team of 2012 and we competed in the ResFest Step Show against seven other Howard dorms. The training and practice for the Beth Annex Step Team began in November of 2011 and, to say the least, it was been crazy! Our team had two-a-day practices from 5AM to 6AM and 8PM to midnight all seven days of the week. When our evening practices ran long, ending as late as 1AM or 2AM, we were still expected to arrive on time to our 6AM session. I never imagined that the step team would require so much training and dedication; I lost 7lbs as well as countless hours of studying, sleeping, and eating time. I cannot begin to explain how many times I wanted to just give up and quit. Being an active, contributing member of the step team while balancing a full academic load was very demanding and I often felt overwhelmed. However, as I reflect on the amazing experiences as well as the sisterly bonds I’ve made through the Beth Annex Step Team, I am certain I would have regretted letting myself and, more importantly, my teammates down. The Beth Annex Step Team placed 3rd in the ResFest Step Show. Although we did not win first place, I am extremely proud of the entire team because (in the words of our Coach) “we left our hearts on the stage!”

I have excelled a great deal academically and professionally during my freshman year at Howard University. I received a GPA of 3.80 last semester and was, subsequently, invited to be a member of The National Society of Collegiate Scholars: Howard University Chapter. Recently, I declared Psychology as my double major along with English which was my initial major. I am going to receive my Ph.D in clinical psychology in order to provide psychological services to adolescents and adults on, both, an individual and/or familial basis. Upon my decision to remain on campus for the summer rather than returning home to San Francisco, I’ve been accepted into the paid summer internship program of The Washington Post. I will be working in the business division of the Post, performing editorial and clerical work. Finally, as mentioned in my last blog, I am a member of Howard University’s Freshman Leadership Academy. Our organization is studying abroad in China and Japan at the end of July 2012 until mid August 2012. FLA will be visiting various universities, including Beijing University, while on our trip. Not only will we take classes but we will, also, participate in leadership as well as cultural workshops in order to expand our knowledge while having fun!

Overall, my freshman year has been amazing. I’ve been blessed with opportunities and experiences that I would have never dreamed possible. It has not been an easy journey, but it has certainly been rewarding and eventful. Thank you so much for all of your support; it makes a bigger difference than you know!

First Semester and “Ode to a Guava” by Teresa Alfaro, winner of the Nathan Jillson Memorial Scholarship

My college experience has been a great opportunity that I would not have been able to enjoy if it was not for your scholarship. That means a lot to me and my family.

My first challenge was organizing my schedule. For the first time there was no counselor who would make it for me. The day of my orientation I felt really lost as how to enroll in classes. I was given a tiny book with long lists of the classes and the professors; I did not know how to start. My friend told me “You do not worry about the professors, your main focus has to be your schedule,” but for me one of the most important things is to know how the professors are in their teaching styles.

Fortunately I chose good professors, except for my Philosophy professor. Fixing this mistake left me with no other option than to change my schedule and have no free time between any of my classes. So I had to figure out a way to eat, go to the restroom, and sometimes give a last review for tests in the 10 minutes break between my classes. However, I preferred to run from one building to the other rather than being unsatisfied with the Philosophy class.

Since I am not a Native Language speaker I had to enroll in two English classes (ENG 201, and ENG 208) from a program for ESL students, which helped me to develop my writing, reading, and speaking skills. One of the things I am proud of is that my ENG 201 professor asked me for permission to publish one of my writings in her book for next year, which is titled “Ode to the Guava.”  The piece is below.

Every day there was a lot of homework, but all the effort I put into every assignment or essay paid off in good grades and feedback. The good grades and the good comments from the professors were building my confidence and encouraged me to continue moving forward without turning backwards. A 3.91 GPA does not say it all, but I have gained satisfaction from accomplishing a successful first semester that some years ago was far from being possible.

My journey is just starting, and I will give my best to have a successful ending along with your help.

Ode to the Guava

The guava has played such an important role in my life, even before I was born. I grew up in Santo Tomas, a small town in Salvatierra, Guanajuto that is located in the center of Mexico. This beautiful city and its municipalities, such as Santo Tomas are characterized by the abundance of the delicious and distinguished guava. The guava has represented us for years among the other cities in the state of Gunajuato. So, for me the guava has been like “Miss Salvatierra.” Her interior sweetness and her exterior simplicity have placed her in such recognition. These own characteristics have helped her to stand out from the other Misses (fruits). Miss Salvatierra has visited most of the houses of the people around the city; at least, she has visited my house several times. The most special visit was when I was a little piece of love in my mother’s belly. With her fresh and sweet aroma, she helped me to tell my mother that I have started to be part of her life. Since then she became my best friend (favorite fruit).

Miss Salvatierra lives in big brown palaces that are decorated with dark green leaves. The mother Earth and the father water have inherited provided her with the nutrients that make her be beautiful, fruity, wholesome and tasty. She does not have the body of a typical model; she is short and she has a rounded body. Her skin is green with yellow tones depending on her stage of maturity, and it can be completely smooth or rough. She has a white layer close to her skin that is bittersweet, firm and with consistency. And her flesh may be white, red or pink; and it is juicy, sweet, creamy and soft, but with a lot of small bones (seeds) that are meant to never be broken.  She likes to take vacations during the spring, and the summer. But she comes back in the autumn to the winter. She has palaces all over the city, and she is more than welcome to visit our houses. But she prefers people to invite her to their houses, because she knows that every little part of her can transmit a huge feeling of joy to all of us who like her.

