You Belong Here

When most people think about going off to college they think of the things they see in the movies, like freedom and partying with friends. But leaving home for college is not that simple for everyone. First generation students that have grown up with active roles in their families don’t have the privilege of embracing independence and especially not at institutions that don’t always have their best interest in mind. Our peer educator, Nuria, talks about her experience being a first-generation student and shares some words of wisdom in this reflection.

You Belong Here

By: Nuria Villanueva

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This is a personal narrative and a reflection on my struggles as a first-generation college student. Often times, it is easy to feel like I do not belong at a university this prestigious. I am the first in my entire family (e.g. siblings and cousins included) to attend a university. I feel the pressure of being an ideal student from all sides of my family, not just my parents. I am portrayed as a role model for my siblings, and all my cousins. The way I see it, the way I carry myself at school and around my professors is not just a reflection of who I am, but of who my family members are. I am representing my entire family.

My future is not my own. When I think of my future I take into consideration everyone that would be affected by my choices. Is my major right? Will the skills I get here prepare me for a job that pays enough for me to sustain my family members? Is this or that enough for them? I have had conversations like this with close friends who often tell me that the role I was given is unfair, but how do you explain that this is not a burden?

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I often question my accomplishments. Do I deserve this? Is this right? Will I mess this up? Was this handed to me? What folks need to understand about first-generation students is most of us are family-oriented. Our accomplishments are theirs. Our struggles are theirs. This journey that we call higher education is one that we face alone, but we carry the expectations and pressure of many. We were never taught to be individualistic.

We are here to stay. We will make this institution ours. We are the future. Treat us with respect.

Time Management

As college students, we’ve all heard about how important time management is, and I am sure most of us would agree it is easier said than done. But learning how to manage your time can be really helpful in avoiding feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by everything on your plate. Tina, one of our peer educators, agrees and has outlined some strategies on how to get better at time management below!

Time Management: Get Used to it Get Better at it!

By: Xinru “Tina” Wang

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As college students, there is no doubt that we are facing ongoing instructions and requirements that we just need to keep track of. When it comes with other mandatory activities, including but not limited to work, volunteering, internships and family responsibilities, things will start to feel overwhelmed. Consequently, this urgent feeling in us can eat our motivation up, thus impact the whole working process to be even more challenging. It is indeed significant to recognize that more than anything that may happen in our lives, we need to care for ourselves first! As a current senior trying to get through all the graduate school applications plus school works and many other responsibilities, I would love to share with y’all about some specific strategies for managing your daily times.

First of all, learn to give yourself a break according to your schedules. No matter it is science or literature that you are studying, giving yourself a break can mean more than a chance of allowing the brain to rest; a lot of things you didn’t have the time to care about can be taken care of, and with an opened brain, you get to try much more possible ways to support yourself and manage your time. Such time is definitely valuable. Based off my personal experience, I would recommend to have at least a day of a whole week to be completely free. Though, it is to say that we all have different ways of coping stress and setting up our working schedules. Find a way that fits you! 😀

Another coping method that you probably might have already heard of, and/or maybe you are already sick of hearing this, is to have a planner! I recognize that for many students, just as how I was before, felt that having planner is like an additional step to work. Obviously, why is it to have a planner if I can just remember my assignments and due dates? Well, for many of us out there, planner can serve not ONLY a tool to check for the deadlines, but it is also for you to feel that sense of “I am keeping track of everything”, and provide you a chance to compliment yourself. With the level of stress, it is likely that we immediately move on to the next assignment after the completion of the previous one, forgetting to see how much we have done. To see it this perspective, planner will definitely help! Some strategies I find useful when using the planners are:

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  • Use different colored pens for different subjects
  • Don’t forget to write down all the fun things you did, like going to a movie
  • Checkmarks after the work is done! Just so you know how much you have done for yourself! 😀

I hope you find this passage helpful! Stay proud and take care!

Merchandising Mental Health

Fighting stigma against mental illness is a large part of the work of mental health advocates. But is there a right and wrong way to spread awareness for mental illness? As of late, popular culture has been portraying mental health in a way that benefits some people more than the people it really should. Our peer educator, Reed, gives his take on this phenomenon by commenting on an article on the merchandising of mental illness.

A Commentary on Merchandising Mental Health

By: Reed Asselbaye

This article is about the recent “merchandising” of mental health issues in popular culture. Author Rhiannon Picton-James explains the case against the glamorization and cultural infatuation of mental illness through a variety of lens. In today’s pop culture, depression is often viewed as something that’s cool or trendy. We have an entire subculture of “sad girls” and “sad boys” on social media which publish content to appease a particular demographic.

