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UC Merced student the first in her family to graduate college; onto Dartmouth for PhD

Graduating UC Merced senior Asmaa Mohamed is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UC Merced majoring in developmental biology. She graduates this month and then will pursue a doctorate degree in molecular and cellular Biology with an emphasis in immunology at Dartmouth College staring in the fall.
Graduating UC Merced senior Asmaa Mohamed is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UC Merced majoring in developmental biology. She graduates this month and then will pursue a doctorate degree in molecular and cellular Biology with an emphasis in immunology at Dartmouth College staring in the fall. Contributed

My journey to UC Merced began during AP statistics class in 2015 at Golden Valley High School when I received an email saying “Congratulations! You have been admitted to UC Merced.” I had already heard from UC Davis, and UC Santa Cruz and my eyes were set on UC Davis. However, going to UC Merced provided financial stability, and I had made Merced my home after moving to the United States from Egypt in 2013. Because of this, I accepted the offer and I became a Bobcat.

As part of newly admitted student activities, I attended Bobcat Day in early April and experienced a strong sense of community and compassion from all faculty, staff and students that I interacted with. However, it was not until my participation in the “Experience UC Merced” program, a comprehensive campus visit program, a few weeks later that I fell in love with UC Merced.

During this program, I had the opportunity to attend an introductory biology lecture. It was the professor’s passion, not only for the subject matter, but for teaching and student success, as well as the students’ eagerness to learn that made me say “I want to be part of UC Merced.”

Moving to a new country was difficult because I had to adapt to a new culture and learn a new language at the same time. To add to it, I anticipated that college was going to be a challenge as I am the first in my family to attend college in the United States. Thus, as eager as I was to start my college career and start achieving my dreams, my future seemed ambiguous as I was full of uncertainty and had no idea what to expect.

That shift was difficult indeed, but as challenging as it was, there was something about UC Merced that seemed to facilitate this transition with ease. This “something”, I believe, was the core values that were evident from my first interaction with the campus and continued to enrich my experience throughout my time at UC Merced. Those principles were a strong sense of community, civic leadership, passion, resilience, vibrance, growth and compassion. I strongly believe that those core values inspired both my personal and professional growth as well as my career goals and aspirations — goals that will lead me to Dartmouth College to begin my Ph.D. program in the fall.

Furthermore, the mentorship that I received from faculty members and students was essential in my college transition. This mentorship not only served as a guide to navigate college and build interpersonal skills, but also had a tremendous impact on my awareness of resources and opportunities on campus. Utilizing these resources and participating in every opportunity led me to discover that mentorship, civic engagement and outreach was a big part of the campus mission — seemingly embedded in the curriculum and around every single corner of the university. I realized that I am part of an institution that leads by lifting others, and that was very empowering for me.

Throughout this process, I was transformed into a mentor and had the privilege of mentoring others and contributing to causes of equality, outreach, and science communication. In addition to these experiences, UC Merced’s world class education, carefully designed curriculum, faculty accessibility and opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research led to my career decision of becoming a professor, where I can combine research, teaching, leadership and outreach.

As I am preparing to leave the campus, I am looking back on my UC Merced experience and it is a bittersweet goodbye. I learned so much and was presented with endless opportunities. Yet, I am ready to graduate, with the hope to come back one day and become part of this university in a new role.

I also hope that the campus expansion and increased number of students only strengthen the campus’ tight-knit community, spirit of collaboration, community engagement and opportunities. From my experience and talking to colleagues, I can say that many UC Merced students also develop the spirit of wanting to give back.

I guess that is what it means to be a Bobcat, and I could not be prouder to call myself one.

Asmaa Mohamed was born in Egypt and moved to Merced in 2013. She will be attending Dartmouth for doctorate studies in molecular and cellular biology.
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