UCI senior Samantha Cheng is all about getting the most out of any situation. The business economics major currently works as a peer academic advisor in the School of Social Sciences and as a learning assistant in the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation. And, until last year, she was a part of the ASUCI Campus Spirit Commission. She’s also a campus representative in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions where she conducts tours of UCI for prospective students and visiting groups, a member of the Campuswide Honors Collegium, a part of the Women’s Club Volleyball Team at UCI, and she was a mentor in the Undergraduate Undeclared Mentor Program for two years. This is all in addition to keeping up in a demanding major and coursework she’s pursuing for her two minors in global sustainability and art history.

The energetic Anteater understands that her schedule and interests read like an exciting – and maybe a little exhausting – mix of academics and activities, and that’s plenty okay with her.

“The sheer amount of opportunities at UCI is actually one of my favorite things about being a student here,” she says. “When I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to go to a bigger college that could support my interests and also introduce me to new ones. UCI has definitely done that for me.”

Finding her future passions

She’s also learned how to focus in on what she wants and say no to some things in order to manage it all. It’s paid off as her extracurriculars have inspired her to pursue a career in higher education after she graduates.

“My work as a PAA, mentor, and student engagement coordinator have made me realize that I want to continue helping students,” she says. “It’s such a rewarding thing, whenever you help a student solve a problem you feel so accomplished. As of now my hope is to continue doing that by working in higher education.”

She’s also considering diving deeper into art history or, more recently, combining her business economics major with her global sustainability minor to address climate change. She’s keeping her mind and options open and, as could be expected from someone with such varied interests, would love to mix all of her favorite fields together if she can find a way.

For now, she’s excited for classes to begin in the fall so that she can mentor students in person again. While she says that the virtual sessions have worked well, she’s looking forward to seeing students and coworkers face to face, many for the first time.

“The past year has felt kind of like a blur,” she says. “I’m so grateful for the PAA team because we were able to connect and remain close despite only interacting virtually. Coming back to campus now has really made me realize how much I missed it.”

Finding her fit as an Anteater

As much as she loves UCI, Cheng admits that she struggled her freshman year to find her fit. Like a lot of new students, she grappled with loneliness and making new friends. Luckily, she stuck it out, leaning on her love of variety, and joining a plethora of clubs, teams and organizations around campus to connect with others who shared her passions. And even though it was hard, her first-year experience is something she’s glad she can draw from as she mentors other students going through the same thing.

Now, she’s ready to finish off her Anteater career strong. Whether that leads her into a career in higher education or a completely new and exciting path in economics, art, sustainability, or a combination of all, she is just happy to be learning and growing on a campus that encourages her to pursue any interest she has.

“The more opportunities UCI offers me, the more I love it,” Samantha says. “I’ve been able to do so much since coming here, and I’m just so grateful.”

-Bria Balliet for UCI Social Sciences




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