This week, I interviewed Isabella Guerrero, one of our graduating seniors, on all things college and quarantine. Isabella is graduating from UCR with a degree in Political Science and going on to study law at UCI. In her free time, she likes to crochet, play animal crossing, and work out. She first joined our Her Campus chapter in the winter quarter of her freshman year because she loves writing and the creative freedom Her Campus offered.
Q: How has graduating during a pandemic felt like to you?
A: Graduating during a pandemic is both very surreal and anticlimactic because we’re not on campus so we’re not doing all of the big end-of-the-year events in person. So, even though it’s coming up in two weeks, it feels very far removed. It became surreal to me two days ago when I went to my last day of work and I was like, “Oh, this is the last time I’m going to be on campus until I walk for graduation. That’s so weird.” But a positive would have to be that I didn’t have to buy robes since there’s not going to be a formal graduation so I only bought a sash! I just wore my high school robes for my graduation pictures.
Q: Did you always know your major was right for you?
A: I got very lucky in that. I know most people change their major at least once in college but I’ve had the same major throughout. I went into college knowing I was going to be a political science major. My parents were both political science majors and I grew up in a pretty politically aware family. In high school, I did speech and debate; I was always the teacher’s pet but only in my history and AP government classes. So, it was a good fit for me. I enjoy public speaking and current events. I do feel very lucky that I didn’t have to figure out what I wanted to do when I was already in college because I feel like that’s very stressful.
Q: In what ways have you grown since your first year?
A: Oh my gosh, I’m significantly more independent. Which is funny because I did move home for COVID and I’m a really big homebody. In high school, I was never one to really hang out with friends a lot. I just used to always do sports and school then come home. But then I moved 50 or so miles from home and was living with strangers, then in my second year, I had my own apartment cooking and cleaning for myself. So, I’d say the biggest change for myself has been independence. I love my family and I love spending time with them but I realized how independent I’d become when I moved back home because I was like, “Oh my gosh, I have to adjust to the way that my family lives again.” And it’s very different from how I like to live!
Q: What was the biggest change for you moving back?
A: I think it’s that I’m a very routine-oriented person. So, I get up at a certain time, I eat at a certain time and then I come here and I’m trying to do classes but I have to adjust my routine so that I can help around the house too. I have a little brother so I drive him places or I have to take care of my dog. So I had to really strike a balance between familial responsibilities and the personal responsibilities I would have had living alone at school.
Q: How was adjusting to online school for you?
A: That was really hard. I don’t think I’m the kind of person who can thrive doing online school. I do enjoy the freedom of time like you can take a class from anywhere and still do your work. But it is very hard to stay motivated when not being forced to go to class! Like when classes are asynchronous and I don’t even have to attempt to attend a virtual lecture or look my professor in the eye and say “no, I have not attended a lecture in two weeks,” accountability is very hard to maintain.
Q: What’s one thing you would go back and tell your freshman self?
A: To enjoy the time living on campus! I had a really hard time my freshman year living in the dorms just because it was a very small room and I had two roommates so it was three of us in a loft-style and I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I should have. Because when I moved home I was like, “man, I didn’t realize how social I’d become.” I really missed living with people who were my age and eating together, studying together, doing everything together. Then you move home and you’re all online and there’s nobody around who’s your age and it’s so lonely. I would tell my freshman year self to enjoy living with a ton of people and always being around them because obviously that is not the case anymore!
Q: Looking back, how did you handle the moments you were most stressed?
A: My thing is, and I understand this totally isn’t possible for every major, but I never make myself pull all-nighters. Even if I have a ton of work, I try my best to manage my time so that I can actually get a good night’s sleep every night. I would never stay up past midnight doing work for my major. I refuse! I would rather go to bed at midnight and get up at six in the morning to do work for two hours before class. I think giving myself that assurance of always having a good night’s sleep and going to bed at a reasonable hour has done wonders for my mental health because in high school, I was not like that. I used to stay up late doing my work or studying for random AP tests and in the end, it wasn’t worth it! So, I found it much better that time management and sleep is the best way to take care of myself. Getting good grades is really important and I do pretty well, but truly, reading the last reading before going to class is not worth staying up the extra hour and a half sometimes!
Q: How did you come to that change between highschool and college? Did you go in with it in mind or have to figure it out along the way?
A: I definitely knew I wanted the change because high school teachers always say, “you can’t cram like you do for high school, you have you pace yourself, there’s going to be way more work so you can’t leave everything to the last minute.” So, that summer I made the executive decision in my head like okay, I’m going to make a study schedule. The way I said every previous year but I wanted to stick to it and set specific hours that are only meant for studying and not like studying while I’m eating or studying while I’m doing something else. It’s just for work so I can still have my own personal life aside from school. Because that’s also really important to me and my mental health. If I’m only doing work, I can do it but in three months, I’ll be so burnt out.
Q: What is your best advice for setting those schedules and implementing breaks into them to avoid burnout?
A: I think the best study schedule I’ve come across is the 50-10, where you work or read or study for 50 minutes then you take a break for 10 minutes to go on your phone or lay down, whatever you want to do to shut off your brain for a second. And always set timers! Don’t just say, “Oh I see that it’s 5:00 pm right now, I’ll be back at 5:10.” No, you need the buzzer to let you know to come back to responsible life! And I also think a good, cute planner is super helpful. Have it color-coded and have your own stickers, that will motivate you to actually write things in it and go back to look at it so you stick to whatever schedule you laid out for yourself.
