Written by Vy Nguyen, CSU STEM VISTA 2015-16 CSU Long Beach Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD)
As I begin to reflect on my year of service, I realize that AmeriCorps allowed me to find myself. Being a recent college graduate, I was lost and confused about my career path and what I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life. Similar to many students, deciding what I will be doing for the rest of my life was a daunting task. I was torn between two completely different professions – a researcher or a health care provider. During college, I was heavily involved in research and had absolutely no experience in health care. The question I personally pondered for half of my AmeriCorps year was: Do I stick with something I am familiar with (research) or do I explore my other interest (health care)? I pondered this question for a good 5 months before I finally made the decision to explore and venture into the unknown. It was the CSU STEM VISTA program that gave me the courage to take that leap.
One of the many things I appreciate that AmeriCorps has allowed me to do and learn is to take risks. I learned to take risks when I am scared. I learned to take risks when I am uncertain. I learned to take risks when I am hopeless. When I began my service at Cal State Long Beach for the BUILD program, I did not know what to do or who to talk to. I felt lost and could not envision how my service would benefit the overall program. I hesitated to take action because I was not confident in my ability to communicate with people who were my superiors. However, the training I received during our CSU STEM VISTA retreat gave me the necessary tools I needed to start taking risks, both in my CSU STEM VISTA work and my personal life.
I learned from being a CSU STEM VISTA that my familial background does not limit my ability to strive for something greater than myself. I learned that undermining myself is the first step to failure and that I should use my weaknesses as fuel to strive and be better. It is during my year of service that I allowed myself to get out of my comfort zone and jump into the unknown. I did not want to choose a career path without exploring all of my interests because I did not want to live a regretful life or constantly wondering the “what ifs.” Therefore, I gathered confidence and began scouting different clinical care programs so I could gain health care experiences that would allow me to make an educated decision on what I wanted to become in the future. I applied and was accepted into the Clinical Care Extender program at St. Joseph’s Hospital and have been a volunteer in their Medical Telemetry Unit. By volunteering in the hospital, I discovered my passion for health care and decided that I would like to pursue a Physician Assistant career. If I had not become a CSU STEM VISTA or partaking in CSU STEM VISTA retreats, I would not have the courage to change my career path.
My primary goal for joining AmeriCorps, specifically the CSU STEM VISTA program, was to give back to the institutions that built me. I wanted to give back and motivate students to pursue STEM careers despite their backgrounds. I wanted to encourage students to choose schools based on what they offer rather than just their names. I wanted to empower students who do not believe in themselves to start believing so that they could reach their full potential. As my VISTA term is ending, I hope that I have impacted students in a positive way during my service, even if the impact was minute.
My focus when joining AmeriCorps was to serve others, but what I did not expect was how much I, personally, would gain from such an experience. Throughout the year, I have acquired an ample amount of translational skills such as capacity building, communication, planning, and troubleshooting. The skills I have gained from being a VISTA will help me in my future endeavors, and the experience overall helped me find myself.