Though the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a unique set of difficulties for college students, some have been able to take these changes in stride and find unique opportunities to connect. Fall 2021 University of New Mexico graduates Datenzing Tamang, Sami Sosa and Mia Amin have found ways to blaze new paths for themselves, even when the road ahead is as uncertain as it has ever been.
“If the pandemic has done something good, it’s brought people together. I think people want to help each other,” Amin said.
Originally from Nepal, Tamang moved to New Mexico for college and graduated with her bachelor’s in computer science. This spring semester, she will be taking time to gain field experience before pursuing graduate studies.
Tamang had not initially planned to go to graduate school, but felt called to academia over the course of her undergraduate experience.
“Last year, I got involved with really interesting people, like my mentors, and they really did tell me the perks of getting a graduate (degree) or Ph.D. Ultimately, my goal is to get into research,” Tamang said.
Amin also plans to pursue graduate studies. She completed her undergraduate degree in business administration and was accepted into Stanford University to start in fall 2023.
Sosa, who graduated with a focus on community health education, is now pursuing her master’s in business administration with an emphasis in health management at New Mexico State University. She hopes to work with low-income communities in grant writing to improve health education and school lunches in K-12 public schools.
“Although I’m from Roswell, I graduated from Rio Rancho High School, and just seeing the difference in education and in what they fed us everyday, it’s a huge difference … These kids in these lower-income communities, they’re not really taught how to eat healthy, because the options aren’t in front of them,” Sosa said.
Tamang still feels weird about embarking outside of the university bubble and into a new environment.
“It’s the real world, you’re no (longer) a kid, and you have to be responsible,” Tamang said. “Also because I’m an international student, I don’t know a lot of things here, and what I familiarized myself with was the world in the university, and now I’m having to navigate my world, my career and everything.”
Still, Tamang seems to be navigating this transition with ease as she has already received several job offers and is weighing her options before moving into a new position. She credits her data analysis internship with the health database SYNCRONYS she took on during her undergraduate degree with preparing her for the field.
Amin has similarly felt somewhat jarred by the prospect of stepping into the workforce. Until she attends grad school, Amin plans to work as a full-time program manager for Project ECHO — an organization which connects specialists with community health experts to facilitate the spread of critical health knowledge — for which she was introduced to her senior year at UNM.
She would like to continue on with nonprofit work after graduate school.
“I think I was definitely nervous to graduate. It was one of those things where I haven’t interacted with people really, or professionals in a year and a half, and now I’m supposed to take on a full-time position at this organization where there (are) practicing professionals (of) 20-plus years,” Amin said.
Breaking into the job market, Sosa has experienced some roadblocks with the requirements for high experience in workplaces along with low wages. However, she has been able to secure several job interviews and is hopeful for what the future holds.
“I feel like the search has been difficult, but I’m just glad to finally be able to have interviews and take that next step,” Sosa said.
Tamang, Sosa and Amin all agreed that utilizing all of the resources and professional networking opportunities offered by UNM was vital to their success. Making connections made all the difference for the three.
Sosa interned with Student Health and Counseling Health Promotion, where she was a member of the Lobo Prevention Pack, a COVID-19 prevention team on campus. She most enjoyed being able to connect students with health resources which they may not have otherwise learned about without peer-to-peer outreach.
Amin is also incredibly happy with the experiences UNM granted her, both inside and outside of the classroom. She is most proud of her former position as the president of the Associated Students of UNM.
“I just feel like my experience at UNM was so great. I immersed myself beyond just the academics, and I feel like at an institution, if you choose to, you can learn more than just textbook knowledge,” Amin said.
Zara Roy is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zarazzledazzle