An Interview With an Alumnus: Life In and After UCI
Coming into UCI, I was really nervous. To be perfectly candid, I grew up in an area where there weren’t any Asian-Americans. I was one of very few. When I SIR’d for UCI, I was scared of being surrounded by other Asian-Americans. I was afraid of how I would feel if I were rejected by people from a similar background.
But on the flipside, I was also afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find Asian-American friends that had the same interests as me. I was afraid that I was so desperately seeking approval from people who I only shared a culture with. I had a lot of preconceived notions about what it would mean to find friendship within my own community.
These were anxieties that I thought about a lot, even as I started classes. I was enjoying my time, but I was still apprehensive about what it meant to be Asian-American and also in the Humanities. The narrative around the Asian-American community is that success is found in hard STEM, and that anything otherwise was unlikely to find any sort of financial stability or prestige.
But then I met David.
I met David when he was hired on as a front desk assistant where I was a Peer Advisor. He wanted to be a screenwriter, and he worked on some really cool films. I was so, so intimidated. To meet someone who looked like me, had a similar background as me, and was so unapologetically chasing his dreams was awe-inspiring.
As time went on, I found it was easy to be friends with David. We spent a lot of that year chatting about movies and television shows we both loved -- be it critiquing the lack of diversity in mainstream American media or gushing over character development or plot details we both loved. As our friendship deepened, we opened up about our respective insecurities about following our dreams despite the hardships we knew we would endure.
I’m thankful to be friends with David, even after we both graduated and he moved away. He’s taught me a lot about what it means to be myself and what it means to pursue what you love.
I’m always learning from him (this interview was a joy to do for such reasons) and I’m eternally in awe over his thoughts and his writings.
Hi! Can you introduce yourself please? When did you graduate, and what was your major?
I’m David Ngo, and I graduated in 2017. I majored in English with the Creative Writing Emphasis.
What were your undergraduate years like? Were you involved in clubs?
My years as an undergrad were positively tumultuous to say the least. You know how people say college -- and the bulk of your 20s for that matter -- is meant to be that time in life for soul searching and self-reflection? From my own experience, I find that to be utterly true.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. I started out as a Biological Sciences major, and my life became hell for the next two and half years or so. Biology, Chemistry, and the like -- at least in terms of academics and career paths -- just weren’t for me. It took a lot of time and processing for me to realize what it was I wanted to do -- what felt personally fulfilling and worth my time. And that turned out to be in the humanities.
I dabbled and deep dove into a number of clubs and organizations at UCI. I performed spoken word with Uncultivated Rabbits, was an editor for the New University, acted as VP for the Creative Writers’ Guild, and dedicated much of my time to creative projects with FADA (Film-Arts-Drama-Alliance).
What have you been doing these days?
I’m currently working as a marketing writer for a tech company that focuses on voice-enabled technology. In my off time, I’ve continued to write and work on creative projects. I recently had a short story published, and also helped create three short films this past year.
Do you have any words of advice for undergrads?
I’m highly idealistic so like any advice you hear, take this with a grain of salt: The first person who will look out for your own best interests ... is you. So meet professors, join clubs, take the classes you find interesting, and figure out what’s possible. But do not establish relationships for the sole purpose of getting letters of recommendation, receiving a good grade, etc. Those are important yes, but really make the effort to get to know the people around you.
College is one of the most unique experiences out there, because you are surrounded by completely unique individuals. And the more people you meet, the more things you discover, the more comfortable you’ll be with yourself and the world. Don’t find where you fit in on campus --find who and what fits in with you. But also don’t close your mind off to things that feel alien to you.
Be diligent but not too self-pressuring. Skip classes if you feel like it, as long as you mostly enjoy the material that you’re studying. And if you don’t, you have the choice to stick with it, switch to something that fits your own passions, or add on something you might like a little more. If you have anxieties about your future, literally every student sitting next to you probably feels the same. Success is relative and does not correlate with happiness. Do what feels right.
Not really. If there’s any regret I had, it might be that I didn’t take full advantage of what college offered to me. But in hindsight, I feel that I did. So no regrets!
What are you looking forward to in the future?
The future is paralyzingly terrifying. I’m still relatively new to the workforce, being a productive member of society and all that. But I look forward to where I’ll be in the next few years. Since graduating, I think I’ve grown to be much more assertive with what I want in life -- how I can shape it and learn to let go of the things I can’t control. But at the moment, I’m also still learning to enjoy the present. And for me, that can be a difficult balancing act at times.