Nicole Yip – Pacific University
Nicole transferred to Pacific after attending Portland Community College to finish her degree in International Studies. She is currently teaching in Panama on a Fulbright grant!
Pacific University, Class of 2018
Degree: International Studies
I’ve always had a deep interest in learning different languages and about other cultures.
How do you think being a first-generation student affected your college experience?
Going to college and all of the things that come with it as a first-generation student is much harder than people may realize. Doing things that are as routine and expected as applying for things like financial aid, for example, are very difficult for people who are unfamiliar with and/or who don’t know anyone who’s ever gone to college. Applying for college can feel like a very daunting process, and it can be really intimidating and even discouraging at times. And often when first-generation students get to college, it can be a very isolating experience to have to navigate college on their own.
What do/did you love about Pacific?
As much as I enjoyed the social aspect of my university, above all else, I loved the academic aspect of my university experience. I constantly had very close interactions with my professors because of Pacific’s comparatively small class sizes and just how overall caring the professors are. The academic expectations at Pacific University are no joke. The professors set high expectations for students, but at the same time, make sure to provide students with the adequate support and resources to succeed in their classes. For me, it was the perfect balance of both academic rigor and genuine care and mentorship from my professors.
Were there any people along your collegiate journey that made a special impact on you? How?
I would say that my professors and my mentors throughout college had the biggest impact on me. Growing up, I never had it in my mind to go to college. I come from a poor family of immigrants. As a child, I always saw college as being simply unattainable. It just didn’t fit into my reality. And when I finally did enter college, it was my professors who gave me the confidence and encouragement to finish. It was them who taught me that I was just as deserving of an education as the rest of my peers and that I belonged on a university campus.
What was the most impactful experience during your time in college?
There are many experiences I’ve had in college that I would consider impactful, but I would say that studying abroad in Chile was the most significant. I always have had a deep passion for studying languages and cultures, but I never thought that passion would one day take me to South America. In Chile, I took classes with native Chileans, studied Spanish, and explored the Chilean culture. It was a pleasant, yet challenging experience and was an overall very formative experience for me.
How did you adjust to life post-graduation?
It felt a bit odd to not have to worry about homework and whatnot after having been in college for 6 years. However, I was fortunate enough to have not lost my ambition to pursue my education even further. I hope to continue on to pursue a master’s degree and perhaps a PhD one day.
What have you been doing since graduation?
Since graduating, I have been traveling, completing various internships, doing other projects, and overall, I have just been trying to enjoy my life to the fullest. But the most significant thing I’ve been up to since graduating is moving to Panama City, Panama to teach English on a Fulbright grant. I am currently here working in Panama City and will be here until next March. I have no words for how grateful I am to have received a Fulbright grant and to be living this incredible experience.
If you have ever attended our scholarship brunches, how did those go for you?
I’ve attended one scholarship brunch about 3 years ago. It was incredible to be able to meet other scholars and to hear about the amazing things that they’re doing and about their future plans. Meeting the other scholars gave me inspiration to continue to strive for my goals, but it also gave me hope. I see my fellow scholars as the future leaders of our country. Knowing how dedicated they are to their work and to making the world a better place gave me hope for the future.
What does it mean to you to have been chosen as a Renaissance Scholar?
I can’t express how much the Renaissance Scholarship helped me in school. It helped pay for my education that would’ve been simply impossible for me to pay for out-of-pocket. I will be forever grateful for that. However, for me, being a Renaissance Scholar means much more to me than the financial aspect. To be among a group of fellow scholars who represent the essence of true leadership and ambition is an honor beyond words.
Any advice for students applying for the Renaissance Scholars program?
I would advise any student who wishes to apply for the Renaissance Scholarship to think beyond what the scholarship can do for you financially. While it is, of course, important to consider this, it is equally important to see this as an opportunity to be part of a cohort of young leaders who can learn from and inspire one another. I also would encourage applicants to think seriously about what they would use the funds for. Are you interested in studying abroad? Might this scholarship help you with any future research projects? It’s important to have a clear idea of this when applying for the scholarship.