Inside USD

Jessica Gomes: Learning by Taking Chances

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Jessica Gomes, a Fresno, Calif., native, graduates from the University of San Diego on Sunday, May 26. The psychology major and history minor arrived at USD in August 2009 as a freshman and student blogger for Seventeen magazine, documenting her first year of college. Four years later, Gomes closes her undergraduate student career by discussing what she’s done and how her experiences have shaped her time at USD. Gomes, a McNair Scholar and an Honors Program student, leaves shortly after graduation to begin her stint with the Teach for America program in Kansas City, Mo.

I’m not a very big believer in fate. I think the cards we are dealt do shape our direction in life, but when opportunity presents itself, we have to be active agents of our own destiny.

Working under this premise, I’ve done more things on a whim during my time at USD than I probably should admit. This includes quitting my job (which I had for one entire day) for an opportunity to intern at the United Front Multicultural Center, a job that shaped my passion and desire to work for racial and socioeconomic social justice. I learned German and moved to Vienna for my semester abroad after my advisor told me “Vienna is quite beautiful in the spring,” leading to an experience that completely changed the way I not only view the world, but my responsibility as a global citizen. I picked up an application for the McNair Scholars’ program just two days before the application was due, dropping all of my summer plans to do psychological research on color-blind racism that shaped my desire to earn a PhD in psychology. And, even though I have always avoided opening myself up to others, I took a risk and let my heart be broken by heart-wrenching stories of the Salvadorian people during an immersion trip and to be put back together, not quite the same, by their love and faith.

For each of these and all of the other wonderful decisions I made in the past four years, however, I made just as many mistakes. I’ve failed, experienced rejection, made bad decisions, missed opportunities, let people down, and lost sleep over all of them. But now, as I reflect of these bumps in the road, I only find myself grateful for them. Life is the most intimidating teacher I’ve ever had, and while my psychology courses have taught me a lot, I’ve learned more about myself from my experiences outside the classroom than from any book or lecture. Letting my heart take the lead in life has both burned and blessed me. But because of both, I developed a sense of self-assurance and, in the words of a professor, “the confidence of a person much taller than myself.” I couldn’t have asked for anything more just four years ago, writing for Seventeen from my freshman year dorm room.

USD as a whole, my mentors, and my professors gave me a space to royally screw up, pick myself back up, and ultimately become a much better version of myself. This doesn’t go to say that I’m not scared about my next steps in life. Terrified doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about moving to Kansas City five days after graduation to be part of Teach for America. I’m excited for the opportunities and the challenges ahead, but chances are that at some point, I’ll fail. And you know what? That’s okay.

For these opportunities to succeed and fail, laugh and cry, and grow academically and personally, I am forever indebted to USD.

— Jessica Gomes ‘13

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