Being welcomed into a thriving UFLI community at Brown came as a pleasant surprise amidst all the other uncertainties swimming around in my overcrowded anxiety-ridden brain at the time. Here I was, a nervous college freshman living away from home for the first time, unsure of how to navigate these foreign waters given I would be the first in my family to attend college in the United States. Without any role models or examples to look upto during the college application process or the college experience, it would be up to me to essentially play it by ear and seek out mentors and help along the way. I personally felt double the burden because I would also be embarking on the premedical journey for the first time as well since I didn’t have any friends or family members who had pursued this particular career path. The only knowledge I had of the medical school process was through youtube videos I watched and the occasional bloggers I’d follow. So, having to make the adjustment to college, figure out the classes I needed to take to fulfill premed requirements, and make friends at the same time felt like an impossibly daunting task at the time, one I felt like I would fail at, embarrassingly in a common example of imposter syndrome. 

But, Brown’s UFLI community was quite possibly one of the best gifts I received as a result of my decision in choosing the next four years of my life here. A big part of this was Brown’s Center for Public Service known as the Swearer Center and their Bonner Community Fellowship, a program that matched students to volunteer with nonprofits in Providence. It was during this one-week pre-orientation bootcamp prior to move-in day that I met some of my closest friends and realized what a home I’d find in Brown’s UFLI community. During that one week, I met some of the most accomplished students I’d ever encountered, and I found a great sense of unity and belonging with them because most of us were embarking on this college journey as first-generation college students. Getting to know this cohort of people before being overwhelmed with the hussle and flurry of general orientation week when the rest of the freshmen class would join us afforded me the opportunity to get a glimpse into my next four years and build community and family with students I’d get to call my friends. Many people in my Bonner cohort were UFLI premeds like me, and I’d like to think we all let out collective sighs of relief when we found each other through the Bonner program. I felt lighter with every laugh we shared, every dance party we had, every new site we visited in Providence, all the nightly walks through campus, knowing they had my back and I had theirs.  

This Bonner program not only gave me a support system that I could lean on and seek help from, but it also gave me access to the greater Providence community and provided me with opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have found without the right mentors. It was through this program that I found out about free clinics in Providence providing healthcare to its most underserved, disadvantaged communities. It was through this program that I was able to pursue my passion for teaching and mentorship to the kids in Providence public schools. It was through this program that I was able to find summer opportunities that would allow me to build the relationships and network that would help me in my future endeavors. 

 I guess this one-week pre-orientation was somewhat of a luxury for me and a sense of false hope in a way because it gave me the idea that everyone I’d meet at Brown would be the same as my beautiful Bonner community. But sadly, as general orientation came and went, as I met more and more students from all over the world, I was disheartened to see that I did feel a slight disconnect from my peers because it seemed as though everyone had accomplished so many things in high school and had all of these different opportunities, connections, and privilege that I certainly didn’t. My sense of imposter syndrome came back in full force, but I felt grateful nonetheless because despite being surrounded by so much wealth and experienced individuals around me, I felt blessed to still have a community to turn to with students who had shared experiences with me. I found solace in the fifth floor of our Science Library because I knew every time I’d go there to study, I’d find myself surrounded by my UFLI community and all the people I’d gotten to know and appreciate through the Bonner program. I felt a sense of security as I would text my Bonner friends for every meal or every time we stayed in the Swearer Center, studying late hours into the night. I felt a sense of community as I’d walk into the Swearer Center every Tuesday night after a long day of classes for our weekly Bonner meetings because despite all the other stressors around me, my Bonner community was always a safe space. 

Despite the initial feelings of uncertainty and boatload of insecurities that I felt myself drowning in prior to coming to Brown, I cannot be more grateful for my experiences during my first year because the UFLI community and my Bonner fellows have given me confidence and the hope that I will succeed in my medical journey. They’ve shown me that I always have them to turn to for mentorship and resources. So even though the episodes of imposter syndrome rear their ugly heads every now and then as I get further along my journey as a UFLI student at this predominantly white institution, I find inspiration and motivation in Brown’s thriving UFLI community, and I couldn’t be more grateful.