The Journey Continues: Paula Soto '21
I grew up in a Mexican immigrant family household in Southeast Los Angeles. I am the oldest and the first to attend college in hopes of being a role model for my younger siblings. I was encouraged to go to college by my middle school teachers and my dad, who told me to aim higher and never give up. Because of them, college was something I knew I wanted, and I got it. And I never gave up on school, even in those moments when it got tough and I was worried about failing.
I started as a freshman at UC Davis in Fall 2015. I came to UC Davis because it was different from the life I had come from, and it had much more to offer. I enjoyed the environment, and on my first day move-in day in Davis, it honestly felt like a second home. But I dealt with imposter syndrome without even knowing it, which led to self-doubts and hardly praising myself for the little things I achieved.
I am finally graduating six years later, but this is not the end of my academic journey .... I plan to get my Ph.D. in clinical psychology and accomplish my dream of building a mental health resource center in my city. I want to provide therapy sessions and workshops and help dismantle the negative stigma around mental health in my community.
Unfortunately, I could not return for my sophomore year. I was disappointed in myself, but I continued my undergrad education at East Los Angeles College. I studied there for two and a half years, which is where I discovered my passion for Chicanx Studies. Initially, I did not want to return to UC Davis because I wanted to stay close to home, and I considered transferring to a different university. However, a Chicanx Studies professor convinced me that I should go back, and it felt like someone believed in me.
Returning to UC Davis
Re-entering UC Davis was challenging, but I felt more prepared and focused. I was scared to fail and become my family’s disappointment. Everything felt new to me and I was worried about not making it on my own, but I came back stronger than ever on my second try. I had learned effective ways to study and manage my time when I was at community college.
One resource at UC Davis that helped is the Chicanx Latinx Collegiate Association, a fantastic group of individuals that help each other towards success. I love the fact that everyone comes from different majors, and has accomplished great things that are genuinely inspiring to me and others. Being part of CLCA made me feel like I wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t the only one struggling. CLCA has pushed me to become a better version of myself because I am slowly putting myself in new situations. For instance, I signed up for a podcast, which is something I never saw myself doing a few years ago.
A Second Major, Graduating, and Ph.D. Plans
I came in as a psychology major and Chicanx studies minor -- but after taking a class on “The Psychological Perspectives of the Chicano Family,” I knew right away that I had to double major. I was also able to find my passion for what I want to do with my degree, which is helping out my community in mental health.
I am finally graduating six years later, but this is not the end of my academic journey. I
My Advice for First-Gen Students
Always ask for help and be open about new experiences. Even if it makes you feel uncomfortable, it will help you grow as a person and connect with people.
have managed to pull through and find my passion for where I envision myself. I’m more proud of myself than ever before because I have remained resilient.I plan to get my Ph.D. in clinical psychology and accomplish my dream of building a mental health resource center in my city. I want to provide therapy sessions and workshops and help dismantle the negative stigma around mental health in my community.