This blog has to be one of my oldest surviving blogs. I think it would be a shame to let it go to waste so I think I will start writing here again. I have plenty of advice I can share for incoming college freshman or high school students researching university life and my home university, the University of South Florida as a campus leader. I finished my third year at USF about two months ago. It is hard to believe that three years have gone by so quickly, although I have certainly been busy…
My freshman year was spent getting used to college life and becoming a commuter student. I joined a ton student organizations, such as the Association of Filipino Students, Asian Students in America, Latin American Student Association, and Vietnamese Student Association…just to name a few. I found that most people were friendly and in college most people were more open to friends outside their social circles than high school. I was able to make many new friends and learn about many different cultures. I also learned that brand names were irrelevant to college students and many students wore USF shirts (later I would find out college students LOVE free t-shirts haha). The Bulls Business Network helped me get acquainted with the College of Business. In terms of class difficulty, freshman year was the easiest as I finished my general education requirements. I learned what it meant to be a poor college student and how to hunt down free food. I took full advantage of my benefits of my university status and used USF student discounts around town and made sure to attend Movies on the Lawn for free movie nights. I made sure to attend USF Bulls football games and various other USF sports as well. My freshman year was mostly spent getting involved for the first time and adjusting. I couldn’t be happier to be a college student and living it up.
During my first summer being a college student, the summer of 2009, I signed up to take Japanese classes in the Fall at USF with Nozu-sensei. Taking a foreign language is a requirement for USF International Business and having 2-year background in Japanese from Tampa Bay Technical High School with Mrs. Carroll prepared me well for my first university-level foreign class. I always wanted to travel to Japan since I was a child and used to visit Japantown with my father in San Francisco, my hometown. I started looking for other students taking Japanese and found out there was no Japanese cultural student organization at USF. I found this to be odd since Japanese culture is so popular and there were so many classes being offered at USF.
After some research I decided I would start the Japanese Club at USF or “J-Club” for short. My Japanese teacher agreed to become my club advisor and I made a Facebook Group, inviting all my friends. I was voted the President and the real work began. Word spread and in a few months I had recruited an entire executive board of officers, a little over 100 members, and began having road-trips, socials, and events. It took lots of time and work, but I had made some kind of impact at my university. No doubt I was busier than ever and my Sophomore Year was mostly dominated by the J-Club. Weekly meetings and tons of socials and events, while searching for sponsors and trying to build membership were real lessons and it honestly felt like I was running a company, with members as my clients or customers.
I still made sure to make things fun, while maintaining a mission of spreading Japanese culture on the USF campus. I learned it was actually really difficult to run a student organization on a university level and learned tons about management and leadership, mostly through tough lessons. By the end of my Sophomore Year, I was ready to try other things and begin focusing more on my career aspirations. I ran and won the position of Vice-President for the Japanese Club, switching roles with my former VP. Around this time I set up my first complete food blog, Carlos Eats as an avid foodie, influenced by weekly weekend dining outings with my family and interest in writing food reviews for Yelp since 2006.
I spent the summer of 2010 in a new job with INTO USF, an international student English school within USF. I heard about the opportunity to interact with students around the world and was immediately interested. It was great meeting students from countries as far away as China, Japan, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Venezuela, and Vietnam. The bravery of these students was quite admirable, they ventured so far away from home to Tampa, Florida in hopes of learning English so they could achieve their academic and career goals. They all had stories to tell and I was lucky enough to get to know these friendly peers of mine who had seen the world. I also spent the summer digging up lots of restaurants and finding out that Tampa had a surprising number of tasty restaurants hidden away by tons of chains. Sharing these hidden gems with my food blog readers was a great feeling and knowing I made a small effort to help local businesses in their fight for survival during tough economic times. I also began writing for Creative Loafing on their Daily Loaf blog.
During my third year I became more active in professional organizations at USF, such as the International Business Board and was chosen to become a member of the Corporate Mentor Program (CMP): an organization meant to help select business students make connections with successful businessman and learn about the real world. I was really excited for the CMP, but unfortunately with my hectic schedule I was unable to maintain contact with my mentor. I really did appreciate the opportunity to be a part of it though and the one time I did meet my mentor we had a great conversation about how corporations really think and I was given a company tour as well. I continued working with INTO USF up through the end of the Fall semester. I continued writing food blogs and had my first published work in Creative Loafing, a Dining guide to the University area surrounding USF.
The Japanese Club at USF celebrated it’s first birthday and the organization began to become self-sufficient, only requiring my advice and contribution on meetings and socials. With a reach of over 500 people on a Facebook group, 800 friends on Facebook, and over 250 registered official members on Blackboard, it had reached a new status. It joined other multicultural Asian organizations at USF in the annual Journey to the East, week-long showcase of Asian culture at USF. Many half-Japanese and Japanese students began joining the organization and the club had its first signature event “A Night in Tokyo”, funded in part by Student Government. With a martial arts demonstrations, a kimono fashion show, koto classical music, anime cosplay show, maid costume servers, and more, the show was a huge hit. A Night in Tokyo attracted over 300 students to its audience and filled to max capacity. I thought up the concept when brainstorming new ways we could display Japanese culture to the USF community. Organizational issues still persisted and I learned many new lessons about leadership and how to overcome new challenges.
The first student organization I joined, the Association of Filipino Students, saw a rebirth in membership and I had many great nights with their AFS Dance Team that competed around the state with other Filipino organizations. I became interested in the 2010 Florida Governor’s Mansion Race after reading about current Governor Rick Scott in the paper and becoming an Alex Sink supporter. After a visit to the College Democrats, I joined the Campaign for Accountability, an initiative by the Florida Democratic Party to engage college students to become a part of helping the Democratic ticket reach Tallahassee. I learned things I never knew before about the election process and learned about the basis behind what makes our nation’s political system run. The campaign taught me many things and ultimately I decided being involved in the daily political makeup of our nation wasn’t for me, although still supporting Alex Sink for Governor.
Japanese classes became increasingly frustrating during my third year at USF and I began to lose some interest as I began to feel my classes were losing their effectiveness. I met many Japanese exchange students, but had a hard time making good friendships with them. During the Fall of 2010, I met a few exchange students from South Korea from Yonsei University. We became very good friends and they told me all about their home in Seoul, that I had been interested in for quite a few years.
The year passed by and I was contemplating whether I should apply to study abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan or Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. I decided on South Korea for a number of reasons: the cost of living being lower, the school being located in the capital of a nation, and fond memories of my the friends I made from there. Mere weeks later the Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami struck Japan and amid nuclear meltdowns, USF students were re-called to Tampa and any future study abroad visits to Japan became tentative.
Feeling for the people of Japan, The Japanese Club at USF came together with over ten other organizations to fundraise for victims in an event called Hope for Japan. We fundraised over $500 for victims and the J-Club also sponsored and promoted at least six other events. We partnered with Save Japan Now, an effort of a former Japanese Club officer named Francis Maraj, to raise money online for victims through t-shirt sales. The sales raised thousands of dollars for victims.
The end of the school year saw the rise of a new executive board for the Japanese Club and I have become their Senior Advisor: providing them with advice from my years of running an organization. My study abroad trip to Yonsei University has been confirmed and I have a new travel blog that will document my travels called Carlos Abroad. Most of my summer has been applying for scholarships and spending time with family and friends before my trip. My fourth year of being a college student is approaching, but there is still many experiences ahead.