Andrea Morales Crisostomo

Name: Andrea Janeli Morales Crisostomo
Major and current year at UCI: International Studies, 4th year
Scholarship received: David Rosten International Community Service Scholarship
Hometown: Laguna Niguel, CA

How did you decide on UCI for your undergrad studies?

Before the pandemic I had my heart set on moving away from home. Afterwards, I realized that I wanted a happy medium between my school and home.  UCI also seemed to be the best fit for my major and had opportunities I was interested in getting involved in.

What made you decide to pursue a major in international studies?

In the summer of 2019, I volunteered in a program called Inmersión Cultural y Voluntariado para Jóvenes Estudiantes de Origen Mexicano hosted by the Mexican government. The purpose of the program was to support college students of Mexican descent to connect back to their roots. Through this program I had the opportunity to be a student ambassador and attend conferences hosted by politicians and community organizers at their office in Mexico City. I traveled throughout pueblos in the state of Michoacán and visited rural and indigenous communities. These experiences showed me a first-hand account the economic, health and educational disparities marginalized communities face in other countries. Throughout my time in Mexico, I felt discontent with myself because at the end of the summer I would go back home to California where my life would go back to normal while the communities I was visiting would remain the same. I would come back to having access to education, clean water, feminine toiletries, and air conditioning. It just didn’t sit right with me and I didn’t want to be another colonizer in my own family’s state of origin. When I came back home I strategized and explored possible majors I would like to pursue. I knew that if I felt this way about Mexico others would share that same passion for their home countries. I came upon international studies and was interested in the interdisciplinary approach it provides on global issues.

When will you graduate, and what are your plans thereafter?

I plan on finishing in June 2023. Afterwards I plan on taking a gap year to focus on research and then apply to a graduate program. With my studies I plan on pursuing a career in Congress.

What would you consider your biggest accomplishment at UCI?

My biggest accomplishment is being the first student to hold the position of Indigenous Communities Program Intern at the Latinx Resource Center. Since it was new there was no job description and it was up to me to create the foundation for this position. Identifying as an indigenous P'urhepecha woman, my indigeneity allows me to create events on campus to raise cultural awareness and representation among college students. Through my research and outreach, I have connected with various Indigenous leaders throughout California. By creating this extensive network, I have had the opportunity to host events such as Mujeres Indigenas in Academia and Indigenous Futures: Impacts of Land Grants.

I’m also the first person in my family to go to college. I wouldn’t have considered applying to UCs had it not been for my advisor in community college who pushed me to apply.

What activities have you been involved in outside of the classroom?

I currently work three jobs to help me stay afloat during college. On campus I work at the Latinx Resource Center and I work as a Trio Peer Mentor. Outside of UCI I work as a respite caregiver, providing companionship and assistance to the special needs population. I am currently in the SAGE scholars program gaining mentorship and professional development opportunities. I am involved with the Student Alumni Association where I’ve been helping facilitate our quarterly Dinner with Anteaters events. In my first year at UCI, I was serving as the Vice President of Planned Parenthood Generation Action, helping create educational opportunities on women’s health and wellness.

Are there any unique circumstances that have had an impact on where and who you are today?

I have struggled with my mental health since I was a teenager. Bullying I encountered when I was younger affected the way I perceive myself and my capabilities. I had always felt like an outsider in the spaces I entered. For the majority of my life, I felt like there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why I felt so different from everyone else. The insecurities I developed from unfortunate experiences have held me back from pursuing opportunities. Through self-love practices and therapy, I grew comfortable with being myself and showing vulnerability. When I was growing up I would always ask myself why I had to experience tremendous emotional struggles at such a young age. As I got older these struggles have helped me define the way I see the world and the type of woman I want to be for myself, my family and my community. When I reflect back on my life and where I am today, I see that all the work I've done thus far has been to create safe and inclusive spaces for people like me. I learned that being different isn’t a problem but a blessing. It's because I’m different that I have the capacity and knowledge to do the work I do.

Who’s been your biggest role model and mentor?

My mom has played a major role in my life. As a single mother she has been supporting myself and my siblings as best she could. She has been with me throughout my academic journey serving as inspiration and motivation. Through my mom, I’ve learned compassion, empathy and humility - all characteristics that have helped me get to where I am today.

What’s been your best UCI memory thus far?

My favorite experience was La Bienvendia because it was my first in-person experience on campus. I was surrounded by all the Latinx organizations on campus and it felt like a community.





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