A Welcoming Smile Is All It Takes - Joyce Zamorano

First-generation college student, Joyce Zamorano standing in front of the UC Davis Welcome Center fountain.
Photo: Daniel Oberbauer

Joyce Zamorano '20


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

My family is a small one consisting of my father, mother, myself, and 2 dogs! I was almost two when my family decided to migrate from Mexico in search of a better life in the United States. My family is a hardworking working class family, and ever since I was young, I remember going to work with my parents, whether it was cleaning houses or joining my dad when he was mowing lawns. I recall wondering why I was different. Why my friends did not have to go to "work" with my parents like I did, and help them.

As I got older, I matured and realized that this lifestyle was also who I was and a part of my story. My roots were my drive and determination to search and aspire for something better than my upbringing, to both accomplish my goal and my parents dream that I would be the first to attend college. Neither of my parents finished high school; thus the road to college was difficult. I had tremendous support from them, patience, and understanding, which is what any first gen student needs and wants.

My family is with me together on this journey, and we enthusiastically look forward to my graduation.

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

To be completely honest, I had a fantastic support system during my early education, from elementary to high school. People both expected me and motivated me to pursue the opportunity to go to college, and I agreed. I was never alone in this journey. I had supportive counselors, friends, parents, and mentors, who helped me, referring me to workshops and offering extra help, such as the UC for You workshop, in which I was first able to speak to UC Davis representatives.

Once I applied to Davis and got in, it was all a blur. I was invited to an overnight event with my father, had many opportunities to talk to different advisors, students, and I simply felt welcomed.

I will never forget when my father and I got a bit lost exploring campus, but got so many random offers of strangers (students) offering directions and being kind. I chose UC Davis due to this wonderful experience, their kindness, and the feeling of belonging.

Were you afraid about going college, or when you first arrived?

I was very terrified of messing up a simple Financial Aid or Schedule Builder button to be quite honest, as there were terms and ideas I had never dealt with before, nor had any of my family. It is easy to feel that way at times still.

Quickly though, I learned that it is okay to ask questions because there is someone out there who had the same questions as me at some point or even currently.

Now, I know that if I ever have any doubts, even if it the smallest little detail, I can go up to someone and ask.

Something I love that calms my nerves on this campus is how faculty and staff make an effort to let students know their backgrounds. A simple First Gen sticker on their door does wonder for me and my nerves about college.

How your background helped you:

My background has helped in that it has motivated me to succeed and aspire many things in college. I'll never forget the sacrifices my parents have made, and still, continue to do so, and this keeps me grounded to remember that at the end of the degree my degree is not just for me but for them.

In addition, it drives me to help out others like me and reassure them that they are capable of achieving their dreams as well.

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

At the moment I have not, and that is on me for being shy at times.

The best thing about your college experience so far:

The best thing about my college experience has been able to meet many wonderful and hopeful people through my Tour Guide job. I've been able to share my story with manny, and can only hope that those on my tour have been able to identify themselves with me, and know that just like me, they too are capable to aspiring whatever they set their minds on, regardless of any setbacks they may face.

Finally, I just love being able to represent UC Davis and give back, by giving others a kind and amazing first experience with UC Davis, just like I had.

What would you tell a new UC Davis student?

I would tell students to go out and get involved, find their home away from home. That may be in the residence halls, in a club, or at a campus job. There are so many organizations here at UCD you are bound to find one that is a match for you. It helps as not only do you get to meet new people, make friends and connections, it helps the campus feel smaller and homier. After I found my main 2 "homes" here on campus, I felt so much better and ready to go out for more! And as always, never be afraid to be nervous and ask questions, as well as to take time for yourself and your family. Be patient and dream big!

What are your future goals?

My future goals are to be involved in the world of media once I graduate. Whether that be broadcasting, public relations, digital communication, or higher education, I am still trying to figure it out. I know I will always love to be around people, get to know other's stories, as well as help inspire others if I can, as I hope to support others, just as I was once.