The article resonated with me because I think a lot about how we treat mental health as a society. There are so many stigmas attached to mental illness, yet we romanticize certain aspects of it. Words like “anxiety” and “depression” are thrown around without regard to the fact that these are real mental illnesses. It’s clear to me that people care more about the capitalistic benefits of mental illness than actual treatment.

The most dangerous thing about our “trendy” obsession with mental illness is that children are growing up with these influences. There are so many kids out there who have anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. These kids are developing in a world that romanticizes (yet still looks down upon) mental illness. Grown folk need to be doing better in how mental illness is portrayed to the younger generation.

There is also a huge component of this story that isn’t really touched upon in the article—capitalistic gain. I believe that making money off of mental illness is a huge motive for companies who sell merchandise that glamorizes those issues. It’s time that we hold companies accountable to what they put out, and we also need to hold consumers responsible for what they’re purchasing. Then, we can truly work on tackling mental illness in a comprehensive way.

Boundaries and Ways to Establish Them

The CAPS Peer Education Program is currently putting together a new workshop on healthy relationships that we hope to add to our current three workshops that we offer! In the process of assembling this project we’ve discussed a lot about boundaries and how they can vary from person to person as well as based on types of relationships. In this post, Reil talks about some of the ways that boundaries are defined and how you can establish your own boundaries.

Boundaries and Ways to Establish Them

By: Sareil ‘Reil’ Brookins

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The very thing that keeps me from overwhelming, overextending, and overworking myself.  What are boundaries? Not the literal physical boundaries of buildings or rooms. More so boundaries as described below, all of which are essentially the same thing, just stated differently.

  • Emotional and physical space between you and another person
  • Established set of limits over your physical and emotional well-being which you expect others to respect in their relationship with you.
  • Healthy emotional and physical distance you can maintain between you and another so that you do not become overly trapped and/or dependent.
  • Appropriate amount of emotional and physical closeness you need to maintain so that you and another do not become too detached and/or overly independent.

You may think that implementing boundaries is as easy as 1, 2, and 3. However, it is easier said than done. Fortunately, there are suggested steps as to how to establish boundaries. Here we go.


Step 1: Identify the symptoms of your boundaries currently being or having been violated or ignored.

Step 2: Identify the irrational or unhealthy thinking and beliefs by which you allow your boundaries to be ignored or violated.

Step 3: Identify new, more rational, healthy thinking and beliefs which will encourage you to change your behaviors so that you build healthy boundaries between you and others.

Step 4: Identify new behaviors you need to add to your healthy boundary building behaviors repertoire in order to sustain healthy boundaries between you and others.

Step 5: Implement the healthy boundary building beliefs and behaviors in your life so that your space, privacy and rights are no longer ignored or violated.

Working on setting and honoring boundaries will do more good than harm at the end of the day. It may seem hard at first, but your mental, emotional, physical and overall wellness is more important.


Upcoming Event: Candlelight Vigil

The candlelight vigil is an annual event held on campus and sponsored by CAPS. The event is beautiful, in terms of both appearance and impact. During the vigil, the Porter squiggle is lit by many candles that have been placed there by participating individuals. The purpose of the event is a chance to reflect and light a candle to remember those lost to suicide and affected by mental health issues. It is a touching moment for those that come together to light a candle and share their experience but also for everyone that passes by the spectacle.

The Vigil will take place this Wednesday, May 1st from 6-8 pm on the Porter lawn.

In Moments of Sorrow

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? Life in college can be very demanding, making it difficult to balance academics, family, friends and even basic needs like sleeping. On top of that it may seem impossible to overcome past trauma in a healthy way. One way to do this is to reflect on your feelings with a poem. Our peer educator, Janely Cardenas, does just this in her poem on reflecting, creating and expressing in the face of life’s tribulations.capsgraphic4

In Moments of Sorrow: Reflect, Create, and Express

By: Janely Cardenas

I wrote this piece with tears in my eyes. I was actually having a really rough night; I was up late trying to study for a midterm while also trying to balance out my social and personal life. I felt so overwhelmed sitting at my desk. I had to leave my dorm. I grabbed my headphones and my phone and left. I didn’t know where I was going but I knew I needed to cry and I didn’t want to cry while my roommate was sleeping. I headed to the parking lot outside of my dorm, sat facing the trees, and sobbed. In the midst of this sobbing, I heard myself saying out-loud, “I’m tired, I’m tired.” That’s when I knew I needed to write out my thoughts. So, I opened up the “Notes” application on my phone and just typed away until I had nothing more to express. Here is what came out of that moment of sorrow.

