"I always loved reading about auroras, nebulae, and other space phenomena when I was younger. I knew that I’d study something related to stars, something that explained how our physical world worked around us. Several people gave me advice before I got to Berkeley. I was told I should study chemical engineering instead of astronomy. I was told I should study something “more realistic” that I could do well in and actually get a job. I was told “Mija estudia lo que tu quieras. Toma tus propias decisiones,” and that was my mom’s advice I followed. I heard academics at Berkeley were tough, and I was not prepared for the level of difficulty. UC Berkeley’s physics, math, and all other courses are challenging. Many times I questioned whether they were right when they said I should study something “more realistic.” Would I really be able to excel at Berkeley and work at NASA and build space telescopes or be the professor I always wanted to be? So many questions and doubts ran through my mind as I worked on problem sets and took exams.
Fortunately I found HES early on my freshmen year. I found a group of people who had similar backgrounds as me and were also passionate for science and engineering. HES felt like home while we studied together and listened to cumbias and Joan Sebastian. They kept me motivated and guided me when I felt lost. As a third year and board member, I hope to do the same for first years and second years whose shoes I was just in. Being a part of HES is more than finding a group of people I can study with and hang out with; it is showing the university and the world that toda Latinoamerica esta presente y no nos vamos. We will succeed."
Claudia Espinoza Heredia
Year: 3rd year Major: Cognitive Science, Neuroscience Concentration
"The summer before I officially began college, a professor made a suggestion to me. He proceeded to say the following after he had asked me what my intended major was, 'You should also consider other majors.' I don’t recall his exact words, but after that he went on and insinuated that not many people who 'looked like me' made it out of Berkeley in STEM majors successfully. This comment didn’t discourage me; rather, it empowered me to proceed with my academic plans.
In my fall semester I enrolled in my first neuroscience course and it was there where I completely fell in love with the most beautiful organ Mother Nature could have created, the brain. I was fascinated by the complex functions of neurons and how these tiny, microscopic cells affect our thinking, and shape who we are. When this class ended, I was more than convinced that I would continue my plan of majoring in Cognitive Science, but now with a concentration in Neuroscience. As I learn more and more about the brain, I realize that my education can’t end after my bachelor’s degree. Therefore, I plan to proceed onto graduate school after I am done here. There is so much more to learn about the human brain that we still don’t comprehend, and if I have the slightest chance of contributing to these neurological findings, I am willing to take the chance. Knowing I had to soon get involved in research, this semester I put aside my fears and reached out to 6 labs that are conducting research of my interest. I was hoping to at least hear back from one. Not only did I hear back from several, but I was also offered a position in the lab that was my top choice. Ever since I got the offer I have not been able to contain my happiness (it has been about a week now).
I have not gotten this far on my own and there are many people I am grateful for, including my parents, siblings, and friends. Here in the Berkeley campus, the people that keep me going are members of HES. I can sincerely say that if I had not joined HES, I don’t think I would have the same academic plans I currently hold. At times, I recall the words of that professor who felt he had the right to indicate which students are capable of making it out of Berkeley with a STEM degree. When I have that thought, I follow it with a smile, and I smile even more when I am in a HES meeting. This is because HES is filled with a huge number of beautiful, intelligent people who also 'look like me', and I am more than sure we will ALL succeed in everything we set our very capable minds to."
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