A Journey through Five Colleges - Dave Ivan Cruz

First Generation College Student Dave Ivan Cruz stands in front of the Student Community Center (SCC).
Dave Ivan Cruz stands in front of the Student Community Center (SCC) where many UC Davis students go to find support and a community. Photo: Daniel Oberbauer

Dave Ivan Cruz '19

International Relations

Tell us about your first generation background. Where did you grow up and what is your family history? What is unique about your story?  

I was born and raised in the Philippines and did not move to the United States until December 2013. Growing up, I was raised mostly in a single-parent household because my father had to move to the U.S. in 2003 in search of "greener pastures" for his family back home -- similar to the stories of many immigrant families in the U.S. In my father's physical absence, my sister and I grew up with the care of our mother who did nothing but take care of us and love us. In fact, I consider her as one of my top inspirations in pursuing higher education.

At age 38, she went back to pursue a two-year college education in Hotel and Restaurant Services at a local college in our province where she graduated on top of her class in 2010.

She continued to serve as our tutor as we studied from 8:00 PM-midnight despite her added workload. Once we were sent to sleep, she would go ahead and study from midnight until around 3:00 AM, then wake up at 5:00 AM to prepare breakfast for my sister and me since we started school at 7:00 AM. She is our superwoman. I hope to pursue graduate studies to be able to not only serve the communities I hope to serve, but to also serve my parents and send them to a well-deserved and a long-overdue vacation.

How did you end up in college? What brought you to UC Davis?

I grew up in a family and in a country where everyone's expected to attend and to finish college. I would say that it was marked for us in stone to be in college. I knew from the start, when I was in first grade, that I wanted to finish my education. Never did I imagine, however, that I would be attending and finishing my college education at a four-year university outside my home country.

My immigration in 2013 brought me to the higher education system here. I attended four colleges--three in the US and one in the Philippines--before I transferred to UC Davis. I also was rejected by the top universities in my country for having low college admission test scores.

Quite frankly, my top choices to transfer into were  Berkeley (waitlisted) and UCSD (admitted).

What made me choose UC Davis (besides the financial aid) is definitely the welcoming community that I witnessed here when I participated in one of the community events hosted by BRIDGE: Pilipinx Outreach and Retention, a program housed in the Student Recruitment and Retention Center (SRRC).

I do not regret choosing Davis -- I met and made some of my amazing colleagues and my lifelong friends because of this UC. Additionally, I am closer to my family which made adjusting from a semester to a quarter system and a CC to a UC less daunting than it seemed.

What were you afraid of about college?

As someone who was first in his immediate family to attend not only a four-year university but also a foreign institution, my fear was getting lost and messing up while undergoing through this already tough process. I remember having to bring my father during my placement exam at CC due to such fears. At CC, I heavily relied on Student Ambassadors on campus on my first month. They helped me navigate the varying processes that I have to undergo (FAFSA, Admissions, Enrolling for classes, etc). Because of their impact in my education, I applied and became a part of the program for two years. At UC Davis, the Transfer and Reentry Center, SRRC, and my fellow transfers were my resource. The TRC provided me with a space to be with other transfers and a great study space! The SRRC, my "OG" home provided me with an internship which led me to applying and becoming this year's Student Director for one of their community programs. Finally, my fellow transfers (via the Facebook group for our class) made transitioning easier. We all navigated and helped each other virtually up until today with any confusions that we may have.

How your background helped you

Having a background of being a Filipino born and raised in a household that believed in the power of education helped me retain myself up until this point. Additionally, I believe that attaining education is a powerful tool to help others realize the positive impact it may have in people's lives. And my mother's journey through higher education as a reentry, nontraditional student and housewife as well as the narratives of every transfer student inspired me the most to keep pushing forward despite all the financial, political, personal, and other barriers that may be blocking my way.

Have you been mentored by a faculty member/advisor on campus? Has someone on campus made an impact on you?

Mike Valenzuela was my go-to advisor in the College of Letters and Science. He guided me and my fellow transfers during our first quarter through our First-Year Seminar. From there, I seek advice from him whenever I have uncertainties about any processes on campus.

The best thing about your college experience

Meeting new people, maintaining lifetime connections, learning from and helping each other achieve our academic goals.

What would you tell a first year student?

For transfers and first-years alike, tap into and utilize your resources on campus as most of it will not tap you. Don't see your resource, be an advocate and create your resource for yourself and the future generations.

For transfer students, there will be times that you will question your abilities and your position in this university; however, BE PROUD of being a transfer student. Remember that we ALL worked for our spots in this four-year as hard as, if not harder than, other students. More than our GPAs, our extracurriculars, we bring in the maturity and a mindset that may influence other students in this institution.

Most of us (transfers) would definitely want to "get in and get out" but I'd also like to encourage you all to get involved -- join a student organization, rush for Greek Life, do research (independently or with a professor), engage in sports, performing arts, etc. Take advantage of every single opportunity that community college, a CSU, or a private four-year was not able to offer you!

Future goals?

Take a gap year or two, apply for jobs at a community college or a four-year institution, apply for graduate school to pursue a career in higher education, student affairs, or academic counseling.

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