Around twenty two years ago, my aunt Catalina invited Miss Salvatierra to my mother’s house. My mother was so busy all day doing her chores that she did not have the time to attend the guest. That day Miss Salvatierra and I met for the first time, and she became my best friend. It was around midnight already, and I still could not find the way to tell my mother that I was growing in her belly. But Miss Salvatierra told me that she could help me. And she sprayed her body with her strongest and sweetest fragrance, so that my mother remembered that she had gone to visit her. My mother smelled her, and suddenly she felt craved to talk to her. In the sweetest and fruitiest voice (taste), Miss Salvatierra told my mother that her suspicions were right-she was carrying a little piece of love in her belly.

When I grew up, I visited Miss Salvatierra every year with my friends. I loved to climb up in some of her big palaces to play with her. And after a long time of playing to trap her, we laid under the shadow of her palace to talk and chill out. I loved to hold her on my hand, and then I put it near to my mouth to let her know how much I liked her. Because with her bittersweet sense of humor she made me laugh and do grimaces when she told me some jokes (eating her skin and the layer first, then her interior). But I enjoyed more her lovely and sweet inside, because with every word (bite) she made me feel the beauty of life around me.

Miss Salvatierra is more than a simple fruit; she is my best friend (favorite fruit). I miss her a lot. Every time I think of her, my mouth starts salivating because I cannot enjoy her sweet and bittersweet senses of humor (flavors) anymore. I wish I could go back to Mexico to visit her, and have the longest talk of my life with her. I am so proud of her because even though she is of a small appearance, she is great in every little part that characterizes her. She does not just represent me, but she represents the population of Salvatierra, Guanajuato.



Always Awake and Focused by Elizabeth Jeronimo, winner of the 826 Valencia Scholarship

November 30th, 2011

As I experience my new life in college, I wonder of how other students should hope and encourage themselves to go to college. The University of California, Riverside has really felt like a home to me. Although I do miss my parents and my friends, I have felt at home here, and the people I’ve met are friendly. I am also very excited about the classes I’m taking but am about to finish. I am taking English, Math for Sciences, and Intro to Chicano Studies.

My English class is not the most interesting, but it is helpful to develop my writing skills. My math class is very entertaining. In my math class, there are about eighty students, and it is very fun. Our professor is very fun to be around, and he does notmake his lectures boring. He explains everything step-by-step and is very kind. This professor has made math a much more fun subject. My Chicano Studies class is very interesting. My professor is very passionate and very strong. Being in this class has made me even more interested in not changing my major but keeping it. The way my professor teaches is very confident. He is an inspiration and makes me want to pursue Chicano Studies as a major even more. I am never bored in his class. I am always awake and focused when he is talking. My professor has influenced me to pay more attention to what is happening now with Chicanos. He has shown me interest in the Latino Vote for Obama and has opened my eyes to the Occupy Wall Street protests around the world.

I have chosen great classes for myself. I am ready to follow any challenge given to me by any professor. The classes I am taking for Winter Quarter will hopefully be as interesting as the ones I am taking now. I hope to have professors who give me encouragement and inspiration. This is my beginning of my college experience in academics, and so far I am reaching my goals and aspirations.



Blue Crew by Jasmine Price-Tillery, winner of the Young Authors’ Scholarship

November 16th, 2011

My Howard University experience has been crazy to say the least. The school, like any other university, is a mixing pot of people from all over the country. This took a while to get used to considering that I am a born and raised San Franciscan. There are not a lot of people from Northern California at Howard, but California is largely represented as a whole.

I am an English major, Sociology minor on track to Entertainment Law. My classes are going very well. During my current fall semester, I have sixteen credit hours. I’ve decided that I can handle one more class, so I am going to pick up eighteen credits for the spring. The hardest class I have right now is French. I’ve never taken it before, but I am determined to learn it and become fluent. My favorite class is English for Majors because of the deep conversations and debates that take place every session. They are really interesting, and they’ve opened my mind up to many new ideas.

I’ve been trying to get as socially involved as possible. I am a member of the Howard University Blue Crew, which is a sports club on campus. We attend all games to keep the crowd live and support the players. Football is my all-time favorite sport, so I have a lot of fun at all of the games and I love the excitement.

The two biggest games we have had so far are Homecoming and the Real HU Battle. For homecoming, we won over North Carolina A&T, and it was really exciting! At the end of overtime after Howard was announced as the winning team, Blue Crew jumped out of the bleachers and ran out onto the field to celebrate with the players. The Real HU Battle happens every year.

It is between Howard University and our sworn rival, Hampton University in Virginia. On November 5, we played them at Hampton and won. Not only was this our first victory against them in fourteen years, but it was also my eighteenth birthday. My team’s win made the day extra special.

Along with Blue Crew, I am apart of an organization called Freshman Leadership Academy. This group is comprised of the freshman class elite. It was designed to train and teach us how to be great leaders. We do various community service events, project planning, and leadership workshops. Our biggest trip of the year is in July before school resumes: we are going to study abroad in Japan and China for two weeks each. Also, I am going to audition for my dorm’s step team later this month.

Howard University has been a drastic change from what I’m used to back home, but I have been rolling with the punches and doing my absolute best. I’m not fully used to some things, but I see improvements in myself and in my ability to adapt with every passing day.