We met so many passionate, articulate, and inspiring APIDAs from all walks of life that we couldn’t just stop at 31 Days of APIDAs. So here’s another bonus interview featuring TinyBubbles Aranda, a fourth year sociology major who was vice president of PISA 2014-2015.
How do you identify?
I am half Samoan and Mexican, I’m Christian and I’m from Carson, California.
How long have you been at UCLA?
I’ve been at UCLA since the summer of 2012 before my freshman year. I got into Freshman Summer Program through South Central Scholars.
Why did you choose UCLA?
When senior year came I really didn’t have a dream school. I had no clue where I wanted to go. I just knew that I could apply to four UCs and four Cal States for free. It’s funny because I wasn’t even going to apply to UCLA at first. When a UCLA rep from the Early Academic Outreach Program was talking to me about college he asked why I didn’t want to apply here because obviously it’s such a prestigious school. As a naive high schooler, I said “I don’t know, everyone applies there so I thought I would apply to other schools. He then went on to say, “so you’re letting others determine where you’re going to apply?” It hit me that that was the dumbest reason to not apply to UCLA and I’m so glad that I did. It was between here and Berkeley. The biggest thing on my mind was my family; I wasn’t ready to leave them. Although I have a lot of family in the bay, I wanted to be close to my parents. I was a PIER student at Carson High, where they still currently service, so I was able to meet folks from PISA. I knew I would have a PI family at UCLA and that comforted me because I was so used to being around Poly’s and I didn’t know what to expect from college. At the end of the year leadership retreat that they hold for the students, they found out I was accepted into UCLA and encouraged me to apply for PIER, where I worked my first two years of college. My first year in I knew I made the right decision.
How do you think your identity affects your experiences at UCLA?
I mostly identify with my Samoan side because I grew up with my mom’s side of the family. In high school I was used to being around Poly’s all the time, but when I got to UCLA I found out how small the PI community actually is in higher education, which at the time was .001%. We make up a much smaller percentage and have to do a lot more to be known on campus and have to work harder for our community and service events. My eyes opened to the real struggle that PI’s faced beyond my small city of Carson. I wanted to change this in any big or small way that I could. I thought college was going to nothing but classes and partying. Boy was I wrong. I learned the importance of using my privilege as a college student to give back to my own community and encourage more of my people to pursue higher education. When the younger generation can see that Pacific Islanders can make it to college and be successful in it, it motivates them to follow that path and break the stereotypes that we face everyday. Often times when people first meet me and find out that I go to UCLA, they ask “what do you play?” I want our people to be seen as more than our physical capabilities and be recognized for our intellect as well. This mentality was the drive of much of my experiences in college. It feels good to be a role model as a minority for my younger family members back home and the younger generation in our community. Being a part of PISA taught me how to give back to my community, which was especially a blessing because I could serve my own hometown of Carson. I think having found PISA made my whole college experience the best it could have ever been. I was in PISA all four years of college and they have truly become another family to me. Having them as my support system really made college a great experience for me.
Are you in any student groups on campus? What are some of your experiences?
I’ve always been heavily involved in the Pacific Islands’ Student Association (PISA), I worked for the Pacific Islander Education and Retention (PIER) outreach project my first 2 years, and I was an intern for the Asian Pacific Coalition my 3rd year. One of my favorite memories was our first Polynesian Arts & Culture Night last year. Coming here, I was slightly disappointed that there was no dancing because I had danced for almost 10 years with Tupulaga (Polynesian dance group based in Carson) before leaving to college. Live, then president, wanted to coordinate this Polynesian Arts & Culture Night during her last year, so that’s something she wanted to leave behind as part of her legacy. I was thankful to be a part of it and help to coordinate the choreography. It was nice to be able to dance again and use my dance experience to teach the community and fellow Bruins about our history and spread cultural awareness.
What’s your favorite part of your culture(s)?
We always keep God first in our lives. In all that we do we never forget to thank Him because we know that nothing is possible without Him. Family because even though you aren’t able to be with your own family, you can really make family anywhere. A lot of times when you see another Poly you just want to know them and you’re not scared to approach them, especially in college when you don’t see as many PI people so you get excited seeing a fellow PI. Food is such a huge part of my culture, not only because Samoan food is bomb, but it also brings people together.
What’s your greatest challenge right now?
My big challenge right now is trying to find a job in the field I’m actually interested in. I know I want to work in a hospital, probably starting in a clerical position because I still need to take some classes before applying to nursing school. I’ll be moving home after I graduate and will have to contribute to the family income. So after I find a job, I’m hoping it won’t be too much of a struggle balancing a job, courses, and hopefully volunteering.
What’s your favorite memory of UCLA?
All the memories are for sure with PISA. One of my favorites from first year is when all the PISA girls went out for a club event. That was all of our first times clubbing together. The seniors took out the all freshies and it was really fun. Professor Camacho’s class is also one of my favorite memories because it was the first and only class I was able to take that focuses on the Pacific Islands and probably my favorite class at UCLA for that reason. I loved learning about my own culture and from a real PI professor at that! Also attending the Hawaii travel study program in 2014. Those courses really opened my eyes to the history of colonialism in the islands. I also loved it because I was able to see a lot of family that I haven’t seen in a while. Both these courses motivated me to be another voice of advocacy for my PI people through community service work. It makes me strive to see more PI’s in higher education. We’ve come a long way but also have a lot more work to do.
What is on your UCLA or LA bucket list?
For the most part I have had a very fulfilling college experience at UCLA. There have lots of new and fun experiences as well as trials. However, if I had to list one thing it would be to run the perimeter. I have only done it one time in my freshman year. If you know me, you know I hate running and rarely ever do, although I know I can. So maybe before sometime before I graduate (or summer) I will run the perimeter one last time to end off my UCLA college experience.
Overall, I’m just blessed to be able to be a college graduate for my family and myself. My sister made me realize I’d be the first of my siblings to graduate college. I’ll be the first grandchild to graduate from my family as well. I’m thankful to be a role model for my family and I can’t wait to see the future God has in store for me when I leave UCLA.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.
Check out Asian Pacific Coalition’s new website!