First-Gen Undergraduate: Nabeela Ariqat (Class of '21, Science)

nabeelaariqat.pngFirst-gen student Nabeela Ariqat's family moved from Jordan to the U.S. one month before 9/11. After facing discrimination and multiple barriers, she found a home at UCSC.

"We were faced with discrimination and hate on every corner [after 9/11] since my mother wore the hijab," Ariqat said. "We also did not have a stable living situation here so it was very hard for my mom. It was a difficult transition, especially since none of us spoke English."

Ariqat, a first-generation college student, hoped for a new beginning at UC Santa Cruz, which she attended in part because "I felt like I could be who I was," she said. "My first year of college I was excited when I was placed in Oakes College and saw that there were many students who looked like me, pursuing a degree in STEM."

However, her family's financial situation almost cut her dream short.

"During my first quarter my family got evicted from our home and I needed to make money fast to help out more," Ariqat said.

Ariqat had to increase her hours working at an In-N-Out Burger fast-food restaurant to cover the family's expenses.

But the interventions of two caring mentors, campus STEM Diversity Programs Director Yulianna Ortega and Professor Grant Hartzog, restored her hope.

Hartzog helped her apply for multiple scholarships and plan out her classwork at UCSC.

"Not only did he help me academically, but he also helped me understand the imposter syndrome ingrained in me," Ariqat said.

Ariqat also took the time to help other first-generation students trying to find their way, serving as a STEM diversity peer tutor, secretary of UCSC Planned Parenthood, and president of UCSC SACNAS.

These days, Ariqat is working in the laboratory of Lindsay Hinck, professor of UCSC MCD Biology, studying the effects of DNA damage on the lactation process. She plans to take two ambitious "gap years" researching in the laboratory of UC San Francisco Professor Martin Kampmann, before applying to graduate school in a medical scientist training program.