This week’s Campus Celebritiy is Jessy Zavala, a sophomore at Saint Michael’s who always has glow radiating around her – it’s not surprising since she grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She is a driven, caring and outgoing young woman, and is never afraid to give you a friendly greeting when you see her. Bringing her Puerto Rican sass and flair to the Saint Michael’s campus, she is truly a unique person to learn from. I was honored to live on the same floor last year with her, and now, she is one of my best friends. Being a born and raised Vermonter, she always amazes me with her cultural background and beliefs. I got to talk to her about her time here at campus already, and her exciting plans for the future.
What is your major? Why did you choose it?
I am a Psychology major since I love being around people and I’m interested in how the human brain works and the effects that has in our behavior and interactions.
What are some of your short term and long term goals?
My short term goals are to maintain and balance my GPA, social life and, of course, sleep schedule. I work on it day by day and it’s not easy.
My long term goals are to graduate from grad school to become an interrogator for a Federal Bureau of Investigation or a in an agency that is concerned with research and ethics.
What are you involved in around campus?
I am a member and mentor in the Diversity Coalition, vice president of Knight Watch (Saint Michael’s School Spirit Committee), tour guide and host in the Founders Society, Resident Assistant, member of the Honors Program, ESL teacher for immigrant farm workers through MOVE, and a member of the Student Support Network.
Describe yourself in three words.
What are some of your favorite SMC memories?
During the second semester of freshman year, there was a heat wave one weekend and everybody was outside tanning, playing soccer or Frisbee, and some people even took out a slip and slide out to the quad. Not only did the heat felt good since I normally live in 90° weather, but it was nice to just see everybody outside and having fun, and not stressing out about school. I was outside from noon until the sunset, and eventually fell asleep outside on my blanket until my friends woke me up. We ordered food and watched movies.
What have you learned about yourself since being at SMC?
I've learned to be myself more, as corny as it sounds, but it’s true. I learned to be proud of where I'm from and accept how I am. The people who like who I am will stick around, as they are the people that should matter to me. I've also learned to care about the right things at the right time, in the right way. I used to care too much about everything all the time and it was too stressful, and now I have a balance.
What’s a motto you live by?
Take one day at a time. I am a planner and always have been, but I learned that it is OK to have plans for the future but it isn't good to try and skip ahead. I always keep in mind the future, but I now focus on what is now in front of me, what need to be done in that moment, and my priority of the day.
What’s the biggest change you’ve had to adjust to coming from Puerto Rico to Vermont for school?
The biggest changes have been the cold and language. In PR, the coldest it gets is on average 60 degrees and that during Christmas time. It was a huge adjustment and still is after a whole year, but it's worth waking up in the morning and seeing the campus full of snow. Also, my first language is Spanish and so, I still think in Spanish. It’s hard and sometimes gets frustrating when you can't say what you think because you don't know how to say it, or you say something wrong and people don't understand or get offended. I don't feel like language is a barrier that keeps me from getting work done or building relationships, but it definitely makes it harder.
What’s one piece of advice you would give someone who is attending school far from home?
Bring a lot of things from home, no matter the cost. Since I have to cross a sea to get here, I didn't bring many things from home since it was so expensive. I came to Vermont with 3 suitcases and that was it. I wish I had brought more things and didn’t worry as much about money because it is very easy to get homesick if you don't have things to remind you of home. You can print pictures (I printed about 300 pictures for my room this year and have some on my walls and some in my desk drawer easily accessible). When I miss home I just go through them. Get an unlimited phone plan so you can call and text how many times you'd like no matter how far away you are. Stay focused, as you're far away for a reason (no matter that reason might be). As long as you keep that in mind, you will focus on what you have to do and not think of how far or different home is from SMC, or any college. Most of all, give things time. Little by little, one becomes more accepting of how different things are, and to be honest, I grew to like the differences.