Q: What’s one memory of college that you’ll take with you forever?
A: I remember this one time when I lived in an on campus apartment at Glen Mor and my roommate Cheyenne and I were both in our room but we came out to the kitchen at the same time to get ice cream. It was like a Tuesday, in the middle of the week, and we turned to each other like, “we should watch the new To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before movie!” And we brought out all of our junk food and cut up a ton of fruit then sat out in front of the TV and hung out together. I truly think that was one of the last times I hung out with my roommate before I had to move out. But now that’s such a special memory to me because we were just hanging out, not knowing we weren’t going to really see each other again until we graduated. It was really fun, nice, little moment for us at the time. Looking back now, I’m like, shoot, I did not know I wasn’t going to get more of those roommate moments but I loved living with other people. It was a really nice experience.
Q: What are your plans for the near or far future? Which are you most excited for?
A: Well, I’m starting law school in the fall. Right now I don’t even know if that’s excitement so much as it is nervous energy because getting into grad school is like, “Oh, so sick! I got in!” but then it’s like “Aw, I got into grad school, and really committed to doing this for another three years!” So, I’m nervous for law school but very excited to be a lawyer. That’s what’s getting me through these summer months of waiting to go to orientation and just start. I feel like it won’t be as bad as I think it’s going to be so I’m trying not to let myself think too much about it but yeah, I’m very excited to pursue something after my bachelor’s. I always thought about doing law because it fits well with political science but it really wasn’t until my second year that I was like, “y’know what? I should go. I’ll study for my LSAT because with COVID, there’s a lot of free time. And I’ll just see what happens.” And then I got in and I was like, “Oh my god, it really did happen.”
Q: How do you see the happiest future version of yourself?
A: As much as I want to be a successful lawyer or whatever I decide to do with that degree, I do want to be happy. I want to still pursue things in my personal life that have nothing to do with a career. Because when I was in highschool, the most important thing to be was being successful and being financially stable. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I think that working sixty hours a week does not sound like the thing for me. I don’t think that’s the kind of person I could be in the long-run. I understand that building a career, in the beginning, is always a lot of work and putting a lot of yourself into it but that could not be me working for forty years. So, I think the best version of myself is someone who’s happy and balanced. I think balanced is the most important thing actually, more than happiness because you can’t just be having fun all of the time, unfortunately!
Q: Do you have any words for your future self?
A: Remember that you want to be a balanced person! When your boss asks you if you can stay back for the fifth time in a row, you gotta say no. And remember that it’s okay to say no. Because I struggle now saying no to extra responsibilities or this class or club or Honors college stuff, but sometimes you have to say no. You don’t have to always do everything, even if it’s a great opportunity for your GPA or career! Sometimes it’s just better to say no if it’s better for your body and mind. I wish someone had told me that because when you go to college everyone tells you to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way and put yourself out there. But you don’t have to for every single one. Try it for a little bit but if it’s too much, you have to know that you can quit. It’s okay.
Q: How have you learned these lessons about balance and mental health?
A: I think I learned because I was really involved in high school— I was president of a club for two years, I was the captain on a sports team, I was an Honors and AP student. But in high school, it doesn’t feel like you’re doing a lot because you don’t have a lot of personal responsibility yet. You’re living at home or even if you have a lot of responsibility at home, it’s not your house that you have to take care of. When you’re living on your own, there’s a lot more that you have to worry about and you just don’t have as much time to dedicate to all those extracurriculars. I know there are a lot of people who are a part of a million different orgs and do so many cool things, but I think figuring out if those things are really important to you or if you just need to focus on grades is an important realization to come to with yourself. So, I got to college and tried a million different things in my first quarter and realized I couldn’t do all of them like I did in high school.
Q: What will you take away from Her Campus? What advice do you have for the remaining chapter members?
A: I’ve learned to articulate my ideas in writing much better than I did before. The best thing about Her Campus is that you can write about whatever you want. I love that there is no topic or question or theme that we always have to adhere to every week. I love seeing everyone’s completely different titles and ideas even if we do think of similar topics. I learned how to research better, meet deadlines, and take constructive criticism a lot better. Her Campus is great in making you more creative and a better writer, especially if you want a career in writing. To members who will still be here, I would say meet your deadlines! In my last quarter, that was difficult for me. And I would say talk to your editors more! I did not talk to the editors as much as I could have when I was struggling to come up with ideas. Also, talk to the other writers, members, even the president. Be engaged because you are writing your own articles but other people also have great ideas and they do want to help you. Everyone is so nice in Her Campus. Participate in all of the events too, they’re fun!
Q: Any finishing words?
A: Enjoy undergrad! It’s a ton of work but it’s so fun. I wish I had valued the time I had on campus more and the time I had in-person with Her Campus way more, going to all the events and that. Those are the things you should take advantage of! If it doesn’t have added responsibility, you should do it. Absolutely. Go to Spring Splash. Go to Friendsgiving. Go to your work party. Just do it and have fun. College is about school but also remember that your whole life is going to be work so do everything that involves fun while you can. And if the event involves free food, you should absolutely be there.