“My life-long love of learning pushed me to channel my “hate” for writing essays into a skillset that is integral to how I earn a living.”

 

Although growing more confident in a challenging subject can be a tedious, frustrating process, developing new strengths from old weaknesses can be a very gratifying feeling and rewarding experience in the long run. As a full-time undergraduate student that conducts research and works part-time, I have to continuously work to improve my writing each day to meet the demands that come with managing multiple projects in a fast-paced university setting. To this day, my mother still reminds me how much I, “hate writing essays.” She is right. It is just something so frustrating about trying to write my incoherent thoughts, coherently, then attempt to successfully structure them around a prompt-- which is often based on a topic that seems completely irrelevant to me. 

As with all topics that we abhor or avoid, I am consistently met with learning opportunities that challenge me to address how my thoughts feel trapped between narrow margins. Being a student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has forced me to run the gamut: from in-class, timed writing and 15-page term papers, to the standard policy brief and research abstract. And despite the many all nighters (10/10 would NOT recommend) and trips to office hours, my life-long love of learning pushed me to channel my “hate” for writing essays into a skillset that is integral to how I earn a living. My journey from frustration to curiosity came after I discovered my needs, assessed how to use my strengths to overcome my challenges, sought out resources, and found supportive feedback. 

 

Assess needs and strengths

The first step is to always self-reflect and assess what you do well and the areas you might improve. For me, this came with the understanding that I do enjoy words, languages, and creatively curating stories. However, without proper preparation and under strict deadlines, I dislike the stress that comes with being either misinterpreting a prompt or my assignment being misinterpreted-- especially when unfamiliar or disinterested in the material. It is always important to be patient with yourself as you reflect on your needs and strengths. And that you are honest with yourself to ensure you can take action in times where we avoid getting out of our comfort zone. 

 

(Re)search resources and explore opportunities, prioritize and strategize

From here, research and explore opportunities to practice what we “hate.” UCLA is a space where I am expected to produce a range of different types of content that test my writing repertoire and empower me to find inspiration, even with projects I feel disengaged from. I will surf the internet, browse my social media timeline, or even consult with my mom for different ways to approach a prompt. After your needs and strengths assessment, finding learning opportunities that use your strengths to gain confidence that we can overcome (seemingly) debilitating barriers. Taking this strategy enables us to prioritize our growth, providing ways to gauge our abilities, while also offers a scaffold to develop new skills beyond just our strengths. Remember to self-reflect and track how needs and strengths change over time. Confidence grows with each 2-3 new attempts at navigating our strengths and growing more aware of how to sharpen weak points!

 

Vocalize needs and find support

Lastly, seek out fem/mentors that will provide guidance and insight throughout the struggle. Trips to office hours, weekly meetings, peer-editing: you name it, I did it! Reaching out to your network and finding people you trust to give you sound advice is key to transforming things we “hate” into leverage for social capital. Find people who are exceptional at what we want to become better at, and are willing to share their feedback on your progress. All in all, taking initiative and finding support as we struggle through different challenges is key to life-long opportunities!