That is what I am tired of… I’m tired of having to ask for validation, for opinion.. of caring for what others think about me, my presentation(s), my expression(s), my choice(s) My body feels tired, she feels exhausted Keeping and holding the opinions of others upon her flesh She is feening for freedom My spirit is wanting, begging for my body’s authenticity My body holds so much pain, years of violence, years of bad self talk, years of judgement, years of fearing rejection My spirit wants to be free in my body… I feel her reaching and almost having a full grasp every time she does decide to try… but my body seems to slip at the fingertips of my spirit like the sweet nectar that drips from my flower every time you touch me… “The body holds trauma,” my therapist said And she’s right. My body withheld, withholds, and remembers every experience Of childhood stress, sexual violence, assault, victim blaming, invalidation, gender stereotyping, misogyny, shame My body is TIRED. She wants to be herself, she wants to dance with my spirit…but she can’t… her insides are already full with vitamin trauma… there is no room for liberation


But I will make room… I will work with my body…love her tenderly My heart will whisper sweetly and gently to all of my body’s senses… Together: mind, body, heart, and spirit will thrive cohesively We will soon be at peace We will soon love ourselves endlessly We will soon be free The hands of my loved and dear ones will carry me there but I will be the one to lay my every essence on the bed of eternal serenity Finally able to breathe and finally able to be me

The Social Expectations of Social Media

Social Media has integrated itself into the every day lives of the current generation. Although these platforms have the best intentions, not everyone benefits from them in the same way. In this article, one of our peer educators, Priyanka, reflects on some of the negative aspects of excessive social media usage.

The Social Expectations of Social Media

By Priyanka Kulkarni

Social media has impacted the mental health of many individuals. The number of platforms that show what people are doing on a Saturday night, where people are by their exact location, the number of followers and likes one can get on their posts and pages, are just a few examples of the anxiety social media can create. Like everything, there are pros and cons to social media. Places like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are great places to advertise, get people involved in events, raise political awareness, and communicate across the world. However, social media can also create a lot of social expectations. We create expectations for ourselves about what we should be doing on a day-to-day basis and we begin to compare ourselves to different people and develop this idea of becoming the perfect person.

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Perfection is impossible. We are perfect if we make mistakes, work through them, and move forward from them. Society has created this notion that we have to be at our best all the time, that we cannot lag in the workforce, in our social lives, personal lives, family lives, and any other facet to life there is. We are expected to be on top of it, if not accomplished, we are threatened with labels from other people. There is a fear instilled in us that if we do not succeed financially and career wise, then we are not going to be happy. Happiness and success have individual meanings to each person that cannot be generalized. Whether we know that or not, a lot of ideals of perfection and striving for perfection have been socialized into our minds in which our actions and thoughts reflect that socialization. That in which, creates a lot of anxiety. Merely existing is impossible for the human mind, we are constantly thinking about what we have to do, problems we have, anxieties that might come up in the future, and past anxieties. Especially as college students, our brains are cycling over and over through various thoughts. Never have we been taught to just exist in the moment. We are told to live in the moment, but how do you do that? How do you get yourself to be stress free and clear your mind for a moment or two.

Social media and social platforms get us to think that everyone is super human, able to conquer all, but it is important to realize that we are all human, that we have problems with existing and repurposing ourselves within the social world. It is important to take a step back and realize that we need to just breathe or exist for sake of existing, and not for anything else, for a bit. It will be very difficult, but once you get in the practice, eventually it will become natural to your body like anything else that takes repetition and consistency. It is also very important to indulge in the activities and things you love. Self care is taking time for yourself, shutting off social media and really living for yourself for a moment. We are constantly doing things for other sources, other people, other systems, we are not taught to live for ourselves in fear of selfishness. But mindfulness is necessary to keep moving forward.

Feeling Lonely?

Hello! One of our great Peer Educators, Melissa Newton, shares an article about how to approach loneliness, especially during Winter Quarter. Enjoy!


Winter quarter, in my experience, is by far the loneliest quarter. If people have to bundle up to go outside, they tend to avoid it compared to warmer months. The sun’s early descent in winter can make the low temperatures and feelings of isolation from others feel even worse.

I am an introvert, and so I rather like to re-energize in the solitude of my heated blanket, but this can make it extremely difficult to make any effort to see people. When this becomes a pattern for too long, I feel lonely, isolated, and depressed—even for the whole quarter! Often, this makes me cycle into feeling unmotivated to do schoolwork, causing more stress in my life along with even more sadness, and I may even spend a good chunk of time crying or thinking that my friends do not want to hang out with me.

Contrary to what movies may show about college life, this is common. Feeling lonely when surrounded by hundreds of peers of the same age sounds ridiculous, but it is far from unusual. So, what can students do to get through this winter quarter funk?

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Breaking the Boundaries: Trying Something New!

CAPS Peer Educator Marisa Patel shares her experience in trying something new and encourages you to step outside your comfort zone just in time for summer!


