Jason Moreno

Graduating Class: 2018

Major: Psychology and Social Behavior

Minors: English and Education

Hometown: Costa Mesa, CA

What motivated you to pursue higher education?

I really didn’t see any other path to take after my high school graduation. I was the only first-generation college student in my group of friends, so hearing them constantly talk about it made me feel as if there was no other alternative. I didn’t want to work at the time, at all. I also never particularly loved school, but I was pretty good at it and I didn’t mind it so college seemed like the best way to go. Lastly, I knew that my parents wanted me to pursue higher education. They by no means forced me into it, but knowing that I had their support made the decision much easier.

What would you like to have known coming into your first year of college?

Everything is easier when you have a community. I don’t mind working alone and being alone the majority of the time, but everything became easier once I started spending more time on campus and getting involved. I commute, so I often drove to class right before it began and left immediately after it ended. This, coupled with my shyness, made building relationships difficult. Everyone hates group projects, but they are what ironically led to me making my first friends at UCI. I’ve found that people on campus are genuinely nice, but sometimes you have to be the one to take initiative and start a conversation. It’s worth the risk.

What was a challenge you faced as a first generation college student and how did you overcome it?

The largest challenge I faced was a lack of guidance since my parents and siblings weren’t familiar with higher education. I often felt lost and out of place. In high school, I could stop by and speak to a counselor whenever I wanted to for as long as I wanted to if I had any questions. But, in college, I felt on my own the vast majority of the time. Academic counselors felt out of reach, and were often understandably in a hurry or overwhelmed when I did finally get a chance to meet with them.

I overcame this challenge by visiting counselors during times of less student traffic, such as midway through the quarter when they had less going on as far as appointments went. I also found other sources of guidance in the Career Center and in workshops, which led to me getting involved with Student Success Initiatives and the Scholarship Opportunities Program. Each resource and source of guidance opened the door for other resources.

What was a resource that helped you navigate UCI?

TAs have gradually become a source of information and guidance throughout my time at UCI. They are more accessible and approachable than professors most of the time, and they also often have more relevant advice to offer as far as academics go. They are often knowledgeable not only about course material, but graduate programs and research positions in your field as well. You can ask them about their experiences as a grad student and the workload they have to manage, or about the research they’re involved in. Another benefit is that, in my personal experience, their office hours are also often far less busy than a professor’s.