With the start of fall quarter only a week away, many new Anteaters – whether incoming freshmen or transfer students – may be a bit nervous. UCI Chicano/Latino studies associate professor Glenda M. Flores knows that feeling; not too long ago, she was a fresh new face at UCI earning her bachelor’s in Chicano/Latino studies and Spanish. Also the first in her family to go to college, she can relate well to the jitters that come with a first-generation experience – one that’s shared with more than half of UCI’s undergraduate student body. The award-winning educator and author of Latina Teachers: Creating Careers and Guarding Culture took some time out of her busy fall quarter prep work to share some words of wisdom with UCI’s in-coming students – words she’ll deliver in person at the School of Social Sciences annual new student welcome celebration, happening September 23. Below, she gives a sneak peek.

1. You may experience culture shock – and that’s okay.

Sometimes when you are the first in your family to go to college, it takes a bit of time to learn and acclimate to a research university's culture. I know I felt this when I first moved to on-campus housing. I lived in Hobbiton in Middle Earth my first year. Culture shock can be tough to pin point at first, but it may be an internal feeling you have that things just feel a little different. Talking with other students about this can actually help you find others that might be having the same experience.

2. You belong here.

Culture shock can make you feel like you don't belong. So can some of the first classes that you take. Nevertheless, know that you belong on this campus and that your own personal narrative has value. Seek out spaces, communities, courses and majors, clubs, or organizations on campus that give you that sense of belonging.

3. Success is not a straight line.

Plans can change. A lot of people think that success is an upright arrow, but it is often really messy in the middle. For instance, my plan was to become a bilingual elementary school teacher. That’s why I majored in Spanish with and emphasis in education. But then I explored and took classes in other areas that really spoke to me like, “Gender and Religion” and “Latinx Literature and Cultures” which put me on the research track. UCI has so much to offer. Know that this uncertainty is normal until things fall into place for you.

4. Attend faculty office hours.

It always amazes me how students are able to turn things around once they visit their professor or the teacher's assistant during office hours. Student office hours are where you can try to get clarity on a theory or an equation. They are also a place where you can get to know your professors and learn about how they got to where they are at today. Take advantage of those hours.

5. Your cultural knowledge is an asset.

It was common in the past to encourage students to shed their ethnic cultural backgrounds in order to succeed. This sentiment still lingers, but your cultural knowledge is an asset and I would encourage you to see how the theories, concepts, or formulas you learn in class fit or don't fit to the world around you. Maybe you can even figure out how they can be improved. You got this!

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