By Marisa Patel

try something newAbout halfway through my sophomore year, I decided to join a traditional Filipino dance team housed under the Filipino Student Association. I wanted to join because I have been dancing from a young age, and my roommate, who was already a member of this dance team, assured me that it would be a lot of fun. At the same time, though, I was nervous and feared that I would not be able to adapt to a culture and learn a style of dance that was so unfamiliar to me. It turns out that this was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my undergraduate career. After joining the team, it wasn’t long before I realized that I had joined an incredibly fun and welcoming family that I was sure I wanted to be a part of for the rest of my time here at UCSC. By stepping out of my comfort zone and taking a risk, I was able to move past my fears and build truly meaningful connections.

What exactly does it mean to step out of your comfort zone? Well, to me, stepping out of one’s comfort zone means breaking boundaries and trying something new, or challenging. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to try something that absolutely terrifies you or makes you cringe. I believe that this “something new” should be a good balance between comfort and discomfort.

Moreover, stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to make a BIG change, either. It can be as simple as ordering something other than your go-to dish at your favorite restaurant, or enrolling in a dance class when you know you have two left feet.  Little steps like these are a good way to ease yourself into moving out of your comfort zone, and may even prepare you for a situation in which you have no choice but to step out of it. Another thing to note about stepping out of your comfort zone: it doesn’t have to be planned; it can be a spur of the moment decision. In fact, I’ve found those spontaneous decisions to be the most satisfying.

Taking risks is an essential part of stepping out of your comfort zone and making room for personal growth. We make it difficult for ourselves to grow personally if we are always sticking to the same routine and do not instead embrace the fear of taking risks every now and then.  By stepping out of your comfort zone, you are allowing yourself to be more aware of who you are, realize your strengths, weaknesses and potential, self-improve, make connections, and so much more.

I am about to graduate, and reflecting on these past four years I’ve realized how important it is to challenge yourself and take a stab at something different. To be honest, I haven’t stepped out of my comfort zone all that much over the past four years. But when I think about the times that I have, I am glad and proud that I did. The only regret that I have is that I didn’t do it more. But, I also know that it is never too late to make this kind of change.

I understand that this is easier said than done, but trust me, you’ll never know until you try, and when you do try I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. So, don’t be afraid to be bold, trust yourself and let go.

Asking for Help: A Student’s Personal Struggle with Mental Illness

As the month of May comes to an end, Peer Educator Erika Garcilazo reflects on the importance of fighting the stigma of mental illness and reaching out to others for support.


By Erika Garcilazo

stop-the-stigma-of-mental-illness-e1381250784828May is Mental Health Awareness Month. But what exactly does that mean? It seems like we have so many awareness months it’s hard to keep track of them or even really know how we can participate. When it comes to awareness, the first step is to look within yourself and how this issue has affected or currently affects you. I think the first thing that many people notice about the topic of mental health is the stigma. Many of us are afraid to share our struggles, and even more notably we are afraid to ask for help. I definitely have experienced the reality of this stigma first-hand.

There have been many times in my studies here at UCSC where I was juggling various personal issues, some of them relating to mental illness.  I felt that if I shared this with anyone, I would seem weak or I would somehow be less than a productive and intelligent student. There were many factors contributing to me feeling this way; having already felt out of place in higher education as a first generation student of color, my mental illness made my experience as a student that much more difficult. I felt alone and lost. This isolated outlook on what I was going through kept me not only from getting the help I needed, but made me feel unworthy of the opportunities surrounding me, pushing me deeper into my depression. At times it seemed as though I was the only one going through these feelings, and that was a very scary place.

Thankfully I was able to reach out and find the support and help I needed. I realized I wasn’t alone. It took me a while to learn to manage my mental illness, and even now I still have bouts where the struggle becomes daunting. But I’ve learned that although this is something I will personally have to manage throughout my life, I can be happy and I can be productive. Even though I may fall off the horse every now and then it gets easier to get back on every time. Not too long ago it would have been impossible for me to share this story, but I’ve tired of the stigma. I hope that in sharing my experience, those who  are going through something similar will be empowered to break the silence and ask for help. You are not alone.

The truth is 1 in 4 of individuals in the US struggle with some type of mental illness throughout our lives. Being a student can be hard. For many of us it comes with unique struggles and barriers that at times culminate into a challenge that can seem insurmountable. Fighting it alone makes it that much more difficult. Never be afraid to ask for help, even though at first it can be hard to do so. Some people may not understand, and it may take a couple tries before you find the help and resources that are right for you. But take it from me the more you practice the more you start to realize you are never alone. This month of May lend an ear to a person in need, or even better yet begin the conversation by breaking your own silence.