Building Your Community
Salomé Valencia-Bohné is a Master’s in Social Work graduate from the UW-Seattle and a 2016 Certificate in Care Management recipient. In 2014, Salomé obtained her Master’s at Northwest University in International Care and Community Development, in 2010 Salomé graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with a BA in Psychology, and in 2007 Salomé graduated from the University of Aberdeen’s Erasmus Program. She is a former Achievers Scholar, Gear Up Scholar, Diversity Scholar, Hispanic Academic Achievers Program Scholar, and Carol LaMare Scholar. Throughout the years, Salomé has won various community awards and roles such as the Ubuntu award, a Washington State Society for Clinical Social Work clinical student paper award, and a UW Student Ambassador position.
When you’re new to campus and you’re far from home, creating a community can be hard. For me, my new environment was strange, yet exciting, and nothing really seemed to fit like it used to. Students are challenged for the first time to really discover who they are and what they stand for. These moments may seem tough, but just know that you are not alone in your experience. Your freshman peers are in the same boat as you are. Maybe for the first time in their lives, and yours, they’re exploring how to connect and find meaning in their new environment.
As you embark on your personal journey of self discovery, you will be gifted with many opportunities to join clubs, sports, and various groups on campus. This is the time to determine what you’re looking for in a community. Are you a student that self identifies as a first-generation biracial student with a love of music and travel? If so, see if your campus offers a diversity center, music club, and/or travel club. Anything that resonates with your interests and talents is a good place to find groups of people that you can connect with.
Also, just because you check out various clubs doesn’t mean you have to stay put. College is your chance to explore and try new things. One of the first steps I took when I left home and moved to campus, was to explore the university website to see what active clubs, groups, volunteer opportunities, and jobs they had on campus. I then attended Club Day where all of the university clubs tabled. During their tabling, they shared information about their groups and recruited members.
By attending Club Day, my hope was to connect with others who shared similar hopes, dreams, and goals as myself as well as network and grow as a person. After attending a few club meetings, I narrowed down which clubs I felt like I was in community with. Being a first-generation Latinx scholarship student amongst White legacy students can be daunting–especially when those students are unaware of how their microaggressions and privilege affects others.
Another way I built my university community was through class projects. Professors would assign us reading buddies and small groups to complete assignments. I would hang out with my peers at the library, coffee shop, university center, etc. working on various assignments. During this time, we would chat about life, school, work, and anything else that came up. I discovered who I enjoyed hanging out with and would stay connected with them after class projects ended.
While class was a great way to build my community, I also spent time with my built in community in the residence halls. My resident assistant would organize gatherings, social events, and dinners at the university cafeteria. I’d attend as many as I could, and I also kept my door open to let my peers know that I wanted to socialize. Before my roommate and I met on campus, we called each other to check in as to what each person was bringing. That way we didn’t bring double of the same thing. We also had the chance to get to know one another and share commonalities. When we were both on campus and my roommate was free, I’d ask if she wanted to head down to the cafeteria with me for breakfast and lunch.
Outside of the residence hall, I built my professional community by attending professors office hours. I’d ask questions during classes and then later get help on assignments. As the years went by, I asked my professors if there were other leadership opportunities available. Being a first-generation student, I was always asking questions and trying to learn as much as possible. By doing so, I wanted to be able to gain the skills necessary to land a job after I graduated. I understood that my family didn’t have many professional connections and so it would be my responsibility to build these connections. After speaking with these professors, I learned of research and teaching assistant positions that I could sign up for. I quickly filled out the necessary paperwork to be a research assistant and teacher’s assistant with professors whose work I admired. To this day, I’m grateful to those professors who granted me the chance to prove myself. The chance they took on me allowed me to gain many skills that I still use to this day.
As you read, there are many ways to build your community. The main challenge that some people face is overcoming imposter syndrome and/or culture shock. If you find that you are experiencing both or either of these things, just remember that you are not alone. Almost everyone shares these experiences when they’re new to campus. One of the things that you can do to make the best future for yourself is to talk with your university counselor about active steps you can take to create a healthy future. They’re there to support you with completing your academic journey and develop a better understanding of yourself.
As you build your community, know that CSF is there to support you every step of the way. Continue to reach out and stay connected. I’m grateful that I did. Being connected to a diverse and understanding community allowed me to remember who I am and where I come from. At university, I was constantly confronted by others who told me who I was rather than listen to who I said I am. My CSF mentors gave me the strength to hold true to my values and make it through the tough times. I know that your CSF connections will do that for you too.
Lastly, dedicated to investing in her community, Salomé serves on the Washington State Society for Clinical Social Work Board, College Success Foundation Alumni Board, and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for RI International. Currently, Salomé is employed as a MHP Program manager for RI International Outpatient Clinic. She is always happy to support her community and encourages people to connect with her on LinkedIn.