Zena Demapan

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What was it like being among the first in your family to go to college?  Tell us about your story, and what you think has helped you succeed so far at UP?

I put a lot of pressure on myself for being the first in my family to go to college. I felt like a had to prove myself worthy of the opportunity as well as put on a brave face for everyone in my college community. I truly didn't want to feel inferior to anyone in college; therefore, that kept me from reaching out for help, academically, which caused me a lot of stress that could have been avoided. When all the baggage of stress from school got to be too heavy for me to carry, I finally stepped out of my comfort zone and asked counselors, professors, and even friends for help with school. The turn out was great, I understood things I probably would have been confused about for hours if I hadn't asked for help. What I still struggle with is turning to my family for the same type of help, but what I have found is that in the instances that I do turn to my family with the stress that I had from a week or with certain assignments, their words of encouragement help a ton and I think reaching out to them and being honest to them about your experience with college, good or bad, will always help lift up your spirits.

What does it mean for you to be a part of the FGEN community and to be a FGEN Student Ambassador at UP?

Personally, to be a part of the FGEN community gives me a sense of belonging by giving me the confidence in knowing that I have an entire community on campus that supports and acknowledges who I am as an FGEN student. In this community, sharing struggles, concerns, and questions that we have together as FGEN takes a load off of a week, whenever we meet. As an FGEN ambassador, it encourages me to take into consideration, the fact that there are more of us in the community that would like a community to call home, and having it be my job to be available for any one person sharing in a struggle that I've been through is truly a great honor.

What is your advice to FGEN students at UP who are facing challenges?

My advice to FGEN students at UP who are facing challenges is to step outside of your comfort zones. It might not be comfortable to face professors, advisers, or classmates with questions or concerns you might have for school, but that is what they are all here for. Your professors, advisers, and classmates are meant to help you learn how to establish connections with people, and you'll find that when you've become comfortable enough with that, you'll be helped in a lot more ways than just academically. People here have tips and suggestions for you over a large span of things - from what an assignment could be about to where the best place to grab cheap, good food could be. Don't be discouraged in making those connections!

Has a mentor played a role in your experience at UP?  How so?

Yes, Matt Daily from the Shepard Academic Resource Center played a huge role in mentorship for me, especially in my Freshmen year of college. I was pretty closed off to the idea of "help" at the beginning of college, which included help or advice from a mentor. But Matt was so welcoming, open, and persistent with his emails about wanting to meet and talk with me sometime, and when I finally opened myself up to a meeting, it opened me up to an array of resources, guidance, and opportunities: such as becoming a FGEN ambassador. 

What resources have been significant, meaningful, or helpful for you during your UP experience?

A resource helpful for me so far in my experience at UP is the career center. When it comes down to questions I have about what I'd like to do professionally with my major or simply how to format a resume, I turn to the career center because the resources provided by the career center are all extremely helpful to me in those regards.

Finally....

I'd like to share that even in my junior year of college, there are still a ton of things I struggle with in school - simply because each semester comes with it's own set of issues and stresses. However, I am never discouraged because I now know that there will always be a resource I can turn to with any new set of problems, I just have to be open about reaching out for that kind of help. Moreover, especially for FGEN, the FGEN community is a great place to start in terms of looking to get connected with more problem-solving-specific resources because we're always going to be here to listen to the new set of problems you might face with every passing semester.

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