“This is too good to be true.”
When I read the job description for WSP’s “Writing and Creativity Counselor” on BruinView, that was my first thought: this is too good to be true.
I’d get to help people develop confidence in their writing and writing abilities? AND get paid for it? I didn’t believe it – I never imagined that a job like that could exist. I began researching the Writing Success Program and was captivated by its history and its mission statement. This is where I belong, I remember saying to myself. I immediately threw myself into the application process, agonizing over the short answers and personal statement, which I probably rewrote 4 or 5 times. After submitting it, I checked my email every day in anticipation, anxiously awaiting a response. I was given an interview, which I also over-prepared for, and after the interview I paced back and forth in my bedroom, criticizing myself for not doing well. The interviewer (who I’d come to know as my director, Layhannara) let me know that I’d be notified about acceptance results the next morning via email.
I was so anxious about the results, I couldn’t sleep that night. I’d never wanted a job so much before – I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was, but I knew there was something very special about it. I got up at 6am and refreshed my email every 30 minutes. Time passed. No response. By 11am, I’d convinced myself that I hadn’t gotten the job. I started crying. I felt like a failure – as an applicant, and as a writer.
At about noon I got the email: Congratulations! it read. I reread the whole thing twice. I burst into tears again, but this time they were tears of joy – as cheesy as that sounds. I cried and cried in disbelief, in happiness, in exhaustion, in relief. My dad was so amused that he filmed me crying on his phone. I was too happy to be annoyed at him. I’d gotten the job! I was going to be a Writing and Creativity Counselor.
That all happened last August – yet the day I became a Counselor is still so fresh in my mind, so vivid. I can recall that memory like it happened yesterday and I know that it will stay with me for a long, long time. Because that memory was, and is, one of the most important moments in my life – it marked the beginning of a new chapter in my academic, professional, and personal journey, the beginning of a challenging, yet unforgettable year with the Writing Success Program.
During my first session of the year, I helped out a student with an assignment for her Sociology class. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be helpful, that I’d read her prompt and have no idea what questions to ask her or how to approach the topic. But everything about the session – our discussion, our outline, our analysis – went really well. And a week later she emailed me to let me know that she’d received an A on the paper! Of course, not all of my sessions went as smoothly as that, but regardless of how difficult a session was, I learned something new through every single one – whether it be a 15 minute session or 60, a resume overview or a Philosophy paper. I’ve been lucky enough to have some students come back for multiple sessions too: so not only did I get to watch many of my students’ writing improve, I developed meaningful relationships in the process. Being able to provide guidance and support for my fellow UCLA students, and friends, through my passion for writing has been such a unique and rewarding opportunity that has changed my approach to education, leadership, and communication. It’s even changed my career goals – when I entered UCLA, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but now, I can’t imagine myself pursuing any other occupation besides writing support. After I come back from Japan next year, I’m planning on applying to writing counseling programs and centers, so I can continue using writing to help others find their voice and to encourage them to wield it with confidence.
Though my development as a writing counselor has been a pivotal part of the experience, I think the best thing about the job has been the incredible people I met through it – my students of course, but my staff especially. I’ve seen my fellow counselors grow so much over the year – as students, as activists, and as writers. Whether it be through a session, staff meeting discussion, workshop component, blog post, etc., we’ve all been able to contribute our unique strengths and skillsets to developing, refining, and empowering both WSP and one another. Over the course of this year, I’ve grown to see all of us not only as coworkers, but as friends – which makes sense, considering how often we see each other! I can’t imagine my year spent with any other team, and I doubt I’ll ever be a part of a staff as kind, as genuine, as passionate, and as hilarious as ours. Layhannara, Gaby, Monica, Pegah, Haesoo, Kent, Rosalva – thank you so much for making my year as a counselor even better than I’d hoped it would be.
My work as a Writing and Creativity Counselor is coming to a close, but the memories I gained, the skills I developed, and the relationships I cultivated will remain with me for the rest of my life. My time in WSP has been, without a doubt, the highlight of my UCLA experience. When I look back at my 3 years as an undergrad, the first thing I will remember is the Writing Success Program.