Monday, January 7, 2013

From ILC Alum Courtney Mariano

Good evening Ivy League Connection students,

I hope you all had a wonderful winter break. My name is Courtney Mariano, and I am currently a third year at UCLA. My college experience has been incredible thus far. I have definitely changed from the first year I was two years ago. I would say I feel more confident and comfortable in my surroundings; I have definitely found a home away from home here in Los Angeles. I now live at an apartment close to campus so I am slowly learning how to live without the conveniences of the dorms, such as the dining halls. I have also taken on more responsibilities, such as a job at a clothing store in order to not only gain a little money and be less financially dependent on my parents, but to also be more responsible and time-efficient. Balancing a job and school was definitely not as easy as I first imagined. I definitely needed to learn how to manage my time well because although school is a higher priority, I knew I could not slack off at work. Also, having a job means less free time to hang out with friends or to waste time and relax. But I appreciate all that I have learned by being a working student. My job has also allowed me to meet great people outside of UCLA, to learn how to interact with customers, and to gain experience in a fast-paced environment. So, besides giving me a little extra cash, I have learned valuable skills for my future career.

College has been going well academically for me as well. I found out over summer that I was accepted into the Communication Studies major at UCLA, which is highly competitive to get into, so I was ecstatic and appreciate to learn I got into the major. Before, I was hesitant to even apply because I heard how difficult it is for students to get in. But after taking a general Comm Stds course, I developed a strong interest in learning more. With hard work, I was able to keep my GPA up and was given acceptance into the major. So, if there is anything you are hesitant about applying for, just know that there is no harm in applying. Just work hard and hope for the best. After finally deciding to double major in Communication Studies and Economics, I started taking upper division courses last quarter. The upper div class sizes are much smaller in my opinion, so I enjoy them because you get to know your professor and peers better. I also think the subjects are more interesting because rather than listening to a general overview about a subject, my professors have been able to go more in depth in the material. This quarter, I am taking on a heavier load academically, so hopefully I will be able to do well in all of my classes.

Also, I was able to secure an advisor position for an older camper program for UCLA Unicamp. Unicamp is UCLA's official student charity, and this will be my third year volunteering with this group. For the first two years, I was a regular volunteer acting as a counselor and then an activity specialist. This year, I wanted to challenge myself and take on more responsibility, so I applied and interviewed for one of the programs within Unicamp for high school students. This process was definitely more competitive than the regular volunteer process, so I am grateful to have gotten this position. I definitely suggest that you find a student group or two that interest you and fully commit yourself to it. They give you a nice break from your studies and you have the chance to meet more people and expand your university network.

I wanted to end by giving a few pieces of advice for all of you before you enter college. Don't be afraid to try out whatever interests you. Although I had no experience in the field, the hotel industry always interested me for some reason. So over summer I decided to find an internship to learn more, and I was able to secure a summer internship working for human resources at a hotel in LA. It was a very valuable experience, so I suggest that if a career or industry interests you, try to gain experience to see if you will grow and thrive in the environment. Definitely take advantage of all the resources your school has to offer. Whether it be a free tutoring service, a career center to help you find internships, or even a free printing lab, find out what the resources are and make the best use out of them. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Go up to a professor or TA or peer if you're having trouble at all because keeping your questions to yourself doesn't help at all. You'll be surprised at how friendly and helpful people are. Also, try to make good relationships with your professors. Use office hours to your advantage, even if you don't have specific questions about the material, asking your professors about their experiences or any advice they may have can be beneficial for you. You will not regret putting in extra effort to getting to know your professors and TAs.

Honestly, if any of the current Ivy League Connection students want to know more about UCLA or have general questions about college, feel free to email me with questions.

Courtney Mariano

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