Good evening everyone and Happy Thanksgiving. I’m pleased to be spending this holiday that celebrates gratitude with the wonderful people that have made these past few months an experience I am utmost thankful for. Describing my experience is something I can’t even put into words- but tonight I’ll try to.
My name is Ryann Jeff and I’m a third year at UC Santa Barbara studying economics and environmental studies at Queen Mary University of London this fall.
I grew up in Oakland, California and was raised by my two immigrant parents from the Philippines who laid the foundation for my desire to achieve the American dream. Since grade school until now, my educational journey has been built on financial aid, scholarships and grants, a physical manifestation of the work and passion I put into academics and student government. My overall goal is to graduate college and support my family.
My curiosity has always been one of my most defining characteristics. I’m fascinated by culture, new places and meeting new people, and wanted to venture beyond the confines of a textbook, the walls of a classroom, and eventually the Bay Area. The idea of being able to learn and grow in an environment so different from my own was a recurring afternoon reverie. When I started UCSB in 2014, I was already attending different study and travel abroad fairs: international volunteer excursions, global brigades and the UC education abroad program, planning out my academic schedule to make sure I would be able to fit a semester or summer abroad into my four short years at university.
After receiving my acceptance for the English universities program, I was more than ecstatic. I was already envisioning the adventures I would have the following fall- I would be studying my favorite subjects while living in one of the most captivating cities in the world.
To say that the time between my acceptance and the day I boarded my plane was spent cheerfully looking up all of the different cafes and parks I would visit, would be a romanticized version of reality.
Just weeks after my acceptance, I was making frequent calls to a financial aid advisor, adding more hours to my work study, and found myself constantly switching tabs between study guides and different scholarships at the library. 3 weeks before the deadline to submit UCEAP fees, I had received only rejection letters from scholarships. At that point I was devastated; dreams had price tags that I couldn’t pay for, even with tokens of hard work and passion. Despite my desire to study abroad, making sure that I would not put a financial burden on my family was my priority. Everything else would always come secondary.
On April 29, I opened my e-mail to a message that I can now say has changed my life. “Congratulations! I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected to receive the UC Santa Barbara UK EAP Fund Scholarship.”
4 months later I stepped out of Heathrow airport sweating. I wasn’t sure if it was the anticipation or because I was wearing a pea coat and happened to land on the UK’s hottest day of the year. Sore arms, perspiration, an air-conditioned black cab ride, Nando’s chicken, and a feeling of both jet lag and immense wanderlust is my best recollection of my first day in London.
To my luck, each and every day after that has been an unforgettable journey. From trying different food stands at Camden market and marveling at Big Ben, to venturing around Notting Hill and experiencing autumn at Hyde park, I have to say that some of my favorite moments in London are spent exploring the vibrant Shore ditch area with the friends I’ve made here. Enjoying English breakfast at the Pavilion Café in Victoria Park comes in close second.
All of my time exploring is complemented with interesting but challenging courses. Just as I hoped for, I’m able to learn outside of a classroom. I took part in a 4-day field trip to Somerset where I looked for sedimentary evidence of global environmental change, had a casual beer with my professor and colleagues discussing collected data and went on a trip to the national gallery to look at the cultural representations in landscapes. This program has helped me learn more about my own discipline and network with like-minded individuals from all over the world. In the future, I plan on working in the renewable energy industry.
I’m constantly being put outside of my comfort zone while traveling and challenged academically at university, but in the end, I’m grateful. If there’s one thing I learned during my 15 years of school, it’s that I can’t do it alone. All of my successes and experiences are shared. Where would I be without my friends and family who continue to offer their unconditional love? My teachers and counselors who have given me the tools necessary to grow and learn? Finally, where would I be without the donors of this amazing fund, who continue to support my pursuit of higher education? Everything I do will always be a collaborative effort between me and the people who show that my endeavors are important. I think I can speak for students everywhere when I say that your contributions matter. I would like to end this by quoting Greg Reid: “the greatest success we’ll know is helping others succeed and grow.”
Thank you again for this amazing gift, and enjoy great rest of your evening. Cheers.