Shannon Wong (College Ten '18-'19 Sociology and Business Management Economics Major)

photo of shannon wong smiling in front of U C santa cruz forestWhat motivated me to go to college: The greater opportunities motivated me to go to college. I knew that I needed greater technical skills to be able to make a career in business in my hometown of San Francisco. As my family members are immigrants and we lived in an ethnic enclave growing up, understandably they would not know about the types of professional careers out there for me. My small family was rooting for me to have a chance to succeed in my lifetime, despite the financial hardship and cultural challenges they overcame by assimilating into American culture. UC Santa Cruz gave me a chance to be exposed to different research, academic and professional experiences.

How my background has helped me: I am raised in a single mother household; I was shown earlier her way of being self-sufficient. I felt more comfortable taking professional risks relatively to some of my peers in my first and second years because I knew in some ways, I carry the weight of my own choices and decisions. This kept me in check and made me strive to perform stronger academically and professionally because I do not have a network to fall back into. It made me more sensitive towards the obstacles that other first-generation students deal with and want to uplift others along with me. That is likely a reason why I found myself in the Asian American Pacific Islander Resource Center (AA/PIRC) as my first internship at UC Santa Cruz.

What would I tell my high school self about the college experience: If you move away to a larger four-year research university, you can expect a cultural shock. Living alongside other students full-time really makes the college experience transformative. If this is an option for you but you are concerned about your financial situation, this was a chance well worth it in the end because you grow so much and learn so much that you get to call it an “investment into your future.”

It can be an emotional rollercoaster and you may confront beliefs that you are inadequate while you are chasing after different opportunities but you will appreciate it in the long-run. Just remember to check in with yourself frequently to determine if you can handle more. A break is perfectly acceptable.

The best thing so far about my college experience: Moving away from my residence made me more culturally aware and politically and socially informed. UC Santa Cruz has a wider demographic than my neighborhood in the outer Richmond, SF. I get to meet and be friends with students from different cultural upbringings.

Furthermore, I never thought I get to travel away from college; I got to live and learn in Washington D.C in Spring Quarter 2017 as part of my academic experience. Looking back, I have a greater appreciation for the residential college system and the instructional materials in my core class that made me think about and launched me into the Sociology major first place.

How being a first-gen student has influenced me: I actively give back and seek help from the first-generation community. I have felt supported in many of my endeavors and encouraged when I did not feel like I can do it by first-generation faculty and friends. Wanting to reciprocate, I got involved with the first generation initiative as part of the advisory committee. I like being a part of the committee because I get to pull feedback and opinions for programs from other first-generation students and making it accessible to a collective. I am also a registered student ambassador for my high school and it means a lot to me to be able to reach out and encourage students from underrepresented groups to strive for larger goals in life. I continue to take the lessons I’ve learned from those that came before me to raise up the next generation.