Written By: Cherise Chuck, Class of 2015

“They weren’t joking when they called it the ‘Enormous Activities Fair’…” was the recurring thought that ran through my mind.   For those of you unfamiliar, the Enormous Activities Fair is where every one of UCLA’s 950+ clubs and organizations gather to welcome new and returning students and showcase all the ways they can get involved. Eager and excited, I ended up subscribing to multiple e-mail newsletters, eating a lot of free candy, and picking up enough free pens to last me all of Fall Quarter. I was overwhelmed by all of the possibilities of what I could do, or who I could become—and had no idea where to start. I wanted to do everything! Or at least try.

Needless to say, as a current UCLA senior I’ve been involved with several different organizations, found friends to call family in each of them, and found a place to call home. Whether it’s been with Cru (a Christian fellowship on campus), the Student Alumni Association, the On-Campus Housing Council, Campus Tours, , every one of my involvements has not only shaped, but defined my time here at UCLA. And I could not be more thankful to each of them for what they’ve taught me about myself.

As a freshman, one of the very first ways I got plugged into community was with my floormates. These were the people I lived down the hall from, bumped into in the study lounge, or embarrassed myself in front of during floor Karaoke Nights. My Residential Assistants (RAs), KC and Jarrett, were active in planning floor programs that would bond all of us together, and because of the community I felt with these strangers turned friends, I signed up to serve as the floor’s Birthday Chair along with my roommate. We made birthday posters together for all 80 of our residents, and got everyone to sign the posters. I loved that even among a large group of people, we all took the time to get to know one another. Despite UCLA being a large school, it felt much smaller when I recognized some of my friends and floormates around campus, or walking to and from classes.

It was the positive experiences with my floor community that influenced me to become a part of the On-Campus Housing Council (OCHC), a group of students committed to putting on residential programs for the entire Hill, UCLA’s on-campus housing community. Our biggest goal was to bring the Bruin community together, and we did it through hosting Bruin Football and Basketball viewing parties, Casino Nights, Movie Nights, and a myriad of smaller programs. It was such a rewarding experience to see a packed room full of Bruins cheering over a football game, or to know that we were helping define other Bruins’ very first college memories. But, more importantly, working together with my friends in OCHC helped me appreciate the diverse student body of UCLA, realizing that we can all be united together as students sharing our UCLA experience.

Once I moved off-campus, I still wanted to find a way to stay connected with UCLA, so I joined the Student Alumni Association (SAA). SAA is the student branch of the Alumni Association, helping to put on some of UCLA’s best school traditions, including the Beat ‘SC Bonfire & Rally, Dinners for 12 Strangers, which connects alumni with students (over food!), or Spring Sing, UCLA’s oldest and greatest musical tradition.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I joined SAA. Because SAA has 100 people in it, I saw that, despite how unique every student is here,  we were all truly passionate about the privilege of being a Bruin. Students of every major, from different backgrounds and hometowns, and with different hobbies and interests, call me their friend and care about me. It’s this same devotion to each other, and also to our university, that really shines through every one of SAA’s events. One of my proudest moments was during last year’s Spring Sing, where I was an usher by the stage. As they turned the house lights on to do the 8-clap, I looked out to a completely packed Pauley Pavilion, and heard the cries of students and alumni alike chanting “U-C-L-A, FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!” and felt my heart swell with pride knowing that so many people cherish this school.

As a campus tour guide, I get the opportunity to invite people into the experience of what it’s like to be a Bruin at UCLA. I’ll walk them through campus, pointing out my favorite study spots, or share fun facts about our school. At the end of every tour, every tour guide shares their reasons for why they chose to attend UCLA. While I may get a different group of people for every tour, my answer is always the same. I was drawn to UCLA for its academic reputation, but found that my education here has not only come from inside the classroom, but outside the classroom; not only from the person lecturing me at the front, but the one sitting next to me taking notes. Much of my time spent at UCLA has been profoundly shaped by the people whom I have shared it with, people who have taught me that who I am as a person is far more important than who I am as a student. These individuals have shown me what it looks like to live life in the passionate pursuit of doing the things you love. Oftentimes, I wish I could do college over and over again, and try getting involved in different things each time. At the same time, though, I know I wouldn’t trade my experience for anybody else’s. I believe many other Bruins could say the same—because what really makes our school feel like home is the people here.  And for every person, home is going to look, and feel, a little different—but it’s really something special when so many of us can say that about UCLA.