Judy Vong

Graduating Class: 2019

Major: Public Health Policy

Minors: Management and Health Informatics 

Hometown: Ontario, CA

What motivated you to pursue higher education?

Honestly while growing up I always have heard that “you need to go to college, only in college you will get a decent job, how can you get a good job without an education?” There was always a mindset in my community and family to go to college. What really motivated me was not letting my parents down. I had to meet their high expectations and comparing to what they went through when they were 18 years old to me who is attending college, it’s honestly a blessing and chance that some people might take for granted.

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

My first year was a bit difficult as I wanted to drop out of college after my first quarter. My grades were not bad but the community did not feel like home. I wish I could have adjusted better but I did forced myself to reach out for help, because if I did not do anything, nothing will change. I wish I would have known the level of college culture. Taking on more responsibilities while also being withheld some because I am a “student” I would have liked to mentally prepared myself and take it slow during my first year.

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

A challenge I had faced as a first generation college student was coping. It was not so much of being away from home, but getting used to the University’s campus life along with the responsibilities of being an adult. Being a little less than 50 miles away from home did help as I could go home on the weekends, but it felt weird to have my college friends in contrast to my hometown friends because I felt that I had to have multiple identities according to each environment I was in. I overcame this challenge by being honest with myself. I had never been put in a situation where I had to be in charge of myself. I had to be responsible for every decision I made knowing that my parents will not always be there to give me the okay. I knew that I cannot make the best decisions for myself without help. Without my parents, I had to rely on the campus resources. My mom always tells me to ask as many questions and clarification if you don’t understand, and if you’re scared the chances of meeting them again are slim; the same goes to a telephone operator.

What was a resource that helped you navigate UCI?

A helpful resource for me was the TRIO Scholars Program. I had already been a part of the Upward Bound Program in high school and I had been told that TRIO was like the college version of Upward Bound. It was the only program that I was familiar with and comfortable in applying to. I applied during my freshman year and I got in. The students who were also in the program had the same worries as me and it really made me feel that I was not alone and I was not the only one who thinks that campus life is difficult to adjust to. In addition to helping me cope, the TRIO Scholars Program also helped me academically with their tutoring and guided me with the next steps I should take after each quarter.