300: From first-year student to first-year mentor

Acacia Coronado

The move from the quiet border town of Mission, Texas, to the “Live Music Capital of the World” wasn’t easy for Brianna Gonzalez. Leaving her small-town comfort zone, she was now going to be only one of 50,000 students at UT. 

“It was an adjustment. You are not in your safe little bubble anymore,” Gonzalez said. “I started learning like everyone does and it got easier, better.”

Now a public health junior, Gonzalez has grown accustomed to walking the 40 Acres, living in a big city and being exposed to a variety of cultures. As a first-year interest group mentor, her mission is to help other students do the same. 

“I wanted to show first-year students that it is OK to struggle,” Gonzalez said. “Whether they express it outwardly or just think about it, everyone struggles emotionally, physically, mentally.” 

Last year, Gonzalez had her first group of students to mentor and said she enjoyed it so much she will be returning as a mentor this year. Gonzalez said she liked walking the students through their first semester, teaching them to study, become organized and relating to them as she reminded them it was normal to not get straight As right away. 

As a mentor, Gonzalez created study groups and tried to do activities and answer questions for her students to help them feel secure and independent. She said the main piece of advice she gives is to not be afraid to look and act like a freshman by asking questions and approaching mentors, TAs and professors for help. 

“It is OK to not do the normal,” Gonzalez said. “It is about finding your own path and excelling in that path. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to succeed.”