Meet Shayla Nguyen: The Embodiment of Seminole Spirit

From being a 2017 Orientation Leader to the Fall 2017 Pow Wow Director, Shayla Nguyen is no stranger to Florida State’s campus. As a member of Lady Spirithunters and a passionate student currently working with multiple FSU organizations, Nguyen continues to spread her Seminole spirit and infectious enthusiasm everywhere she goes.

Her Campus (HC): What does being a Seminole mean to you? 

Shayla Nguyen (SN): I will forever honor the Seminole Tribe for their courageous efforts for their people and land. I feel lucky to be a Florida State University student that has the ability to learn from strong and brave people before me. Being able to represent the Seminole Tribe as a student means much more than singing the Warchant and fight song. Having the opportunity to pursue this level of education and live the lifestyle that we have is valuable. The unconquered spirit represents Chief Osceola fighting for the Seminole territory, and as students, we have the chance to learn what makes the Seminole Tribe unconquered and hopefully relay that spirit within our own lives.

HC: What have your leadership positions taught you about life and FSU? 

SN: Being involved helped me mold my FSU experience significantly. It has taught me the lesson of giving everything at least a chance – the “you wouldn’t know if you like it unless you try it” kind of deal. There are so many opportunities on this campus, and I truly believe that there is a niche for everyone - but you have to give it a chance! Many freshmen coming in may be eager to get involved, but it can also be competitive since many opportunities involve applying and interviewing. I definitely went through a handful of those trials before finding the right fit for me. I’m glad I did not give up after a handful of rejections because I wouldn’t have discovered Homecoming, which led me to so many memories and so much growth I cannot imagine myself without. Getting involved taught me that learning is a continuous process and there’s always a gain in knowledge from any and all experiences. “Better a ‘no’ than a ‘what if’” is a great quote!

HC: What is the most underrated thing about FSU in your opinion?

SN: Global Cafe is honestly one of the most special events on campus. I appreciate that various organizations are able to represent and showcase their culture over a traditional meal that is prepared and served by the students from that organization. It’s also very affordable and accessible, as it’s right on campus and only $8 for a whole meal! All proceeds go to the organizations hosting. It’s a wonderful way for students to learn about new cultures and be introduced to traditional foods that may not be available in dining halls or restaurants in Tallahassee. Seeing students work so hard to prepare the meals as well as educate attendees on their culture makes me realize how these representations are vital towards the development of students on our campus. As we promote and bring exposure to different cultures, we are expanding our students’ knowledge globally. 

HC: What resources and organizations on FSU’s campus do you recommend to other people? 

SN: I highly recommend students to utilize the free fitness classes at the Leach. I finally gave it a chance and it’s so much fun and motivating. My spin instructor, Alejandra, reminds our class that there’s no such thing as “I don’t have time,” because if you care enough about it, then you would “make time for it”. I truly believe that these instructors and classes can make positive impacts on your mental and physical health. It’s a great resource that helps students learn techniques to release stress and live a healthier lifestyle. I also would recommend the Center for Leadership and Engagement as well as the Career Center. Both of these resources provide scholarship opportunities and help you prepare for the future! The Center offers many opportunities for any student to learn about identities outside of their own and introduces students to social justice dialogues that engage students beyond the classroom. The Career Center literally brings employers onto campus every semester to help students find jobs or simply practice their interview skills to best prepare for future opportunities.

HC: What is the hardest thing about balancing your personal life, academics and leadership positions? 

SN: We often times forget about the most important thing, which is ourselves. Our mental and physical health is so important for us to perform well in our academics and involvement(s). I, for one, did not take care of myself during my busy semesters, and it clearly reflected on my work and overall performance. Sometimes we think that we have to lose sleep or skip that meal or do average on an assignment because we prioritized our involvement before ourselves. At the end of the day, we are here as students, students to get degrees, and students that will actually make it to that finish line. Sacrificing our health may seem like an easy alternative at that point, but it is much more vital for us to enjoy and perform at our best rather than assert average energy simply because we don’t prioritize ourselves first.

HC: What roles and positions do you hold now?

SN: Since this is my last semester, I wanted to focus on learning viable skills to best prepare me for the professional world. I currently have three internships where I’m able to develop and enhance skill sets to help me pursue my future career goals. Working with the Division of Student Affairs Marketing and Communications has helped me learn so much about the Adobe suits. I’ve always wanted to learn about graphic designing, and this office has provided me with learning opportunities to navigate those various platforms. The FSU Alumni Association has exposed me to how corporate events and meetings are executed. It’s eye-opening to see the levels of communication and work to process successful events with high levels of stakeholders. Lastly, working with the Student Activities Center has challenged me to utilize my strengths and assert them in ways that will better campus-wide events. I have been able to take the lead on marketing plans and produce content for social media. I really love the autonomy that I have to be able to bring my ideas to life. Even though it has only been three months, I have learned immensely from these three internships. The supervisors invest in my development and show that they want me to learn the most before I graduate. 

HC: What advice do you have for others about being a leader? 

SN: I definitely believe that “leader” functions better as a verb than a noun. People may get caught up in titles and positions that make them a “leader” and forget the responsibilities that serve that role that they are in. I recommend that people remember the passion and reasoning behind their involvements and reflect on whether they are 1) bettering the organization and 2) developing themselves personally and professionally. Having the best intentions will allow for more authentic relationships and meaningful experiences. 

HC: What is the most rewarding experience you’ve had during your time at FSU?

Nguyen: The most rewarding experience that I’ve had was being a 2017 Orientation Leader. It’s insanely rewarding, especially now, seeing my students walk this campus and develop their own FSU experience. It makes my day when a student remembers me and gives me an update on their life. I follow a good chunk on social media and fangirl over their involvements and overall achievements in their life. 

HC: How do you maintain a balanced and happy lifestyle when you get stressed? 

SN: I love Langford Green. It is my favorite place in Tallahassee. I go there to de-stress and journal! Especially at night, seeing the view of the stadium and having the whole grass area to myself, it’s a great way to reflect and enjoy a little peace on our busy campus. Spending quality time, whether it’s virtual or in-person, with friends is also a great way for me to look at the positive side of life and appreciate the outstanding people I have met along the way. It’s refreshing to have a support system to lean on and talk to because sometimes you get in a funk and it helps to take your mind off that situation and talk about the good in life rather than mope over uncontrollable outcomes.

HC: What do you hope to accomplish in your near future? 

SN: I hope to continue to learn and improve myself both personally and professionally. I hope that I will continue to motivate myself to dream big and reach for whatever goals that I aspire to achieve. I am very proud of myself and the work that I have done on this campus and hope to continue to do the same in the “real world”. I honestly don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life because I know with the career path that I am pursuing, it will take me in any and all directions. I am ready for it and am excited to continue to be completely myself through that process.

All images courtesy of Shayla Nguyen.