Five majors later, I found my calling

Justin Mendoza

Justin Mendoza. Photo: S.K. Vemmer

I’m curious about what life after UIC will be like.

My path to graduation was a long one. I worked full time while attending a community college. Luckily my boss allowed me to study while I worked. I couldn’t have been more appreciative of that.

Starting out at a community college helped me save money and interact with great professors. Sadly, my social life took a hit. I spent a lot of time studying at Starbucks and Barnes & Noble.

When I started to look for a four-year university, UIC caught my eye. I wanted to go somewhere diverse. I wanted to go somewhere different. It seemed perfect for me. Coincidentally, it’s right next to the Maxwell Street Market, which my family and I went to every Sunday morning since I was a kid. Foreshadowing? Maybe.

During my first day at UIC, I wanted to get involved in different organizations. I wanted to take full advantage of what the school had to offer. But commuting from home and working full time limited my time on campus.

Then I found Greek life. My friends helped me enhance my focus and drive toward my future.

Not everyone knows what they want to do for the rest of their life as a freshman or transfer student. I didn’t know what I wanted to pursue. After changing my major five times I finally found it – international journalism. I am a huge fan of culture and love to research just about anything.

UIC doesn’t have a journalism program so I decided to major in English. The major itself isn’t enough — I needed hands-on experience.

I decided to apply for internships. One Thanksgiving morning, I opened an email saying I was accepted as an editorial intern for UIC News. It was truly a day to be thankful for. Writing for the newspaper showed me what it takes to be a journalist. I hope to one day to be a reporter for CNN. I know it will be a long road to travel but well worth it.

I will be the first of my family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, an accomplishment that will mean a lot to all of my family members. Their love and support can never be paid back.

The connections and experiences I have had at UIC shaped me into who I am today. Working with students, staff and professors to create events developed my observation and interpersonal skills. Interning with UIC News gave me great insight on what my future career may look like.

My professors have been nothing but supportive. Their dedication, friendliness and background made classes more than just memorizing information. A professor who can teach a subject from different angles shouldn’t be taken for granted.

As I walk up to that stage Sunday during commencement, I will remember everyone who helped me achieve this milestone.